How to Ensure That You Receive Full Compensation for Your Case
When you work in the construction industry, you are placing yourself in harm’s way to build our state. New York owes its skyline to the men and women working on job sites every day, and Parker Waichman LLP believes in protecting those workers when they are put in dangerous situations.
It is quite clear that something needs to change in the construction industry because far too many people are injured every year in the state of New York. The judicial system can be a powerful instrument for change, and Parker Waichman LLP is helping people take advantage of the opportunities courts provide to seek recourse and make the industry safer for people going forward.
Our plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm has a long history of helping victims of construction accidents, and we have secured significant results for our clients. Parker Waichman is one of only a few firms to have garnered more than $2 billion in settlements and verdicts, and we have become one of the top personal injury firms in the nation.
New York Construction Accident Statistics
A look at yearly construction injury and fatality numbers is extremely disheartening. The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), recently released a report in which it described the New York construction industry as “highly dangerous” for workers. In New York, construction workers are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal workplace accident than in any other industry. Construction workers make up only 3 percent of the total state workforce, but are involved in 34 percent of the state’s work-related fatalities. This figure has unfortunately been climbing for a number of years.
Between the years 2011 and 2015, the construction fatality rate in New York increased an unbelievable 40 percent. The largest percentage of construction fatalities is concentrated in New York City, but the entire state appears to have a pattern of progressively unsafe environments for construction workers. In 2015, a major spurt of construction-related incidents occurred in New York State compared to the previous year, jumping from 231 injuries or fatalities in 2014 to 435 in 2015. This climb makes for an 88 percent increase during a single year. Also in 2015, an estimated total of 55 construction workers were fatally injured inside the state of New York. By litigating construction accident cases through the years, we have seen that a significant portion of the injuries and fatalities that occur are entirely preventable with appropriate safety precautions.
Parker Waichman LLP has come to understand that project owners and contractors are simply not doing what they need to do to keep their workers safe. They fail to provide proper training and safe equipment to their workers, assumedly to save time and money on jobs. As a result, not only are they violating state and federal laws, they are also exposing workers to serious danger. Project owners and contractors need to realize that people are more important than profits. The workers on their sites are not disposable, and their lives are not just a cost of doing business. Parker Waichman LLP is fighting to hold the industry accountable and seek justice on behalf of injured workers.
Dangers Facing Construction Workers
Construction workers are vulnerable to numerous accidents because of the nature of the work they perform. When proper steps are not taken, accidents can occur, and those accidents can have very severe consequences.
The “Fatal Four”
These incidents, known as the “Fatal Four,” cause the vast majority of fatalities in the construction industry today. They are responsible for about 77 percent of all construction-related fatalities in New York City and about 87 percent of all construction fatalities in New York state.
- Falls – Nationwide, falls are the leading cause of fatalities on construction sites by a large degree. Falls account for approximately half of all construction-related fatalities in New York state. This includes falls from scaffolding, ladders, equipment, stairs, walkways, roofs, or other heights on a construction site. Workers who fall on a construction site, especially from a height, can suffer broken or dislocated bones, head or neck trauma, internal bleeding, and death.
- Electrocution – Construction sites almost always involve electrical wiring to some extent. When this wiring is unfinished and exposed, it poses a risk of electrocution to workers on site. Electric shock can lead to burns, nerve injuries, visual and hearing disturbances, cardiac events, and death. Some workers overcoming electric shock experience lingering side effects like insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
- Caught in between equipment/machinery – Workers on job sites are continuously running heavy equipment and using heavy machinery. When proper precautions are not taken, workers can become pinned in/under or caught on the equipment or machine. When this occurs, a worker can suffer amputation of digits or limbs, broken bones, internal injury, head trauma, or death.
- Struck by an object – All around construction sites, equipment is running, and debris is flying. Workers around the activity are often struck with falling debris, such as discarded or precariously placed materials, tools, or beams. This can result in trauma to all parts of the body, but especially the head. Concussions and other head/neck trauma can lead to serious side effects, including brain damage, paralysis, and death.
Additional Construction Dangers
In addition to the Fatal Four, construction workers are at risk for the following types of accidents and injuries:
- Elevator or stair accidents – Job sites will often employ temporary or unfinished stairs, ladders, and elevators to allow workers to move between floors on active construction. If these are not safely erected, workers can fall or be injured in a collapse. This will often cause broken bones, organ injury, head and neck trauma, and death.
- Trench cave-ins or collapses – Trenches are frequently part of construction, and at a certain level, deep trenches need to be reinforced. If they are not reinforced or dug properly, workers are at risk of being buried in a cave-in or collapse of the trench. Most workers will not survive such an incident, and many will suffer serious bodily injury, including broken bones and organ damage.
- Fires or explosions – Gas lines, gas leaks, unfinished electrical systems, exposed wiring, and sparks from tools or equipment all pose fire risks on a construction site. It doesn’t take much for a fire to get out of control or an explosion to occur. Workers caught in a fire or explosion can suffer severe burns, hearing or vision damage, and death.
- Struck by equipment or vehicles – Because of all the commotion on a job site, and the size of equipment and vehicles used, workers are vulnerable to being struck on site. When workers are hit by equipment or vehicles, they can suffer broken bones, head trauma, internal injury, and death.
- Slip and falls – Slip-and-fall accidents often occur on construction sites when appropriate safety measures are not followed. Workers can stumble on any number of objects or hazards and risk injuring themselves. If the slip occurs at a height, the worker is at a much greater risk for severe bodily injury.
- Exhaustion or overextension – Workers can become overly fatigued or can even suffer heat stroke when they spend way too much time working in the outdoor heat and humidity. Workers who are forced to work through breaks are at risk for many physical side effects associated with exhaustion. In addition, they are more likely to make mistakes while exhausted that can result in harm to themselves or someone else. Tellingly, studies show that wage and hour violators also tend to be health and safety violators. Project owners and contractors who overwork and underpay their workers are statistically more likely to commit Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations.
Because so many of these tragic accidents occur because of improper safety and management on job sites, New York enacted certain laws to try to keep workers safe. These laws hold owners and contractors responsible for worker safety and give workers a legal cause of action when they are injured.
New York Construction Cases
When people think about someone injured on the job, they usually consider worker’s compensation as the first option for legal recovery. Some people might think it’s the only option possible. Undoubtedly, worker’s compensation claims can often provide relief for people injured while working on a construction site. But sometimes, the compensation available through this type of claim is simply not enough. Injured construction workers frequently have the capability of bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the project owner, contractor, or manager.
On every job site in New York, the owner and contractor have a duty to maintain a safe environment for workers. The state has three laws in particular — New York Labor Laws §200, §240, and §241 — that spell out the legal duties of owners and contractors and provide workers with opportunities for legal recourse if they are injured because of unsafe or inadequate job site conditions.
The causes of action that can arise from New York’s labor laws are all based on general principles of negligence, so it is helpful to first understand the basic elements of negligence cases that will apply to labor law claims in the state.
General Negligence Causes of Action
To be successful on a general negligence claim, we must be able to prove four things in a New York court of law:
- The defendant had an obligation or duty to use reasonable care in the particular situation;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- Our client suffered harm; and
- Our client’s harm was caused by the defendant’s negligent conduct.
We use what is called a “standard of reasonable care” when we set out to prove that the defendant did indeed owe our client a duty. By examining the particular circumstances of the case, the court will determine whether the defendant was under some kind of obligation to use reasonable care. On a construction site, the project owner, manager, and/or contractor absolutely owes site workers a duty to use reasonable care to ensure the workers from being harmed. Because this is set out in legal statute, it is not one of the more difficult things to establish in a construction case, unless it is not clear what position or authority a potential defendant had at the time of the accident.
If a defendant breaches his duty, that means he failed to use the level of care that a reasonable person would have used under the same or similar circumstances. The court will focus on alternate conduct, how the defendant acted versus how he should have acted, and will conclude he breached his duty of care or did not breach his duty of care. If the court finds that he did, in fact, breach his duty of care, he is negligent in the eyes of the law.
After proving the presence of negligence on the part of the defendant, we have to show the court that our client suffered some kind of injury — physically, mentally, and/or financially — and that this injury occurred because of the defendant’s negligence. If we cannot tie the injury back to an action or omission on the part of the defendant, we will not be successful in court.
Sometimes, plaintiffs can bring a cause of action under a theory of “strict liability.” This means that upon establishing a violation of safety by the defendant, including a violation of New York’s labor laws, you have automatically established negligence on the part of the defendant. In other words, you no longer need to prove that the defendant had a duty to use reasonable care or that he breached that duty. That said, you do not automatically win your case simply by proving the defendant was negligent. You still need to prove that you were injured in some way, and your injury occurred because of the violation the defendant committed.
When bringing a construction accident case, you will apply these principles to your claims arising out of New York’s labor laws. These laws provide specific causes of action for injured workers, including some forms of strict liability.
New York Labor Laws
New York’s labor laws have three statutes that set out specific liabilities and protections for construction workers. Each of these statutes contains different information and provides for a different kind of claim.
New York Labor Law §200 takes the laws already established at common law, or by orders of the courts, and puts them into statutory form. This statute places an express duty upon project owners, managers, and contractors to use reasonable care to adequately protect the lives, health, and safety of everyone working on their sites.
Before prevailing on a §200 claim, you must prove that the defendant (owner, contractor, manager on site) “had actual or constructive notice of the condition” that caused your injury and also had the authority to change or manage the condition. If you are successful on this kind of claim, your damages can still be reduced if it was decided that you were at fault for your own injury. The court will consider what is called your “comparative fault” to see if you were at all to blame in causing your own injury and will adjust any award accordingly.
New York Labor Law §240, often referred to as the “Scaffolding Law,” mandates that construction site owners, contractors, and their agents provide at every construction site things like scaffolding, hoists, ladders, braces, and ropes (among other things). Because so many construction workers are injured from falls, this statute requires sites to supply equipment and materials that will help them move and work safely throughout the site.
Under a §240 cause of action, you do not have to prove the existence of a duty or the breach of that duty; You can bring an action in strict and absolute liability. In addition, your own potential fault will not be admissible in your case. However, if adequate instruments were available on the site, and you refused to use them, you cannot bring an action for damages under this labor law. It was designed to protect workers who were not provided appropriate safety tools and not for so-called recalcitrant workers.
New York Labor Law §241 requires sites to follow certain rules regarding floor beams, elevators, and hosting apparatuses to ensure worker safety. A worker who is injured because of an unsafe condition in one of these instruments could bring a cause of action. Above that, however, §241 allows workers to sue contractors and owners for the negligence of subcontractors and their agents. This means if you are injured because of a failure by a subcontractor or agent on site, you can sue the project owner or general contractor. This is a legal concept known as vicarious liability.
Under §241, the plaintiff can recover under a theory of strict liability if he proves the defendant violated an Industrial Code. But unlike an action under §240, a §241 strict liability cause of action will involve consideration of the plaintiff’s own fault.
In any cause of action based on construction law, you need a lawyer who understands the law and knows how to achieve a favorable result. Sometimes, people find that workers’ compensation is not going to cover their real losses from their construction injuries, and they need lawyers who are willing to fight for what they genuinely deserve. Construction law is extremely complex, but Parker Waichman’s attorneys have achieved outstanding results for our construction accident clients and their families. We recognize your injuries have taken a severe toll on your life, and we want to secure the best result possible to help you move forward.
New York Construction Accident Statute of Limitations
Before filing your New York construction accident case, you must make sure your claim has not expired according to the state’s statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a state-imposed time restriction on filing a case. If you do not file within that time window, you will never be able to file your case in court.
Generally, New York has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury construction accident claims. However, it can be difficult to determine when the clock began running, which is why it is so important to work with an experienced construction accident lawyer who knows New York construction law. Parker Waichman LLP will help you calculate your statute of limitations to make sure you have enough time to file your claim.
TALK WITH ONE OF OUR NEW YORK PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS TODAY
Parker Waichman LLP offers free consultations on construction accident cases, and we will review your case with no money down. In accident cases like these, you are already under great financial strain because of medical bills and valuable lost wages. That’s why we take on the costs of litigation ourselves through contingency fee contracts. Your contract with Parker Waichman LLP will expressly state that our fees and expenses are dependent on your own recovery. If you don’t get paid, neither do we. Contact our firm today to find out more about our contingency fee contracts and the services we can provide for you and your family.
Awards and Accolades
Our lawyers are dedicated to superior advocacy, and we are proud to have received honors from the legal community and beyond, including:
- 8 (out of a perfect 10) Rating by AVVO (a service that rates every attorney in the United States)
- “Preeminent Lawyers” AV Peer Review Rating (Martindale-Hubbell® – a company that, for more than 100 years, has rated attorneys across the United States and the world based on feedback from judges and their peers)
- Highest Ranking of “5 Dragons,” based on peer review by Lawdragon
- Listing in Best Lawyers Publication, determined by Extensive Peer Review
We understand how traumatic an accident on the job can be, and we are prepared to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. If you were injured in a construction accident, contact our New York office to find out about the ways our compassionate attorneys can assist you and your family.
Contact Parker Waichman LLP For Your Free Case Review
Parker Waichman LLP has extensive construction law experience, and we are prepared to advocate for your legal rights. If you were or a loved one was injured in a construction, contact Parker Waichman LLP today by filling out our online form or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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