New York Construction Accident Law

Construction is a leading industry in New York, especially in the area around New York City, and it is also an especially dangerous industry. Despite the safety standards imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state regulatory authorities, many construction workers are injured or killed in preventable accidents on the job each year. If you are dealing with the aftermath of a construction accident, you should be aware that New York laws give victims many potential options in pursuing compensation. You should consult a construction accident lawyer to fully understand your rights and how to assert them.

The Workers' Compensation System

The first and most obvious option that workers typically consider is the state workers’ compensation system. This is a no-fault insurance program that covers medical bills, disability benefits, and some lost wages for people who sustain injuries or illnesses on the job. Eligibility for workers’ compensation does not require proving fault by the worker’s employer, a coworker, or any other party, or even proving that the worker was not at fault. It simply requires proving that the worker was acting in the scope of their job at the time that the accident happened. However, workers’ compensation benefits provide a relatively limited amount of compensation compared to other legal claims that an injured worker might bring.

Other Avenues for Seeking Relief

Many New York construction accident cases are brought under certain provisions of the New York Labor Law. Section 240 of this law, often known as the Scaffolding Law, protects workers from gravity-related risks on construction sites. In other words, it covers not only people who suffer falls from scaffolding or other heights but also people who are struck by falling objects. They can sue a general contractor (or a property owner, in some cases) for failing to provide the appropriate protective equipment and ensure that workers are using the equipment. Notably, absolute liability applies, so a worker usually can obtain compensation even if they acted carelessly. Once a violation is established, the only question is the amount of damages. A Labor Law claim allows a worker to recover a greater range of compensation than they could through workers’ compensation. For example, they can recover non-economic damages for their pain and suffering, as well as full reimbursement for their lost income and earning capacity.

Another key provision of the Labor Law that can support a construction accident claim is Section 241(6). Whereas Section 240 covers only gravity-related risks, Section 241(6) applies to virtually all aspects of safety involved in constructing, excavating, or demolishing buildings. It requires compliance with the New York Industrial Code and allows workers to hold their employers accountable for violating its provisions. Similar to claims under Section 240, claims under Section 241(6) can provide both economic and non-economic damages that extend far beyond those provided by workers’ compensation. A key contrast with claims under Section 240 is that absolute liability does not apply, so any negligence by the worker may be a defense.

In addition, Section 200 of the Labor Law requires construction employers to provide a reasonably safe environment for employees and others on the work site. This provision is much more general than Sections 240 and 241(6), but it can provide a basis for a claim based on ordinary negligence principles.

Third-Party Claims

In some cases, a party other than a construction employer or a property owner may bear some of the responsibility for a construction accident. For example, a defective crane or forklift may collapse or malfunction. When this happens, an injured worker can consider the possibility of a third-party claim against the manufacturer of the defective equipment. This claim probably would be based on a theory of product liability, which is designed to hold manufacturers strictly liable for defects in the products that they release. Establishing liability involves only proving the existence of a defect and tracing a causal link to the accident, rather than proving actual negligence by the manufacturer.

The construction industry in New York employs a broad spectrum of workers from around the world, some of whom may not have legal status in the U.S. Even if you do not have legal status, however, you still may be able to bring a claim. New York courts have ruled that undocumented foreign nationals have access to courts to seek compensation for violations of the Labor Law.

Related New York Personal Injury Pages: Birth Injury, Car Accidents, Motorcycle Accidents, Truck Accidents, Bronx Car Accidents

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