The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that more than four thousand working people in the private sector died on the job in the U.S. in 2015. Fatalities among construction workers accounted for 937 of those on-the-job deaths – more than one in five. Also each year, thousands of construction workers are severely injured. Many are permanently disabled. Admittedly, construction has always been dangerous – from the Great Pyramid to the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam – but today, most construction accidents are avoidable and caused by negligence, which means that someone is liable for most construction-related injuries.
When someone who is working in construction is injured on the job in New York City, what is that worker’s legal recourse? For many injured construction workers, their recourse will be workers’ compensation. Under the New York workers’ compensation system, a worker injured on the job does not have to prove that his or her employer’s negligence was responsible for an injury in order to qualify to receive worker’s comp benefits.
Instead, to receive worker’s compensation payments, a construction worker has to prove only that he or she was injured in the “course and scope” of his or her construction employment. Every employer in the state of New York is required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, worker’s comp benefits are seldom enough to cover adequately the most severe construction-related injuries. If it’s a catastrophic or disabling injury, that injury victim is going to need more.
CAN INJURED CONSTRUCTION WORKERS SUE FOR PERSONAL INJURY?
Workers’ compensation was created to cover an injured worker’s medical expenses, lost income, and if necessary, partial or permanent disability. In most cases, those who receive workers’ comp payments in effect waive any right to sue their employer for personal injury. However, in the aftermath of some construction accidents, an injured New York City construction worker may pursue a civil personal injury claim separately from a worker’s compensation claim, since it’s not always the employer who is liable for a construction site injury.
When a New York construction worker is injured because of a third party’s negligence, that worker may then file a personal injury claim against the third party or against that party’s employer. An injured worker may sue a third party if that third party was responsible for the hazardous condition that caused the construction injury and if the third party had control of and knew or should have known the condition at the construction site was hazardous.
Potentially liable third parties in construction site accidents may include the contractors and subcontractors who are actually on the site as well as the architects, engineers, and the manufacturers of faulty construction or safety equipment. If you are the construction worker who is injured, an experienced New York construction accident lawyer working on your behalf will closely scrutinize the role of all of the parties that may have any liability.
CAN A CONTRACTOR OR SUBCONTRACTOR BE HELD LIABLE?
In most situations involving construction work, it is the general contractor’s responsibility to ensure that a construction site is reasonably safe. General contractors are obligated by law to alert construction workers regarding any current or potential hazards or risks on the site. A general contractor also must hire competent construction workers and enforce all of the applicable safety rules and regulations. In many of the personal injury cases arising from construction injuries, the general contractor has been found liable.
A subcontractor also has many of the same legal obligations as a general contractor, but a subcontractor’s legal responsibilities are limited to only the part of the construction site where the subcontractor is in charge. A subcontractor also must provide a reasonably safe work site, hire only competent construction workers, and enforce all of the applicable safety rules and regulations.
CAN ARCHITECTS OR ENGINEERS BE HELD LIABLE?
In the state of New York, even architects and engineers may have liability for a construction accident. These design professionals are usually responsible for ensuring that routine safety inspections of the construction site are being conducted. Every professional in the construction business, including the architects and engineers, has a legal obligation to exercise the amount of care and skill that other competent professionals doing the same work exercise and expect. If an architect or engineer fails to meet generally accepted standards, that professional could be found at fault for a construction site injury.
Liability for a large number of construction site injuries in New York falls on the manufacturers of defective construction machinery and safety equipment. If a construction site injury is the result of using flawed or defective construction machinery or using flawed or defective safety equipment, the manufacturer is liable for damages and harm under the legal doctrine of “strict liability.”
A construction site owner can also in some cases be found liable for a construction site injury. In some cases, such as a construction injury caused by a fall from a height, construction site owners are responsible under the strict liability doctrine. Due to the many potential hazards at a construction site, construction site owners must carry several kinds of insurance, including workers’ compensation, employer’s liability, premises or property liability insurance, and commercial general liability insurance.
In order for a personal injury lawsuit to prevail in a New York City civil court, the injury victim must prove that the defendant – the person or persons charged with liability for the injuries – had a legal obligation to act with caution and with reason, failed that obligation, was negligent, and as a result of that negligence, the victim suffered an injury or injuries. Inadequate training, hazardous job site conditions, and flawed or worn-out safety equipment are just several of the reasons for construction injuries. Still, construction workers have a right to expect that a job site will be reasonably free of unnecessary hazards and risks.
After any construction accident with injuries, it is imperative for an injury victim to seek sound and candid legal advice from an experienced New York construction accident lawyer. Your construction accident attorney can review the details and circumstances of the accident and injury and direct you through the legal process to obtain the maximum possible compensation for your injuries. The victims of negligence in New York are entitled to compensation, but if you’re injured by negligence at a construction site, you’ll need an experienced construction accident attorney’s help to win the compensation – and the justice – that you deserve.