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Nail guns are powerful tools designed to drive nails into wood and metals with a lot of force, so it inherently comes with risks. Whether you are a construction worker, carpenter, joiner, or simply a DIY-er, you can get injured if the gun’s safety mechanism is not properly engaged or if someone (that includes YOU) is not paying attention and inadvertently presses the trigger. 

In some cases, users accidentally place the nail gun against a part of their body (like a hand or foot) and fire it, or when a nail hits a hard surface, it can bounce back towards innocent passersby. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict regulations for employers as well as workers regarding the operation of nail guns.  

Believe it or not, pneumatic and electric nail guns are responsible for 37,000 emergency room visits each year, with 68% of these involving workers in construction jobs, so following the OSHA guidelines is critical for everyone involved. 

nail gun sitting on a roof

New York and Nail Gun Safety Laws

OSHA governs all regulations regarding the use of nail guns in the workplace. It mandates that all employers must provide comprehensive safety training to all employees who use or are in proximity to nail guns. This training should cover the proper operation of nail guns, awareness of common risks, and emergency procedures.

Workers are also required to be trained in the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which must be provided by their employers. Additionally, employers must also perform regular risk assessments where nail guns are used. This includes identifying potential hazards and taking steps to mitigate them. 

If a nail gun injury results in hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye, the employer must report it to OSHA within 24 hours of learning about the accident. But if it results in a fatality, it must be reported within 8 hours. 

What Can Cause a Nail Gun Injury

The reason why a nail gun (or nailer) works the way it is not supposed to comes down to either some kind of mechanical failure or improper handling. Here are some examples: 

  • Accidental discharge: This can happen if the safety mechanism is faulty or not engaged. Sometimes, users might not be aware that the nail gun is loaded and inadvertently press the trigger.
  • Double firing: Some nailers can unintentionally fire a second nail immediately after the first, if the trigger is sensitive or it is faulty.
  • Ricochet: Nails can ricochet off rigid surfaces or hit a hidden object within the material, causing the nail to deflect in an unintended direction.
  • Bypassing safety features: Sometimes, workers might alter or disable the built-in safety feature to speed up their work. For example, they may have removed the safety contact tip (that must be pressed against the surface before the trigger can fire a nail) to allow the gun to fire more freely.
  • Lack of maintenance: Over time, the nailer’s springs, seals, and the firing pin wear down and lead to inconsistent firing or jamming. To ensure the gun stays in good working condition, it should be cleaned and lubricated regularly. Without this, the gun can corrode or accumulate debris, both of which can interfere with its mechanisms.
  • Manufacturing or design defects: There may have been a flaw in the nailer’s design or during the making, or maybe it was damaged from dropping or being used on inappropriate materials. For example, a damaged barrel can misalign nails so they can get stuck in the gun.
  • Failure to use personal protective equipment (PPE): If the worker is not wearing gloves, hard hat, steel toed boots, mask or respirator, safety goggles and ear protection, they are prone to lasting damage to their eyes, ears, and other extremities.

What Compensation Can You Receive in a Nail Gun Injury Case in New York?

If you were injured from a nail gun while doing your job, Workers’ Compensation is supposed to help you recover compensation. This no-fault system offers financial benefits for on-the-job injuries, typically covering immediate medical expenses, lost wages, and disability benefits. It also extends to dependents in cases of fatal injuries​​.

However, in case Workers’ Comp doesn’t fully cover your losses or you want to sue a third-party (like the nail gun manufacturer), you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against them. New York construction workers can file these claims under specific circumstances, including:

  • Claims against property owners, contractors, or other third parties who violate New York labor laws.
  • Claims against negligent third parties who caused or contributed to the accident, including contractors and manufacturers.
  • Claims against a construction company or employer without workers' compensation insurance.

Remember, to win a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove that someone (the liable party) was responsible for your safety but failed in their responsibility. Simply put, they had a responsibility to ensure your safety, they didn’t fulfill this responsibility, and their failure directly led to the accident and your injuries. As a result, you can claim both economic and non-economic damages like:

  • Medical expenses: Costs for emergency treatment, hospital stays, surgeries, medication, physical therapy, and any ongoing medical care related to your injury.
  • Lost wages: Income you have lost due to your inability to work while recovering.
  • Loss of earning capacity: If your injury affects your ability to work in the future, you can claim for the reduced earning potential.
  • Rehabilitation costs: Expenses for physical or occupational therapy needed for recovery.
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses: Any other financial losses directly related to your injury, like transportation costs to medical appointments.
  • Pain and suffering: Compensation for the physical pain and discomfort caused by your injuries.
  • Emotional distress: For the mental anguish or psychological impact of the injury, like anxiety, depression, or trauma.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: If the injury prevents you from engaging in hobbies, activities, or other forms of enjoyment you used to participate in.
  • Disfigurement or physical impairment: If the injury leads to permanent physical changes or disabilities.
  • Loss of consortium: This applies if your injury negatively affects your relationship with your spouse or partner.
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Common Injuries in Nail Gun Accidents

Puncture Wounds

The most direct injury from a nail gun is a puncture wound. This can happen if the nail gun fires accidentally or if it's used improperly. Puncture wounds can occur anywhere on the body, with hands and feet being common targets due to their frequent proximity to the nailing operation.

Eye Injuries

When nail strikes metal or concrete or another nail, it’s fragments can bounce back on the worker. The resulting small particles or dust can cause discomfort, redness, or minor scratches on the surface of the eye (corneal abrasions). Larger fragments can become embedded in the eye. In extreme cases, a nail or large fragment can penetrate the eye and cause bleeding, rupture of the eyeball, retinal detachment, or loss of the eye. Even minor injuries can lead to long-term chronic pain, recurring irritation, or increased sensitivity to light.

Hearing Damage

Continued exposure to the loud bursts from a nail gun can gradually damage the inner ear, leading to permanent hearing loss. It can also cause tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ears) which can be temporary or permanent. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Repeated motions and the weight of the nail gun can cause muscle strains and ligament sprains, particularly in the arms, wrists, and back. Conditions like tendonitis or bursitis can develop from this as well. Continuously holding and operating a heavy tool can give you chronic back pain or exacerbate your existing back conditions.

Respiratory Problems

Using a nail gun in enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces, can stir up dust and debris. Breathing in this can irritate the airways, leading to coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. If you are exposed to certain types of dust, like silica from concrete for a long time, you can develop chronic respiratory conditions like silicosis. It’s rare but some people have allergic reactions to dust or chemicals released during nailing.

Electric Shock

If a nail penetrates electrical wiring, it can conduct electricity back to the user, causing an electric shock. This is particularly risky in renovation work where wires may not be visible. The severity of the shock can vary depending on the voltage and the user's proximity to the ground (which affects grounding). Shocks can range from a minor jolt to severe, life-threatening incidents.

Apart from the shock, electrical current passing through the body can cause burns, both at the entry and exit points of the current. Severe electric shocks are known to cause cardiac arrest and muscle damage.

Secondary Injuries

Beyond the immediate harm, a misfire or unexpected recoil can cause you to lose balance if you are working on a ladder or scaffolding. If you or someone else accidentally drops the gun, whether from a reaction to a misfire or a slip, it can injure others below or the user if it falls on their feet. Falls can result in broken bones, concussions, or other serious injuries, depending on the height and nature of the fall.


If a nail causes a puncture wound, there is a risk of infection. Nails, especially those used or stored in dirty environments, can harbor bacteria. When they puncture the skin, they can introduce these bacteria into the wound. Rusty nails are particularly associated with tetanus, a serious bacterial infection affecting the nervous system.

Stress Injuries

Continuous use of a nail gun can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition where the median nerve is compressed at the wrist, due to repetitive motions, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand. You may sustain other repetitive stress injuries, like “vibration white finger”; extended use of vibrating tools can lead to this condition, characterized by numbness, white patches, and discomfort in the fingers.

Chemical Burns

Some nail guns use chemicals or propellants, and direct contact with these can burn your skin. This is a risk when loading or cleaning the tool, or if there is a leak. Breathing in fumes from chemical propellants can also cause respiratory irritation or other health issues.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Nail Gun Accident Cases in New York? 

The statute for all personal injury claims, including those arising from a nail gun, is three years from the date of the accident. In some cases, the injury or the cause of the injury might not be immediately apparent, so the state allows for the "discovery rule". This is where the statute starts when the injured party discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) the injury and its cause.

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Contact Our Nail Gun Accident Attorneys in New York

At the Law Offices of Michael S. Lamonsoff, New York's most formidable legal advocates, we understand the overwhelming challenges you face after getting injured while doing your job. You might be grappling with pain, uncertainty, and fear, especially if you are an undocumented worker or someone with limited means. But you are not alone. 

For more than 30 years, Michael “The Bull” Lamonsoff and his team of equally ferocious lawyers have fought for those overlooked by the system. Call us at 212-962-1020 or contact us online and let us help you get the compensation and support that is rightfully yours.

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