Construction Accidents Lawyer
The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. In fact, one in five U.S. worker deaths occur among construction workers. In New York City, construction accidents occur on a near daily basis, leaving hundreds of workers injured each year.
After an accident, injured construction workers and their families have the legal right to file a lawsuit and to file for workers’ compensation. However, choosing a lawyer to represent you after an accident on a construction site is crucial. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE YOUR OWN LAWYER AND SHOULD MAKE THIS DECISION VERY CAREFULLY.
During this process, it is crucial that you ask your lawyer questions as to their experience in litigating construction site accidents and their knowledge of the Labor Law/Scaffold Law. Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, P.C. has represented countless clients who have been injured on construction projects and who have claims under New York’s Labor Law.
New York Labor Law – The Scaffold Law
New York has strong worker protection laws commonly referred to as the Labor Law or the Scaffold Law. The focus of New York’s Labor Law is to protect workers who are working at heights or who are working beneath objects which could potentially fall on them while on the work place. The New York Labor Law/Scaffold Law applies to all construction projects big or small.
Owners and contractors are responsible under the Labor Law for providing appropriate ladders, scaffolds, harnesses and other devices which are meant to keep workers safe and protect them from falls. When Owners and/or General Contractors fail to provide such safety equipment and workers are injured as a result, the injured worker has an absolute right to bring an action against the Owner and/or General Contractor for the project. Such action would be brought under Labor Law §240(1), Labor Law §241(6), and Labor Law §200.
In addition to the right to bring a lawsuit against an Owner and/or General Contractor, a worker also has the absolute right to collect Workers’ Compensation insurance benefits from his or her employer. Such insurance by law pays for a workers’ medical bills and lost wages during the period that he or she is getting medical treatment and cannot work and earn a living. Workers’ Compensation insurance is an automatic right and no law suit is required to obtain such benefits. The Workers’ Compensation benefits enable a worker to continue to take care of his or her family while pursuing a law suit against the Owner and/or General Contractor for the on the job injury.
Construction Accident Statistics in NYC
Development on the New York City skyline has proven deadly for dozens of workers. In 20o5, for example the private construction industry sector took the largest number of worker lives in New York City. Out of a total of 74 worker deaths, 25 were in construction. Specialty trade contractors accounted for 17 of these deaths. Below is a breakdown of the type of construction work employees were performing when they had fatal accidents:
- Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: eight fatalities.
- Construction of buildings: five fatalities.
- Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors: five fatalities.
- Building equipment contractors: four fatalities.
- Site preparation contractors: four fatalities.
- Residential remodelers: three fatalities.
Snapshot of Construction In New York City
Why do so many construction site accidents occur in New York City? Our City is the most densely populated city in America. The City’s infrastructure, roadways, and buildings must operate efficiently at all times. As such, to keep The City That Never Sleeps running smoothly, there is a never-ending stream of construction. Construction in New York employs thousands of workers, keeping up major projects, below are just a few:
- World Trade Center site: A 16-acre stretch in Manhattan continues to develop, working to add two more towers, a performing arts center, and a small church by 2020.
- Essex Crossing: A $1.1 billion development plan is in place to transform Essex Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The finished building will feature 1,000 apartments, a movie theater, a bowling alley, street market, and a cultural space.
- Hudson Yards: The most expensive real estate development in the country’s history at $20 billion. The 28-acre development will eventually boast a new neighborhood, office buildings, shops and restaurants, and much more. It contains 33 smaller projects.
- Pacific Park: A $6 billion construction project that will add 6,430 new apartments, a park that stretches eight acres, and several shops in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
The City is not the only place in New York engaged in new development. Reports show construction rates rising in Albany, by 20% in 2017 and by 10% in Rochester. There are construction teams spread throughout the State of New York, from Jamestown to Champlain to the Hamptons. With so many workers operating in our State, there is bound to be a large number of construction-related accidents.
Most Common Types of Accidents
The most common types of accidents at New York City construction sites include falls from scaffolds or ladders or hoisted items falling on workers who are working below. Such gravity related events cause the most severe injuries. This is precisely why New York’s Labor Laws exist: to prevent such gravity related accidents which can devastate a worker who gets injured as a result. Gravity related accidents are widespread. They can include those where a worker falls from a scaffold to the work site below, accidents in which a ladder shifts or falls over causing a worker to fall to the ground, accidents in which a piece of equipment or other item is being hoisted above and breaks free causing it to fall on a worker below and any other type of accident in which a fall from a height is involved.
Although construction-related injuries and illnesses can happen in an endless number of ways, there are certain factors that contribute to accidents more than others. In the construction industry, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies these factors as the “Fatal Four.” Eliminating these factors could save an average of over 600 worker lives every year. They are as follows:
- Falls. Falls from any height can be deadly. Landing wrong on the head, neck, or spinal cord can result in permanent damage, such as brain damage or paralysis. Construction workers can prevent falls by wearing proper personal fall protection gear, installing perimeter protection, securing floor openings, and using scaffolds and ladders safely. The number one violated standard OSHA cited in past years was lack of fall protection in construction.
- Struck by object. Flying debris, dropped tools, and falling construction materials can seriously injure and kill workers. Struck-by object accidents can occur when workers fail to secure items while working from heights, when a vehicle strikes a worker, or when equipment like cranes malfunction and drop loads. Workers should wear high-visibility vests and clothing near heavy machinery, and they should never stand between moving and fixed objects.
- Electrocutions. Working with live wires and electrical components is dangerous, and requires special training and gear. Striking overhead power lines while in vehicles is one of the main causes of this type of accident. Workers should locate electric utilities and overhead power lines before starting work, and always maintain a safe distance while on ladders, scaffolds, and other platforms.
- Caught-in/between objects or equipment. A worker caught in or between objects can suffer crush injuries, traumatic amputations, and other severe harms. Collapsing structures, moving equipment, or materials that can catch or crush workers are all common hazards. Workers should use protective systems when entering trenches or excavation areas, such as sloping, shoring, or benching.
Other types of accidents on construction sites can include non-gravity related accidents, such as workers being injured by a handsaw, a grinder, an industrial machine, a tripping hazard in a passage way which causes the worker to trip and fall sustaining injury or any other type of hazard which may exist which results in a worker being injured.
Most Common Types of Injuries
The dangerous nature of construction sites lends itself to serious and catastrophic injuries. Accidents involving falls, heavy machinery, and hazardous materials are rarely minor. Construction workers are at risk of life-changing injuries such as spinal cord damage and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The most common types of injuries in construction include:
- Broken bones
- Spinal injuries
- Eye injuries
- Head and brain injuries
- Joint injuries
- Loss of hearing
- Paralysis from falls
Often, workers are left with lasting injuries that require life-long care and medical treatment. Wrongful death cases in the construction industry are slightly different from personal injury claims. In New York, only certain parties may file for wrongful death – the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Talk to our wrongful death attorneys for help with fatal construction accidents.
Protecting the rights of Injured Construction Workers is our goal at the law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, P.C.
From welding burns and explosions to defective machinery and forklift accidents, our attorneys have seen it all. We’ve represented dozens of construction accident clients, and successfully received settlements and judgment awards. Recent successes include: $5,000,000 for a worker who broke both arms and developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy after falling from a ladder. Another included a $4,000,000 award for a worker who was permanently disabled after a floor collapse. You may be eligible for similar compensation. Call (212) 227-1212 to reach our New York City office.