Construction workers face some of the most dangerous working conditions in the country on a daily basis. Although there are regulations, statutes, ordinances and industry standards that mandate employers must provide a reasonably safe working environment, construction workers still suffer serious injuries at an alarming rate.
The sheer number of hazards on a construction site makes it virtually impossible to prevent all injuries from occurring. These hazards include falls from ladders, scaffolds, roofs and other elevations, being struck by moving or falling machinery or equipment, electrocution, health hazards resulting from exposure to asbestos and chemicals, injuries caused by defective or unsafe equipment, and lifting and repetitive motion injuries.
Labor Law Section 240: What You Should Know
In recognition of how dangerous construction work is and to encourage contractors and property owners to make it safe for workers, the New York State Legislature has enacted Labor Law Section 240.
This important law allows many injured construction workers to submit a claim (IN ADDITION to his or her Workers' Comp claim) against the property owner's and/or general contractor's insurance company for damages such as pain, suffering, excess lost wages (not covered by Workers' Comp), inability to enjoy time with his or her family or hobbies and, generally, any change in the quality of his or her life caused by the accident.
If you have suffered, or if one of your family members has suffered, injuries as the result of a construction accident, a lawyer experienced in construction accident and injury litigation from Ellis Law, P.C., in NYC, Albany, Poughkeepsie and many other locations, can help you understand your rights.
Who May Be Liable For A Construction Site Injury?
There are many different parties who may be liable when a construction worker suffers a work-related illness or injury such as:
- Property owners
- General, prime and subcontractors
- Architects, engineers or other designers
- Construction managers
- Suppliers and manufacturers of equipment and materials
The liability of these various parties depends on the type of management and oversight system of the construction project. With regard to liability for construction workers' injuries, the main legal question concerns who maintains control and authority over the property where the work is being done and the type of work that is being done. For example, in larger projects, much of the work is delegated to subcontractors, whether by general contractors or a construction management organization. Despite this, however, under the New York Labor Law, the owner and general contractor remain responsible for work site safety.
It is important to name all potential liable parties at the outset of any litigation to preserve your claim against them. An experienced construction litigation attorney can help you determine who the responsible parties may be according to the specific circumstances of your case and the laws of the state.
OSHA And Safety Regulations
Safety regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) have been adopted by most states in some form, and these regulations apply to work done at construction sites. Whether a general contractor, subcontractor or other party has the responsibility for ensuring compliance with OSHA regulations often turns on who was in control of the job site or job activity when the employee was injured. The legal effect of a violation of OSHA regulations will vary depending on the state in which the injury took place. In certain jurisdictions, if it can be shown that an OSHA regulation was violated and an injury resulted, no additional evidence is needed to establish that the employer was negligent.
OSHA regulations are not the only legal standards to which a property owner, general contractor or subcontractor may be held in determining liability for a construction accident. There are certain safety standards within the injury that must be complied with. Also, often the property owner or general contractor will have his or her own set of safety rules, either generally applicable or specific to the construction project at hand, designed to protect those performing work on the project. Violations of these regulations may serve to support a claim for damages following a construction site accident.
Pursuing A Claim For A Construction Accident
If you have been injured as a result of an accident at a construction site, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your legal rights:
- Get medical attention for your injuries.
- Report the injury to your employer and/or construction site manager as soon as possible, noting the name and position of the person you notified.
- Get the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
- If possible, try to preserve any evidence related to your injury by (with permission) taking photographs of the area where you were injured, taking photographs of the injuries themselves and asking the persons responsible to preserve the equipment or tool that was involved in your injury.
- Consult an attorney as soon as possible to help you evaluate any potential third-party claims and discuss your state's Workers' Compensation laws.
Contact A Construction Accident Attorney
Your case may be won or lost based on the work done before it goes to trial. Discussing your case with a lawyer who is experienced in the area of construction injury law is a good place to start. Contact Ellis Law, P.C., in Fishkill, New York, or at any of our other locations today, to schedule a consultation with an attorney experienced in handling construction accident injury cases.
Hazards posed by construction sites include exposure to noise, dust and other chemicals, working from high elevations and in confined spaces, working with power tools and other mechanical equipment, exposure to electricity and performing excavations. More information on the specific types of injuries suffered by construction workers is provided below.
If you or your loved one has suffered injuries as the result of an accident at a construction site, consult an attorney to learn about your rights to compensation. Contact Ellis Law, P.C., in Albany, NYC, Poughkeepsie and many other locations to schedule a consultation with a lawyer experienced in construction site accident litigation who can help you explore your legal options.
Common Construction Site Injuries
Falls — Falls are the most common source of injury and death for construction workers. While the greatest number of falls occurs from ladders and scaffolding, construction workers also suffer serious injuries and die in falls from roofs, buildings, openings in structures, and stairs and steps.
Electrocution — Construction workers are also at risk for injury and death from electrocution or other electricity-related injuries, such as electric shock and burns. These types of injuries are not only caused by contact with power lines and other sources of high voltage but can also be caused by contact with faulty wiring, broken light bulbs or other equipment in contact with an electric source, like a ladder.
Cave-ins — Construction workers involved in excavation work face the possibility of cave-ins. General contractors should take precautions before the excavation project begins to limit the possibility of a cave-in from occurring. For example, OSHA standards require employers to create a support system designed to protect workers from the hazards created by the specific type of excavation work, the environment of the site, such as soil type, water flow, climate and other factors.
Other injuries — Construction workers also face injury from a number of other sources, such as heavy lifting, defective machinery and tools, bodily and head injuries from falling objects, and illnesses from ingesting silica-based dust, asphalt fumes and other chemicals, among others.
If you have been injured while working at a construction site, your financial recovery may be affected by Workers' Compensation laws, depending on your employment situation and the degree of liability on your employer's or any party's part. Keep in mind that parties other than your employer may be legally responsible for your injuries (such as third-party contractors, property owners or equipment manufacturers, automobile drivers, etc.) and your recovery from those parties will most likely not be affected by Workers' Compensation laws.
If you or a family member was injured in a construction accident, contact Ellis Law, P.C., in Albany, NYC, Poughkeepsie and many other locations, to schedule a consultation with a lawyer to learn how Workers' Compensation laws in New York may affect your recovery.
What Is Workers' Compensation?
Workers' Compensation is a system of laws outlining specific benefits to which an injured employee is entitled. Workers' Compensation benefits may include compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, disability and rehabilitation benefits. Most businesses must have Workers' Compensation insurance to cover its employees. Filing a Workers' Compensation claim is similar to filing any other insurance claim. It is not a lawsuit against an employer, but rather a request for benefits.
Under most Workers' Compensation programs, an injured employee is entitled to:
Medical care — The injured party has the right to all reasonably necessary treatment to cure or relieve the effects of the injury. While benefits may vary by state, this usually includes reimbursement for medical bills, prescriptions and reasonable travel expenses for necessary visits to the doctor for treatment.
An injured worker receiving benefits under his or her employer's Workers' Compensation plan may be required to be examined by a company-approved doctor. Workers may want to check with their employers about this requirement and discuss any other available options for medical care with their attorneys.
Disability pay — If the injured worker must take time away from work either temporarily or permanently due to medical reasons related to the injury, he or she may be entitled to disability payments. There are specific maximum and minimum limits to the pay rate, and the amount varies by state. There are generally four different types of disability for which an injured worker may qualify: temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent total disability and permanent partial disability.
Temporary total disability is the most common type of disability and is available during the period of time workers need to heal before they can return to their jobs. States have varying standards to determine if an injured worker is eligible for this type of benefit. Workers generally are paid a percentage of their wages, although states may have different formulas for determining the amount.
Rehabilitation — There are generally two different types of rehabilitation benefits: physical and vocational. Usually, physical rehabilitation is intended to help an injured employee cope with and overcome the effects of the injury. This can include physical therapy and other assistance to help the employee return to the type of work he or she was doing before the injury.
If the injury is so severe that an employee will be unable to perform the duties of his or her old job, then vocational rehabilitation may be available. This type of rehabilitation focuses on job training so the worker can return to the workforce in a new capacity.
Death benefits — If an employee suffers an injury at work or while performing job-related work and dies from that injury, the employee's surviving family members are entitled to death benefits. While it is usually the spouse, children or parents who qualify for these benefits, some states allow other extended family members to collect, for example, if they were dependent on the deceased worker's financial support.
What To Do If You Are Injured At Work
Here are tips for filing Workers' Compensation claims if you are injured on the job:
Report the injury to the employer. If possible, report the injury in writing and keep a copy of the report for your records.
Complete a claim form. No matter how the employer learns of the incident, they must offer the injured worker an opportunity to submit a claim form immediately. Until this claim form is completed, the employer's insurance company has no obligation to provide benefits. Make sure it is filled out completely and correctly. Keep a copy of the claim. It is best to consult an attorney concerning the legal risks associated with filling out this form. Once the form is submitted, it is then the employer's responsibility to notify the Workers' Compensation insurance company.
File the claim as soon as possible. Those seeking to claim Workers' Compensation benefits should do so quickly. Any delay on the injured worker's part could lead to potential delays or even a loss of benefits. Immediately reporting injuries and filing a claim increases the likelihood that benefits will begin quickly. Again, it is advisable to first consult a Workers' Comp attorney.
OSHA And Employee Workplace Rights
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Department of Labor with the mission to reduce workplace hazards and create a system of health and safety regulations and programs. Under OSHA regulations, employees are granted certain rights and employers are required to ensure those rights are not violated.
If you believe your rights guaranteed under OSHA were violated while working on a construction site, contact Ellis Law, P.C., today. We have locations in Albany, New York City, Poughkeepsie and many other places, where we can meet with you for a free and confidential consultation with a lawyer who is experienced in construction accident and injury litigation.
Employee Rights Under OSHA
Under OSHA, employees are granted certain rights, including:
- The right to obtain training from their employer on any chemicals or other hazardous materials they may be exposed to or work with such as blood-borne pathogens
- The right to information about OSHA standards, job hazards, worker injuries and workers' rights from their employer
- The right to request that a dangerous condition or OSHA violation is corrected by their employer
- The right to file a complaint to OSHA for a violation or serious hazard in the workplace and to have their name withheld from their employer
- The right to be involved in any OSHA inspection and, if necessary, appeal the final action
- The right to file a complaint to OSHA without possibility of retaliation or other discriminatory acts by their employer
Employees also have certain obligations under OSHA, including complying with OSHA and employer safety standards, using all necessary protective equipment (like ear plugs, safety goggles, etc.) and reporting any on-the-job injuries or illnesses to their employer immediately.
Employer Obligations Under OSHA
Among the obligations imposed under OSHA, employers have a duty to:
- Provide employees a reasonably safe work environment free from recognized hazards
- Comply with OSHA standards and ensure the work environment conforms with those standards
- Provide employees with the appropriate safety equipment and training and maintain the safety of the equipment
- Post the OSHA poster that lists employees' rights and obligations in a prominent location
- Keep records of all work-related injuries and illnesses and provide access to this information to employees, former employees and their authorized representatives
- Not to retaliate or discriminate against employees who file a claim with OSHA or otherwise exercise their rights under OSHA
If an employee believes that his or her workplace is hazardous or is otherwise dangerous, the employee can submit a written complaint to the nearest OSHA office. OSHA then will make a determination of whether there are reasonable grounds for believing a violation or other danger exists and whether a workplace inspection is necessary. If it is determined that one is necessary, an inspector will visit the work site and inspect the premises for unsafe working conditions.
During this inspection, a representative of the employer and a representative of the employee may accompany the OSHA inspector during the walk around. The employer is not allowed to choose the employee's representative. The inspector also may collect evidence during the inspection, including taking photographs and samples, and interviewing employees and employers. The inspection by the OSHA representative is not limited by the conditions listed in the complaint and he or she may review the entire premises. There are few limitations on the inspection itself, but it may not disrupt the employer's operations, must be during regular business hours, and must be reasonable in nature.
Contact A Construction Accident Lawyer
If you suspect that your employer is in violation of OSHA requirements, or if you have been injured as a result of an OSHA violation, an attorney can explain your rights to you. Contact Ellis Law, P.C., in Albany, NYC, Poughkeepsie and many other locations. Call today to schedule a consultation with an attorney experienced in handling construction site injury and OSHA violation cases.
Who Is Liable For Construction Site Injuries?
There are many different parties who may be liable when a construction worker suffers an on-the-job injury, including the property owner, the general contractor, subcontractors, architects or other designers, engineers, construction managers, and suppliers of equipment and materials. The number of potential liable parties depends on how large and sophisticated the project is. While many construction projects are based on general contract relationships (where a general contractor retained by the site owner enters into agreements with subcontractors as needs require), larger projects are increasingly being handled by "construction management" organizations.
If you or your loved one has suffered injuries as the result of a construction accident, take steps to preserve your legal rights by speaking with an attorney about your case as soon as possible. Contact Ellis Law, P.C., today to schedule a consultation with a lawyer experienced in construction accident and injury litigation to discuss your options.
Potential Liable Parties In Construction Accident Cases
To determine who may be liable for injuries resulting from a construction accident, it is helpful to take a close look at the duties and legal responsibilities of individuals who may be involved in the construction project at issue:
Construction site property owners — Generally, landowners have a duty to keep and maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. If someone is injured on their property, landowners will be liable if they knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Whether or not the property owner of the construction site will be liable for any injuries depends on the amount of control over the property exercised by the property owner and what the cause of the injury was.
Under the New York State Labor Law, property owners have a "non-delegable duty" (i.e., they cannot delegate the duty to someone else) to keep the premises safe for the construction workers on their property. If the accident involves a worker falling from a height — like from a ladder, scaffold or roof — or an object falling onto a worker from a height, this duty may make the property owner "strictly liable" to the injured worker with no deduction in the settlement or award for any negligence of the worker that may have contributed to the accident.
General contractors and subcontractors — Both the general contractor and subcontractor must provide workers a construction site that is reasonably safe. General and subcontractors also have a legal duty to warn of any defects or hazards at the site as well as any hazards inherent in the work being performed. Typically, a general contractor or subcontractor will have a duty to make sure that, to the extent they have been delegated control over a portion of the work being performed at a construction site, work is being performed safely and that the workplace itself is safe. This duty extends to the hiring of reasonably competent employees, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations.
Like property owners, general contractors have a "non-delegable" duty under New York State Labor Law. Their duty is to keep the property safe for construction workers on the job site. The law is serious. If a construction worker is injured by falling from a ladder, scaffold, roof or other height, or if an object falls from a height onto a worker, the general contractor may be held fully accountable for the harm. Legally, this is called "strict liability," and it means that there will be no deduction in the settlement amount, even if the worker's own actions contributed to the accident.
"Prime" contractors — Prime contractors share similarities with both general and subcontractors, depending on the specific construction project at issue. While a general contractor has responsibility for the entire project, a prime contractor is responsible only for the work that is identified in his or her prime contract. A prime contractor also is responsible for any work that he or she chooses to delegate to subcontractors, and has exclusive responsibility over those subcontractors, including as to payment and work quality.
Architects and engineers — These design professionals can be charged with differing amounts of responsibility for a construction project, and often the way to determine the extent of that responsibility is to look to the design professional's contract with the site owner. Duties can include progress observation to ensure compliance with plans and specifications, and site inspection to ensure compliance with code regulations. Aside from any duty specifically identified in the relevant construction contract, these design professionals are held to certain accepted standards in performing professional services during the design and/or construction phases of the project. An architect or engineer can be held liable for any injuries suffered by construction workers as a result of their failure to meet those standards.
Manufacturers of construction machinery or equipment — Manufacturers of defective construction machinery or equipment can be held liable for the design and manufacture (and in some instances maintenance) of that equipment. The legal principles that place liability on a manufacturer or designer of a defective product apply to construction machinery and equipment too, including the concept of "no-fault" or "strict" liability. In products liability law, manufacturers have a duty to design products that are reasonably safe for their intended and foreseeable use.
Insurers — Especially in situations involving major construction projects, the parties involved will be required to carry adequate insurance coverage. For example, the owner or property manager may be required to carry premises or property liability insurance; and the general and/or subcontractor may need Workers' Compensation, commercial general liability insurance and employer's liability insurance. The insurance coverage of each party involved in a construction project, and the extent of that coverage, are important issues when assessing legal responsibility for a construction injury.
Contact A Construction Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a construction site accident, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Contact Ellis Law, P.C., in Albany, Poughkeepsie, New York City or any of our other convenient locations today to schedule a consultation with an attorney experienced in handling NY construction site injury cases.
Construction Accident Resource Links:
Employee workplace rights
From the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). What to do if you question the safety of your workplace. Lists addresses and phone numbers for more information.
OSHA Construction eTool
This eTool will help you identify and control the hazards that commonly cause the most serious construction injuries.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury.
Department of Labor (DOL) resources for workers
Resource for workers, including information on each state's Workers' Compensation laws, whistleblower protection and health and safety guidelines.
OSHA Construction Resource Manual
The manual contains important information on inspections, penalties for violations, reporting requirements for injuries, access to records, health and safety standards and more.
Manufacturing and construction statistics
Features construction statistics, including new residential construction and sales, residential improvements, permits and more, from the United States Census Bureau.
Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program
Resource for employees whose employers have discriminated or retaliated against them for filing a workplace hazard complaint with OSHA. Provides information on the types of employer activities that may constitute retaliation or discrimination, the steps for filing a complaint against an employer and links to the OSHA Whistleblower Investigations Manual.
Construction safety and health information
Information on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) program that seeks to develop goals and performance measures for decreasing construction accidents and injuries.
Construction workers are exposed to a significant number of work hazards. Common causes of construction worker injuries include:
- Falls from ladders, roofs and scaffolds
- Forklift, crane and other heavy equipment accidents
- Burns from fires and chemical exposure
- Accidents involving power tools
- Fires and explosions
- Falling objects
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Truck accidents
- Heavy lifting accidents
- Dangerous products (e.g., saws, power tools, machinery, safety equipment)
If you have been injured in a construction accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. To speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer, contact Ellis Law. We are committed to protecting the rights of injured workers.
Put Our Experience To Work For You
Our attorneys have represented thousands of injury victims. Because we practice in personal injury, Workers' Compensation and product liability claims, we may be able to identify means of recovery that are available to you that may be missed by lesser experienced firms.
We have represented clients who have sustained a wide range of injuries, including back and neck injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, loss of limb, burn injuries, brain injuries and other serious injuries. We have also represented many family members in wrongful death claims. You can rely on us to fight for the full compensation you deserve.
If you were hurt in a construction accident, as your personal injury accident lawyers, we will vigorously pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. You may be entitled to a settlement for pain and suffering, permanency of injuries, excess lost wages, loss of earning potential, out-of-pocket expenses for medical bills or other necessities, inability to enjoy time with your family or your hobbies, and essentially ANY change in the quality of your life caused by your injuries. At Ellis Law, you will have a strong advocate on your side at all times whose job is to ensure that you are FULLY compensated for all that you are going through because of the defendant's carelessness.
Contact Our Construction Worker Injury Attorneys
With offices in Albany, NYC, Poughkeepsie and numerous other convenient locations, we provide legal representation to clients throughout New York. Through co-counsel relationships with a network of experienced injury lawyers developed over many years, Ellis Law is prepared to assist injury victims with accident claims and wrongful death litigation throughout New York and anywhere in the United States. These law firms assume joint responsibility with us for the case and share the standard legal fees with us. In cases in which we employ co-counsel, our clients benefit from the full resources of "two law firms for the price of one." In other words, there is no additional fee for the client to have full access to the resources of both law firms.
To contact our Poughkeepsie, NYC, Bronx and Albany personal injury lawyers and for accident or injury cases anywhere in New York State or nationwide, call 1-800-LAW-7777 (1-800-529-7777) or 1-800-3-ABOGADO (1-800-322-6423). You may also contact us by email or fill in the simple Injury Answerline® form on this page for answers to your questions or a free case evaluation.
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