By the nature of the job, there are a number of ways a construction worker can get hurt. An accident can happen because of his/her own work or because of risks in the surrounding environment. It is vital that any construction business maintain strict adherence to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. According to OSHA, every day there are close to 6.5 million construction workers on an estimated 252,000 construction sites around the U.S. The rate of injuries, and specifically fatal injuries, is higher in the construction industry than in all other industries. Have you been injured on the job? Have you lost a loved one to a construction site accident? You should speak to a construction accident lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer with experience in construction accident cases can help you pursue claims against your employer, and get compensation for pain and disabilities you may have experienced because of the recklessness of others. Schedule a free consultation now You may want to know more about construction injuries and the laws that cover accident victims. You’ll find some important facts below. Remember, this information does not constitute legal advice. Every case is different, and other factors that those covered here may apply to your injuries.
A wide range of injuries can occur on any construction site, even when all precautions are taken. Unfortunately, construction companies don’t always take all possible precautions. Working conditions often play a role in the likelihood of accidents. Accidents can involve one person or multiple people. Most sites have numerous employees working in different capacities at one time. Loud equipment, harsh weather, and tight working spaces can make it difficult to be attentive to nearby risks. The types of injuries construction workers may face include all of the following possibilities listed below. For each one, you’ll learn what it may mean to have the injury, what treatments may be necessary, and what different costs may be involved.
Back injuries are some of the most common construction accident injuries. They may happen on any job site. This category of injuries includes sprains, slipped discs, muscle injuries, nerve injuries, and spinal fractures. Back injuries come in all levels of severity. Certain conditions may resolve with some rest, while others can be fatal. For serious (but survivable) back injuries, you may pay significant medical bills for extensive surgeries, physical therapy, and long-term prescriptions for pain. You may be managing constant aches, limited mobility, or paralysis. As a result of these recovery options, you may be looking at massive healthcare costs. Some disabilities from back injuries may be permanent, meaning you will also have to factor in the costs of home care or medical devices to manage your condition.
Broken or Crushed Bones
Broken or crushed bones are another common New York construction accident. With the use of heavy machinery, sharp objects, and crushing tools at construction sites, injuries causing a cracked, broken, or crushed bone(s) can occur. Broken bones often require long recovery periods. The injury may mean months of lost wages. You may also not be able to return to all forms of construction work because of long-term stiffness or sensitivity. Sometimes an accident may even cause loss of a partial or complete digit. While, in some instances, amputation may be required due to an injury.
Multiple types of burns can occur at a worksite including chemical burns, electrical burns, frictional burns, thermal burns, and cold temperature burns. Construction workers risk that possibility is it to a small area of the body, or larger. Some burns require less care than others, while may cause permanent scarring. Treating burns may involve special grafting surgeries that may not be performed by many doctors near you. The pain that comes from burning is not always resolvable and may leave you with permanent pain management. The initial and long-term treatment costs of burn injuries can be staggering to any family. In the worst cases, you may be looking at years of continuing expenses while you can no longer work.
Electrocution injuries are some of the worst injuries that are possible on a job site. This worksite threat is so common (accounting for 8% of construction fatalities) that OSHA lists it among the agency’s “fatal four” (including falls, struck-by, and caught-between accidents). These injuries can easily result in intense pain if they are survived. Electricity can travel along and damage the nervous system. This damage can cause lifelong nerve pain, numbness, and loss of feeling. Electrical injuries often happen when employers fail to observe electrical safety standards in construction work. These safety precautions are well-documented in OSHA guidelines. You may be able to prove negligence by showing that your employer did not follow standards.
Eyes and Ears
The eyes and ears are sensitive organs, and some tools, machinery, and chemicals can be dangerous. In many cases, construction teams are required to provide safety equipment or verify that employees have brought their own before they can enter the job site. When safety equipment is not provided or used properly, eye and ear injuries can occur. Eye and ear injuries can easily develop into life-long disabilities. Vision or hearing loss may be long-term, or permanent. Blindness injuries may involve additional costs, such as long-term care, renovating your home, or therapists to reorient you to your new life.
Head injuries are often more dangerous than they may seem at the time of the injury. Concussions may go unnoticed if there is no one on the site who can recognize the symptoms. Untreated concussions may lead to permanent medical conditions. Other worksite head injuries include hemorrhages and head wounds. Your safety and future quality of life may depend on how seriously your workplace takes its emergency response responsibilities. The costs of treating a head injury can be substantial. Some head injuries must be treated by specialist surgeons. You may experience partial or complete paralysis that requires long-term therapy and in-home care.
Hazards of a Construction Worksite
While an accident can occur with one person and his/her own work, there are many more factors. Tools, equipment, supplies, and power sources can all be hazardous. Your tools aren’t the only hazards. Undertrained employees, poor planning, and a disregard for safety can make an accident more likely. Experienced NYC construction accident lawyers know how to build cases around the failures to control these risks. When safety standards decline, you may experience any of the following injuries.
By its nature, a crane can be dangerous. Nearly one-half of crane accidents occur when the boom or the crane itself becomes energized by contact with power lines. Other problems include a worker being hit with an overhead load or caught in the swing radius. These accidents can be a result of many different workplace factors. Inexperienced crane operators can put everyone on the site at risk. Worksite practices, such as weekly work schedules that don’t allow machine operators to get enough sleep can also put you at higher risk of an accident. Crane accidents may result from mechanical failure. Builders who purchase or rent cranes expect that the cranes they purchase are ready for the typical pressures of construction work. Accidents may result because of poor maintenance, defective parts, or software bugs.
While not as complex as a crane, operating a forklift or working around one can also be dangerous. Because of the size and shape of a forklift, turnovers do occur. The result can be serious injury and sometimes death. Workplace policies are likely to have an effect on the likelihood of forklift accidents. For example, the layout of warehouses can make it difficult to navigate a forklift safely. Blind corners and tight turns can contribute to a forklift accident. A license is necessary to operate forklifts in New York. Employers may try to cut expenses by having unlicensed employees operate forklifts and other heavy equipment. This kind of negligence may be a contributing factor to accidents.
Scaffold-related accidents include workers falling from great heights, or objects falling and hitting workers below. Scaffolding accidents may occur when scaffolds are improperly built, or when they are built from defective materials. The results can be catastrophic for workers, who may fall long distances or onto dangerous surfaces when scaffolding fails. These accidents may cause spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and more.
Ladders and Stairways
Similar to scaffolding accidents, falling objects often land on temporary stairways and ladders. Improper use of ladders by your employer can contribute to accidents and make injuries more severe than they would be if guidelines were followed. Some of these injuries can be severe. Those injured may suffer from broken bones, head injuries, and even death. A ladder injury can easily require months of recovery and prevent you from working in construction again.
Building collapse is not common, but the terrifying possibilities have been made clear by recent tragic building collapses in New Orleans and Florida. Workers who are involved in these accidents may have substantial injuries. Wrongful death suits are not uncommon in cases where workers are killed by building collapse. Many different factors make these accidents more dangerous than others. Workers can fall, and others can be crushed by falling debris. The degree of injuries can range from minor to severe, even death.
ironworkers are among the most likely to suffer some type of work-related injury. The work is physically demanding. Workers are often forced to up high, where they’ll rely on railings to keep them safe. Ironworkers are forced to work with highly dangerous substances. This makes the safety regulations in place and the quality of the equipment that much more important to their safety. When ironworker accidents happen, the injuries may include burns, eye damage, ear damage, or crushing.
Carpenters tend to do the most detailed of construction work. They are often on ladders or scaffolding while performing their work with a variety of tools. Poorly-built workspaces can result in these tools being operated at an unsafe angle, or too close to the carpenter’s face.
Construction workers are on the job, mostly outside, no matter the weather, and often working long hours. In the summer when hot and humid, this can cause dehydration which can result in fainting and even a stroke. In the winter, when it can be brutely cold, a worker can experience frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia. Other causes of construction accidents include:
- Falling Objects
- Fires, Burns, and Explosions
- Heavy Equipment
- Lifting and Back Injuries
- Painter/Plumber/Roofer Accidents
- Trench or Ground Collapse
- Trapped Between Materials
- Chemical Exposure on the Job
- Being Hit by a Vehicle
Accidents involving Undocumented Illegal Workers
Undocumented construction workers have rights, too. In fact, in New York, they have the same rights as a citizen with claims for workers’ compensation benefits due to an on-the-job accident. Furthermore, personal injury suits are presented in civil court, not federal court. As such, undocumented workers will not be deported due to an on-the-job injury claim. You may have been threatened with retaliation for making a claim. You should speak to a lawyer to discuss the next steps to protect yourself.
Who is Liable?
In the event of faulty safety gear or defective power tools, determining liability is not always clear-cut. If the equipment involved has a faulty part or is faulty by design, this most likely comes down to the manufacturer. Proving defective parts can be difficult. Your lawyer may be able to help you find witnesses who can use forensic science to prove parts failed under what should have been tolerable pressures. The manufacturer is not always responsible for equipment failures. Once construction teams have taken possession of heavy equipment, they’re expected to follow all maintenance instructions. Poor maintenance has injured construction workers on many sites. The employer may be considered liable for these construction site injuries. The employer may also be considered more liable if he or she is operating in defiance of New York labor law and safety law. Liability may pass from your employer to other workers. If a worker deliberately violates standing policy (for example, by failing to check before dropping items) and causes your injury, they may be considered liable. You may also be considered responsible for your injury. This can happen when you take a risk that may not be considered reasonable by the court. For example, if you choose to operate a piece of equipment you know to be faulty, you may be considered the person most responsible.
New York is a “Pure” Comparative Fault Law State
In some cases, there may be more than one responsible party, possibly the employer and the manufacturer. Both may be required to pay due to New York’s comparative fault law. This law establishes that each part involved in a lawsuit has the legal right to pursue compensation. For example, if you take both an employer and equipment manufacturer to court, your employer’s lawyer may attempt to help you prove the manufacturer’s role, or both of them may focus on your culpability. This law applies to most other personal injury cases in New York. If you are not found most responsible for the accident, you may be able to claim compensation for medical expenses, damaged property, or more personal losses. It comes down to determining fault, and that is one of the things an attorney will investigate for you.
What if your insurance refuses to pay?
In some cases, you may be fully covered for certain types of construction accidents. At least, you believe that you’re fully covered until you get the notice that your insurance claims have been denied. Sometimes, to get the workplace injury protection that you and your employer have paid for, you’ll need to fight the insurance companies. Our New York construction accident attorneys also understand this part of pursuing justice for construction accidents.
A workers’ compensation claim is generally the route for construction workers for on-the-job injuries. In the state of New York, employers must have worker’s compensation insurance coverage for all of their employees. This coverage must extend to even part-time employees and family members who are working for the business. Workers’ compensation should cover injury-related medical care along with compensation for lost wages. If your employer refuses to cooperate with a claim, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Construction Workers in New York
New York offers greater protection and compensation through its labor law statutes. If a New York construction worker suffers an on-the-job injury, it is important that he/she works with an attorney who understands New York construction law. Labor Law sections 200, 240, and 241-6 are specifically aimed at construction site workers. Labor Law Section 200: This section of the labor laws states that any property owner, or general contractor, who had reasonable control over a construction site, or project, and the conditions under which the workers operated, may be held liable for injuries and construction site accidents that occur when the accident was the result of a hazardous condition that they should have been reasonably aware or made aware of. This does exclude blatantly obvious or apparent dangerous situations, such as exposed hanging dangers on which a worker could hit his/her head. Labor Law Section 240: Formerly known as the Scaffold Law, this section protects construction workers in the event of a gravity-related construction site accident. According to this section of the law, contractors, and owners, barring single- or two-family homeowners not directly in control of the work being performed, are required to provide safety provisions, such as scaffolding, ladders, and hoists, to adequately protect workers from both falling from great heights or having objects fall on them. In gravity-related accidents, contractors, and property owners can be held strictly liable for an injury. Labor Law Section 241-6: This section states that property owners, with certain exceptions, and general contractors are obligated to provide safe construction sites to workers and that this duty cannot be placed on another party (is non-delegable). This includes providing safety equipment and safe tools and appliances. Under this section, the owner or contractor must have had sufficient control over the site and the work being performed in order to be liable.
Call on an Experienced Construction Law Attorney
Construction law can be complex, and every case is different. While filing a claim with workers’ compensation is possible, construction workers may be barred from filing a claim against their employer directly. This is something your New York attorney is aware of and should be able to deal with for you. If you are a New York construction worker who has suffered an accident, it is important to work with a local attorney who has the education, knowledge, and experience it takes to handle your case properly and with your best interest in mind. Your attorney should:
- Patiently answer all your questions and concerns while offering you all your legal options.
- Fully investigate your accident while interviewing anyone else involved along with witnesses and gathering all pertinent evidence.
- Deal with your employer, workman’s compensation personnel, and insurance agents.
- Proceed with a trial case, if necessary, filing complaints, scheduling a trial, and handling anything else regarding your case.
If you are a construction worker who has suffered an accident on the job, you can feel comfortable calling upon the law firm of Chaikin LaPenna. Our law office is here to serve clients from all over the city. We serve clients in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Long Island, and Staten Island. We may be able to help clients who live in New Jersey but have experienced accidents in New York. Our injury attorneys have the experience to handle NYC construction accidents. Do not try to handle the legalities of your construction accident alone. Give us a call today.
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