Who is Responsible When Construction Workers are Hurt on the Job?
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries. Each year, hundreds of construction workers in New York are injured due to falls, crane collapses, electrocutions, poorly maintained worksites and faulty machinery. Construction accidents can result in long-lasting disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering and, at worst, death. Fortunately, there may be multiple sources of financial relief available to injured workers or their families.
Workers’ compensation allows a construction worker to recover medical expenses and up to a certain amount of lost wages for construction-related injuries. However, workers’ compensation, which is the sole legal relief available from an employer, does not allow recovery for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages.
Where workers’ compensation is not adequate to fully compensate an injured worker for their injuries, he or she may consider pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against a third-party. In such a suit, a worker may be entitled to recover unreimbursed medical expenses, lost wages, out-of-pocket medical costs, pain and suffering, loss of consortium and other noneconomic damages.
There are often numerous parties involved in work on job sites who potentially may be held responsible for a worker’s injuries in construction accidents. They include:
- General contractors and subcontractors — Those in charge of construction projects or components of projects may be held liable if they create or fail to remedy a condition that caused safety hazards or if they don’t take adequate safety measures.
- Construction site owners — A landowner has a nondelegable duty to keep the premises safe for people who may reasonably be expected to be present, including construction personnel.
- Machine and equipment manufacturers — If a worker is injured by machinery or other equipment due to a defect in design or workmanship, liability may fall on the company that manufactured or distributed it.
- Architects and engineers — If a design or construction plan fails to meet safety standards, the architect or engineer that drafted it may be held liable for injuries that arise as a result.
While most lawsuits against third parties require an injured worker to prove negligence, there are exceptions. New York has tough labor laws in place to protect construction workers from jobsite accidents. Under Labor Law § 240(1), also known as the “scaffold law,” construction workers must be provided with proper safety equipment designed to prevent falls and height-related injuries. Labor Law § 241 sets forth safety requirements for especially hazardous construction activities such as demolition and excavation.
Contractors, site owners and others involved in a construction project can be held strictly liable for a worker’s injuries if they violate these laws. This means that negligence does not need to be proven for the injured worker to recover monetary compensation.
Rubenstein & Rynecki represents clients who have been injured in construction accidents and helps them and their families in obtaining the compensation they deserve. To schedule a consultation at our Brooklyn office, please call 718-522-1020 or contact us online.