Who’s Legally Responsible for My Construction Accident?

Stress engineer or architect with laptop and tablet holding hand

Construction accidents are extremely common. Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in New York and nationwide. If you are hurt on a construction site, what are your legal options? Who is legally responsible for your injuries and your compensation? Read on to learn about who may be liable after a New York construction accident, and if you’ve been hurt on a New York construction site, call a seasoned New York construction accident lawyer.

New York Scaffold Law

New York has a special law that applies to the property owners and general contractors responsible for scaffolding, hoists, ladders, and other elevation-related equipment. Recognizing that falls are responsible for the lion’s share of workplace injuries and fatalities in New York and nationwide, New York enacted Section 240 of the Labor Law.

Under Section 240, owners and contractors are required to “give proper protection to a person so employed” when their work involves “erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure.” Scaffolding, ladders, and other elevation-related equipment must include certain safety features outlined by the law. For example, scaffolding that is 20 feet or more above the ground must be equipped with a proper safety railing, and the scaffolding must be able to hold four times its maximum weight.

If the scaffolding involved in a gravity-related accident does not hold up to the standards required by the Scaffold Law, and someone is injured, the owner or contractor responsible is strictly liable for any resulting injuries. “Strict liability” means that the injured party does not have to show that the defendant was in any way negligent. The duty is non-delegable for owners and contractors, meaning that a foreperson or other worker hired to manage the scaffolding does not bear the legal responsibility.

Worker Injuries Outside the Scaffold Law

If a worker was injured on a construction site and the injury falls outside of the purview of the scaffold law (the accident was not caused by improper safety equipment, etc.), the injured worker can seek coverage under their employer’s workers’ compensation policy. Workers cannot typically recover from their employer both through workers’ comp and a personal injury lawsuit. Workers’ comp provides medical benefits and disability payments for workers regardless of the cause of the injury, so long as the injury was work-related. Negligence on the part of the employer need not be proven. Workers’ comp coverage applies even if the worker accidentally injured themselves.

Workers who are hurt due to the negligence of third parties–civilians, motorists, third-party contractors, defective device manufacturers–may have a personal injury claim against the responsible party. Workers’ comp only serves to limit the worker’s claims against their employer.

Civilian Injuries

The New York scaffold law is an important means to give injured construction workers the ability to recover after accidents caused by lax safety standards. If you are injured on a construction site and you are not a construction worker, however, you do not have to worry about finding a special right of action. Civilians injured on construction sites, such as if a girder or block of wood falls into traffic or rolls onto a neighboring property, can seek compensation under the general principles of premises liability.

Typically, the civilian can seek compensation from the construction company. Construction companies are responsible for keeping sites safe for workers and bystanders. Other factors may give rise to liability for other parties, however. If the accident was caused by a defective piece of machinery, for example, then the manufacturer of that machine may be liable for your injuries. Under certain circumstances, the owner of the property, subcontractors, or other parties may also be liable. A seasoned construction accident and premises liability attorney can investigate the circumstances of your accident and uncover who may owe you compensation.

Trusted Advice and Representation After a Bronx Construction Accident

If you or someone you love has been hurt on a construction site in New York, find out if you’re entitled to money damages for your injuries by contacting the experienced and trial-ready New York construction accident lawyers at the Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation at 718-409-1200.

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