In New York, it’s tough to go more than a few blocks without spotting a construction project. For many residents, the sound of jackhammers, drills, and heavy construction equipment is simply a part of life. But with numerous construction projects comes a higher risk of accidents, and that can mean pricey medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress for those injured on the job.
Construction workers’ rights protect employees who were hurt at work, but the laws surrounding these rights are complex and confusing. If you’re suffering from workplace injuries, a construction accident lawyer can inform you of your rights and help you understand whether you have a case against the responsible party.
Construction Accidents Are Costly for Both Workers and Employers
It only takes one person’s negligence or a single careless mistake to cause an accident with a heavy financial toll.
When you’re injured on the job, it’s common to wonder, “How am I going to pay for this?” Workers’ compensation will cover medical bills for most workplace accidents, but in some cases, your employer’s insurance company might try to dispute your claim. If workers’ comp doesn’t cover you, you’re left with a pile of medical bills for emergency treatment, surgery, medication, and specialist visits, even if you have excellent health insurance.
If your construction accident is severe enough, you may be temporarily or permanently unable to work. Some employers are generous enough to pay your wages while you recover, but usually, you’ll need to rely on workers’ compensation. These benefits only pay a portion of your lost wages, though. That means you could lose hundreds of dollars or more in income every week.
In many cases, you’ll recover fully and feel well enough to return to construction work. But if you’re too hurt to go back to construction, you might need to take a lower-paying job in a different industry. That can make it tough to pay for bills, housing, car repairs, and other necessities.
In New York, construction workers usually can’t sue their employer as long as they hold workers’ compensation insurance. However, if the employer failed to obtain workers’ comp insurance when required to do so, you might want to file a claim against them. You may also want to sue a third party if they share some of the blame for your injuries.
Workers’ compensation exists to protect you financially if you’re hurt on the job, but filing just one claim can cause your employer’s insurance premiums to skyrocket. Some companies attempt to make up for this loss by retaliating against you.
They might try to dock your pay or demote you to another position that pays less. Retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim is illegal in New York, but that doesn’t stop some employers from trying.
If you can no longer work because of your accident, your employer may grapple with project delays that can cost the company thousands or millions of dollars. This may seem like it’s not your problem, but if the delays are long enough, the construction company may struggle to keep its business afloat. If the company shutters because of project delays, you’re faced with finding another job once you’ve recovered enough to work.
Causes of Construction Accidents
Fatal construction accidents have declined in recent years, but the death rate still remains five times higher than it does for all other on-the-job injuries. From 2007 to 2014 in New York City, falls made up 58% of all fatal construction accidents. Other common causes of construction accidents included being caught between or struck by objects.
In 2019, falls accounted for 401 out of 991 fatal construction accidents nationwide. The majority of these accidents happened due to falling from a higher level. Common causes of construction fall accidents include:
- Ladder misuse: Construction workers often underestimate just how dangerous ladders can be. Using a ladder that’s damaged or defective, failing to set up a ladder properly, or climbing a ladder that’s not designed to support one’s weight can cause construction workers to fall and become seriously injured.
- Unstable scaffolding: Poorly constructed and unstable scaffolding is another leading cause of falls in the construction industry. Construction workers may also load scaffolding with heavy tools and equipment that it can’t safely support.
- Construction site hazards: Construction workers often do their jobs in dangerous areas where it’s easy to slip and fall. Holes in floors and walls, a lack of guardrails, and equipment left lying around can cause workers to trip and fall.
- Impalement: When a construction worker falls onto sharp tools, machinery, exposed rebar, and other typical construction site hazards, their injuries can be disabling and even deadly.
Nationally, electrocutions accounted for 7.2% of fatal construction accidents in 2019. Even if a construction worker survives an electrocution-related accident, they can suffer from cardiac arrest, internal injuries, and serious burns. Common causes of electrocution include contact with exposed wires, improper equipment use, and a lack of ground-fault protection.
From 2007 to 2014, caught-between accidents were the second-highest category of fatal construction injuries in New York City. Workers may be seriously injured or killed by getting stuck in machinery or being trapped in a trench collapse. Caught-between accidents can lead to amputations, suffocation, and other deadly injuries.
In 2020, New York City reported four fatal workplace injuries due to contact with objects and equipment. Even when struck-by accidents aren’t fatal, they can cause traumatic brain injuries, fractures, lacerations, and other debilitating injuries.
Construction workers may suffer struck-by injuries when another worker drops tools or equipment onto them from a higher level. Workers can also become severely injured or killed through contact with bulldozers, forklifts, dump trucks, cranes, and other construction vehicles.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Construction workers face constant exposure to repetitive motion injuries due to the nature of their job. These injuries may not be fatal, but they can lead to chronic pain and cause workers to need extended time off work to recover. Common repetitive motion injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Strains, sprains, and tears
- Raynaud’s syndrome
- Herniated disc
- Pinched nerve
- Meniscus tear
Accidents Caused by a Lack of Protective Equipment
Construction workers can prevent many accidents with proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Even if an employer provides adequate PPE, though, some workers fail to wear it. Common reasons for non-use include poor fit, discomfort, and a lack of training on how to use PPE effectively.
Other Common Causes of Construction Accidents
Other causes of accidents on construction sites include:
- Equipment failure
- Chemical exposure
- Explosions and fires
- Power tool misuse
- Improper road safety
- Lack of machine guarding
- Poor site design
What to Do After a Construction Accident at Work
If you’re injured on the job, it’s crucial to act fast. Failing to take these steps can reduce your workers’ compensation benefits, and, in some cases, your employer’s insurance company might even try to deny your claim entirely.
Get Medical Attention
Seek medical attention right away, even if you think your injuries are minor. Some injuries don’t seem severe at first glance, but you can develop pain and other health problems several days or weeks after the accident. The longer you wait to get medical treatment, the more difficult your recovery can be.
Seeing a doctor also provides documentation for your workplace injuries, which you’ll need when you file for workers’ compensation. The medical provider you see must be registered by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board, except for emergency treatment. When you go to the doctor or hospital, tell them you’ve been hurt at work and give them the name and address of your employer.
When a doctor gives you the bill for treatment, don’t use your own health insurance or pay for it out of your own pocket. Workers’ compensation will reimburse you for the care you’ve received.
Report the Accident to Your Employer
You must report the accident to your employer within 30 days of the incident. If you don’t, you could lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer will need to file a written report of the accident, too.
File for Workers’ Compensation
In New York, the fastest way to file your workers’ compensation claim is to do so online. You can also file by mail or in person at a local Workers’ Compensation Board Office.
Talk to a Construction Accident Attorney
A construction accident lawyer in New York can help you know what to expect during the workers’ compensation claims process. They can also advise you on what to do if the insurance company disputes or denies your claim. If your injury happened because of a third party’s negligence, an attorney can tell you whether you might have grounds to sue them in a personal injury lawsuit.
Third-Party Construction Accident Liability
If a property owner, general contractor, or other third party was responsible for your accident, you might be able to seek additional damages through a personal injury lawsuit. For a successful construction accident liability case, your lawyer will need to:
- Prove that the third party owed you a duty of care
- Prove that the third party breached this duty
- Prove that the defendant’s negligence caused your accident
What if you suffered injuries because of defective equipment or construction materials? In this case, you may be able to seek additional compensation from the manufacturer through a product liability lawsuit. Contact Dervishi Law Group, P.C. to learn if you might have a case against a product or equipment manufacturer.
Your employer must abide by labor laws and health standards for construction worker safety. They must also comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Some of your employer’s duties include:
- They must provide you with a safe workplace, equipment, and tools
- They must put in place mechanisms to minimize the chance of accidents and injuries
- They must provide understandable safety courses and display an OSHA poster in a widely visible location
Even if an employer violated OSHA regulations, however, injured workers generally cannot sue them for an accident if they offer workers’ compensation benefits to employees.
You can still report an OSHA violation, though. An OSHA inspector will visit the worksite and notify your employer of workplace hazards they need to address.
Contact Dervishi Law Group, P.C. for Help with Your Construction Accident Case
Workers’ compensation will cover your lost wages and medical bills, but if the insurance company denies your claim, our attorneys at Dervishi Law Group, P.C. will fight hard to reverse the decision. If a third party was responsible for your injury due to safety hazards on a construction site, a construction workers’ rights lawyer can put together a case that proves their liability in breaching their duty of care.
Construction Accident Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve put together answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on construction accidents in New York.
What Are the Top Five OSHA Violations?
The top five OSHA violations are a lack of fall protection, inadequate hazard communication, a lack of respiratory protection, poor scaffolding, and lockout/tag-out issues.
What Are the Fatal Four in Construction?
The “Fatal Four” represent the most common types of deadly accidents in the construction industry. These accidents include falls, electrocutions, caught-in/between accidents, and struck-by accidents.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Construction Accidents in New York?
For negligence claims in New York, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the accident. If someone passes away in the accident, loved ones have two years to file a negligence claim on the deceased’s behalf.
However, the statute of limitations doesn’t apply to workers’ compensation claims. In New York, you must file within 30 days of the date of the accident or potentially lose access to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact a construction workers’ rights attorney to learn more about the statute of limitations as it applies to your case.