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Practice Area: Construction Accidents

Practice Area: Construction Accidents

Construction work can be very dangerous. Fortunately, New York law acknowledges the inherent risks and grants certain rights to construction workers.

If you have been injured on a construction job, hire an attorney with a strong record of construction accident experience. Cases invoking violations of the Labor Law are highly contested in the courts. The Seitelman Law firm has successfully handled many construction accident cases.

This page describes some of the most important laws and theories which have bearing on construction accident law.

Workers Compensation

Initially, the injured worker will be entitled to his medical coverage and lost pay reimbursement through workers' compensation. Employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. 

The worker is entitled to benefits regardless as to who was at fault. The worker is entitled to compensation even if he himself caused his accident, such as if he were to fall after choosing to stand on a crate even though a ladder was available. The worker is entitled to compensation even where we prove no one was at fault.

The injured worker will receive necessary medical treatment as well as a percentage of his lost income. Depending upon the severity of the injuries, the worker may also receive a "scheduled" award for permanent injury.

As Workers’ Compensation claims are handled separately from the accident case, we refer our clients to a well-established firm that handles only workers' compensation matters. In this way, our clients receive the best representation for both the Workers' Compensation Board and for their accident case in the courts.

Negligence

We often claim common law negligence against the owner, the general contractor or the subcontractors.

Here are some examples of construction accidents:

  • A carpenter throws a plank through a window which hits an electrician
  • General laborers fail to place barriers around a trench, and a plumber falls in the trench
  • A general contractor fails to place a suitable barrier over an abandoned chimney and instead places a piece of plywood over the gap in the roof. A roofing worker subsequently steps on the plywood, breaks through it, and falls down the chimney.

In certain instances a claim of negligence will not be enough. The New York Legislature wisely enacted Labor Law sections 241 (1) and 240 (6) which will be discussed below.

Labor Law Sections 240 (1) and 240 (6)

New York's Labor Law creates greater rights to injured construction workers than afforded to the general public. Often the Labor Law allows recovery where a common law negligence theory would not be available.

These statutes are very useful in making the owner of the building liable where otherwise he would not be responsible. Without the Labor Law, the owner would be liable for construction negligence only if he supervised the work. Typically, an owner cedes control of the site and the work to his general contractor or construction manager. In such instances, the owner is deemed an "owner out of possession", and he would not be liable for work site accidents since he had no control over the worksite and the work of others.

Labor Law section 240 (1) imposes liability upon the owner and his agent (either the general contractor or construction manager) for a fall from a defective elevation device, such as a ladder, scaffold, platform, sidewalk bridge, elevator, or hoist. Absolute liability is imposed against the owner and the general contractor. This means that it is easier to prove liability in a construction accident case than in a standard negligence case. The worker's alleged negligence in causing or contributing to his accident will not be considered. 

Labor Law section 240 (1) covers construction, repairs, renovation, and painting. One and two family homes are exempt from this law, therefore work done on an owner-occupied single or two family home will not impose liability upon the owner or the general contractor.

Here is an example of a typical Labor Law section 240 (1) case:

A roofer must climb a ladder up and down to get to and from the top floor to the roof. The ladder has no defects.

While the worker is on the roof, a co-worker takes away the good ladder and substitutes it with a defective ladder which is missing a few rungs. The worker climbs down the ladder, and he falls due to the missing rungs.

In this case, the worker would have a case against the owner and general contractor for the unsafe elevation device (the ladder). Without the Labor Law, the owner would not be liable since he did not supervise the work.

Labor Law section 241 (6) imposes liability on the owner and his agent for a "safe place to work." The statute commands that the owner and agent must adhere to the New York State Industrial Code. A violation of the code will create a cause of action under section 241 (6). As compared to the elevation protections of section 240 (1), in a "safe place to work" case the worker's own comparative negligence will be considered and can reduce the award.

Here is an example of a "safe place to work" case:

A carpenter trips and falls into a hole in the concrete of a floor deck. There was water in the hole, and the water hid the depth of the hole. 

The carpenter would have a case against the owner and the general contractor for allowing the floor to be wet and for water to mask the presence of the hole. A wet floor is a violation of the New York Industrial Code.

Conclusion

A construction accident can involve interplay between various areas of the law. Cases invoking the Labor Law are very contested in the courts since they create liability against the owner and the general contractor which is not found in the law of common law negligence.

If you have been injured in a construction accident, please contact us for a free consultation at 800-581-1434 or write to contact@seitelman.com.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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