New York Construction Accident Guide

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2017 | Buffalo Law Blog, Construction Accidents, New York Legal Guides

Construction Accident Injuries

The New York Construction Accident Guide was created by our Buffalo Injury Attorneys to guide those that were injured on the job through the legal system.

Staying Safe on a Job Site

As a construction worker, your obligation is simply to use the safety devices that are available to you. Sometimes when you do not do this and you are injured, this can be a hindrance in bringing a third-party claim. This will not necessarily eliminate such a claim, but your failure to use those safety devices can impede us from bringing a successful claim. Employers are the ones who are ultimately responsible for providing the proper safety devices. If you are not provided the proper safety devices, you will have a claim.

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New York Scaffold Law

Insurance companies always want to change the Scaffold Law, but this law serves an important purpose: it puts a non-delegable duty onto general contractors and owners of property when they are doing construction work to make sure that there are proper safety devices in place when people are working from certain heights.

Often when injuries happen because of an elevated-related work hazard, the injuries are severe and permanent. They are putting the onus on the people who are in the best position to make sure that these safety standards and safety procedures are followed. The Scaffold Law in general says that the owner of a property or a general contractor has the non-delegable duty of ensuring that standards are met and procedures are obeyed. An owner or a contractor cannot pass that responsibility to somebody else; he or she must verify that there are proper safety devices in place to prevent injuries from an elevated-related work height.

Responsible Party for a Construction Accident Injury

In New York State, you cannot sue your employer directly for injuries that happen on a construction site. However, the case may be different for subcontractors and those who work for a contractor hired by an owner. If your injury is caused by the negligence of somebody else who is not within the employment of your employer, you may have a claim against that employer or the relevant subcontractor.

As stated, according to the Scaffold Law in New York State, general contractors and owners of property have a non-delegable duty to make sure that people are kept safe on a job site when elevated-related work hazards are present or likely. In those situations, you can sue if you are not a direct employee of the general contractor. You can sue both the general contractor and the owner of the property. Those are scenarios in which early attorney involvement can help you to determine where responsibility lies.

Telling Employer About Your Construction Accident Injury

The law requires that there be immediate notice to the employer. If the employer does not know that you have been hurt on the job, there can be controversy later regarding whether you were in fact hurt on the job. The insurance company that represents that employer at the workers’ compensation board will then allege that the injury did not happen at work, attempting to discredit and lay the blame on the employee.

If you are injured at work, you need to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Sometimes injuries are obvious; for example, if you fall into some sort of an excavation site, you will likely have a witness to your injury. In the event that you are injured at work and someone else did not hear or see the incident, especially if the injury relates to your back or your shoulder, you need to notify a colleague and your employer if you trip and fall and tear up your knee or tear up your ankle. People are going to be there to assist you.

In many of the cases we have overseen, our clients have been unaware of their responsibility to let their employer know. Every employer should possess workers’ compensation board forms, which you must ask your doctor to complete. Most of the doctors in New York know exactly how to fill out workers’ compensation forms.

Rights if Working as a Subcontractor

Some of our clients who were either subcontractors themselves or working for subcontractors have worried that they did not have valid claims. This is not true; it does not matter if an individual is a subcontractor to a general contractor or to an owner of property. If you are injured because of the negligence of somebody else on that job site, even the general contractor, you could have a claim. Because this situation may appear unclear, it is important to seek lawyers’ guidance right away.

Our office hires investigators, does its due diligence, determines which witnesses are available, and finds out which contractors could be responsible for certain employees and activities on the job site. Immediate attorney involvement is necessary, as the construction site may not remain the way it was at the time that your New York construction accident occurred. When you are a subcontractor, prompt action is even more important because you want to make sure that your case is filed against the responsible parties.

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Filing a Claim and Seeking Protection for a New York Construction Accident

Who Pays for My Medical Bills After a Construction Accident Injury?

Workers’ compensation insurance policies are set up so that, no matter who is at fault, the workers’ compensation insurance policy covers the medical expenses of the injured party. In the event that you sustained an injury on the job and you are not sure who will pay your medical bills, rest assured that workers’ compensation pays everything. It’s even different than if you have health insurance.

If you go to a doctor, you will be asked for your Workmen’s Compensation Board number, or WCB number. Once your medical provider verifies this information, you will not be responsible for co-pays, and you proceed until someone challenges it. You get all your medical treatment covered, even surgeries, even second.

Can You Sue Your Employer for Negligence?

The overwhelming majority of the time, you may not sue your employer on the grounds of negligence. You are restricted to filing a workers’ compensation claim. Sometimes this inability to sue can prove to be a major hindrance; in one of our current cases, a client has been forced to replace one of his eyes due to a workplace injury, and he is unable to sue his employer for a situation that is truly the employer’s responsibility. Unfortunately, he will only be able to file a workers’ compensation claim.

If a third party is at fault for your injury, however, you do have the ability to make a claim against the third party. Workers’ compensation exists to protect employees, allowing them to forego the burdensome responsibility of proving negligence in order to gain some recovery for their injuries.

Afraid of Being Fired for Filing an Injury Claim?

Section 120 of the Workers’ Compensation Law makes it illegal for an employer to terminate an employee because the employee has filed a claim. When claims are brought against employers for wrongful termination, though, they are not easy claims to prosecute. It must be definitively determined that the reason for the firing was the filing of a claim, and intent can be challenging to demonstrate. Employers will try to dodge responsibility and assert that the reason behind the firing was the need to replace the employee. The conversations that you have with your employer at the time that you are injured or fired are critical and must be recorded by you on paperwork as soon as you can. This way, it can be verified that the employer is terminating you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Claims in Which You Are Blamed for Your Injury

You are always eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim, whether you were responsible for your accident or not. Even if, for example, you fall off a ladder, there are certain provisions within the construction codes in New York State that you may use in your defense. When using a ladder, employers have to make sure that there are certain safeguards in place. If someone is on a ladder, the worker is required to use tie-offs, have someone else holding the ladder, make sure that the ladder is positioned properly, and ensure that the ladder is in working condition. Do not automatically assume that you do not have a claim because you think you may have done something wrong. Many times, there are certain safety standards that the employer, the general contractor, or the owner of the construction site was not following, and this lack of compliance with regulations could lead to a third-party claim, granting you compensation for your injuries in addition to workers’ compensation.

Third-Party Construction Accident Injury Claims

A first-party claim is your claim against your employer for workers’ compensation benefits. If you want to receive compensation for pain, suffering, and other damages that you might have, you would have to file a claim against a third party, someone outside of that employer/employee relationship. A third party could be another subcontractor, a general contractor, or an owner.

You may want to make sure that you have an idea of potential third parties at the initial stages so that you can determine who is responsible for what on the construction site, allowing you to properly determine against whom you may file your third-party claim. To illustrate, people can be involved in automobile accidents while driving a company vehicle, and though these people may not be able to sue their employers for the accident, they can sue the individuals who caused the accident.

Filing Both a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a Third-Party Construction Accident Injury Claim

Employees can file workers’ compensation claims and still preserve their right to sue other parties for their injuries. You cannot receive medical coverage without filing a workers’ compensation claim, but if you do have a third-party claim, the workers’ compensation carrier will assert that it has a lien, and there are certain provisions in the workers’ compensation law that give the carrier that right. You may have to pay some money back to the workers’ compensation carrier once a case is settled.

Hiring a New York Construction Accident Attorney

The Best Time to Hire a New York Construction Accident Lawyer

 If you’re injured on the job, you need a Buffalo accident attorney or lawyer like our firm provides. You need that sooner rather than later. The reason for that is that witnesses forget things quickly, and it’s important to have an accident attorney in our investigative team out there to look at the site immediately and measure it because cites change. If it’s an excavation site, you know they’re going to finish the job whether you got hurt or not. They’re going to move on, so you need to get pictures.

This can be critical to winning lawsuits. The earlier the better on a Buffalo accident attorney. We’ve sent investigators out the afternoon of injuries just to make sure we’re able to retrieve and save the worksite and what it looked like and get early statements from people if we can. People tend to forget things, even serious accidents. They can’t remember this or that date that it happened or where they were standing or how badly hurt the person looked at first instance. It’s critical to get a construction litigation attorney such as provided by our firm out just as soon as possible to get statements and to take pictures.

Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?

A workers’ compensation lawyer is not necessary in certain situations. If you have lost a finger or shattered your back in an accident, you probably need a workers’ compensation lawyer. If you have a more serious injury, you will need a lawyer to make sure that your rights are protected. However, if you have sustained a simple, routine injury that will keep you out of work for a couple of weeks, the workers’ compensation wages will kick in automatically, and you will not require a lawyer. You will merely receive some workers’ compensation wages through your carrier and place of employment.

New York Construction Accident Success

We have handled all types of New York construction accidents, including falls from ladders, bridges, buildings, and scaffolding. We have represented people who have been injured because their worksites were unsafe. We have assisted in claims regarding incidents in which people were hit by falling objects and not protected.

We have experienced the most success with the cases in which we became involved early. For these cases, we visited the site of the accident, took photographs of the site, talked to the witnesses, and obtained fresh accounts about the incident. Representing a client at the beginning of a case is key, as the recollections of witnesses several months after an accident are not as clear as they should be. Clients who have asked for our help soon after they have been injured tend to receive million-dollar verdicts and settlements.

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You’re Going Through a Hard Time… Let Us Help- NO WORRIES : JUST RESULTS 

At Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP, our mission is to deliver the finest quality legal representation while providing clients with the personal attention they deserve.  Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Buffalo and the surrounding area have successfully handled every type of personal injury case from auto accidents, slip and falls, sex abuse, construction accidents, truck crashes, and dog bites.