From falling from scaffolding or having something fall on you to being injured by machinery malfunctions, construction accidents can instantly disrupt your life.
In a construction accident, the right kind of attorney can help you pursue compensation for your injuries.
But what is construction accident law exactly, and when is the right time to hire an attorney?
We’ll explain the critical aspects of construction accident law and share when to contact a construction accident lawyer to represent you — like our experienced team at Spar & Bernstein.
What Is Construction Accident Law?
Construction accident law, also known as construction injury law, is an area of personal injury law that covers the principles and regulations related to accidents and injuries within the construction industry.
Construction accident law includes time limits for filing legal actions, including workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits.
This branch of law is designed to protect the rights of workers, bystanders and others who are affected by construction-related activities.
Why Is Construction Accident Law Different Than Personal Injury Law?
In New York State, construction accident cases are treated differently than regular negligence cases under strict liability law, particularly Section 240(1) of the New York Labor Law, often called the “Scaffold Law,” which provides special protections for workers and bystanders involved in construction accidents.
This law imposes absolute liability on owners and contractors for gravity-related accidents, such as falls from heights or being struck by falling objects.
Under strict liability, owners and contractors can be held responsible for any injuries resulting from violating labor law Section 240(1), regardless of whether they were negligent.
Labor law Section 240(1) is a key difference from regular negligence cases. In a typical negligence case, the injured party must prove that the defendant was at fault due to careless or reckless behavior.
However, under the Scaffold Law, fault and negligence are unnecessary for a claim. The owner or contractor can be held liable if the law was violated and that violation led to an injury. This is true even if the worker’s negligence contributed to the accident. This concept, known as “contributory negligence, ” is not a defense under the Scaffold Law.
It’s important to note that the Scaffold Law is specific to New York State. It aims to ensure the safety of workers involved in dangerous construction work by compelling owners and contractors to provide necessary safety equipment and adhere to safety standards.
Another difference between strict liability and negligence cases is the potential for damages. In a strict liability case, a worker could recover full damages. In contrast, in a negligence case, damages might be reduced by the worker’s percentage of fault.
What Are the Main Legal Remedies For a Construction Accident in New York State?
The main legal remedies for a construction accident in NYC include:
New York Labor Law Action
An injured construction worker can bring legal action under the New York Scaffold Labor Law. New York has several labor laws that specifically protect construction workers. These include:
- New York Labor Law Section 240 (1), the Scaffold Law. This law holds property owners and contractors liable for injuries resulting from falls from heights or falling objects, regardless of who is at fault. Section 240(1) is a “strict liability” law, meaning that if the injury occurred due to a law violation, the property owner is liable, regardless of other factors.
- New York Labor Law Section 241 (6): This law requires owners and contractors to provide a safe working environment and comply with specific safety rules outlined by the state’s Industrial Code. If a violation of these rules results in an injury, the property owner can be held liable.
- New York Labor Law Section 200: This law mandates that property owners must provide a safe working environment, including safe equipment and tools.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
In addition to legal actions under New York Labor Law, a worker may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit under general negligence against a third party who was responsible for their injuries.
For example, suppose a delivery truck driver negligently backs into a construction site, causing injuries to a worker. In that case, the worker might have the right to file a third-party liability claim against the driver or the trucking company.
Product Liability Lawsuit
Product liability claims are filed in cases where injuries result from defective construction equipment or materials.
For example, suppose a construction worker is injured due to a defect in a power tool. In that case, they might pursue a product liability claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the faulty tool.
Workers compensation is a form of insurance that provides employees who have suffered job-related injuries or illnesses with economic benefits, such as medical coverage and a percentage of lost wages.
Regardless of who is at fault for the accident (with some exceptions for cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct), “workers compensation” offers immediate help to injured workers without lengthy and costly legal battles.
For example, suppose a construction worker falls from scaffolding and suffers a back injury. In that case, workers’ comp will cover the worker’s medical expenses, rehabilitation, and a part of their lost wages.
Workers’ compensation prohibits employees from suing their employer for negligence in exchange for prompt and guaranteed insurance benefits.
Can A Construction Worker Sue For Bodily Injury Resulting From A Construction Accident In New York State?
A good attorney will assist the injured construction worker by holding others liable for their injuries in a Labor law or Personal Injury lawsuit, including:
- General contractors and subcontractors: If the contractor or subcontractor failed to maintain a safe work environment or was negligent in their duties, they could be liable for injuries.
- Property owners: The property owner where the construction is taking place is strictly liable under New York State Labor Law and may also be responsible under general negligence law, particularly if they had control over the work being done and failed to ensure the site was safe.
- Architects and engineers: If an injury is due to faulty design or poor oversight during construction, the professionals who designed the project or supervised the work could be liable.
- Equipment manufacturers: If a worker is injured due to a defect in a piece of equipment or machinery, the manufacturer of that equipment might be held responsible under product liability laws.
- Other third parties: Third parties on a construction site, such as delivery drivers or independent contractors, could also be liable if their actions contributed to the injury.
What Are My Damages In A Construction Accident Case?
In New York State, if a worker is injured due to a violation of the Scaffold Law, negligence of a third party, or product liability and files a successful lawsuit, the damages awarded will depend on the extent and nature of the injury.
Here’s a breakdown of the types of damages that could be awarded:
The injured worker is eligible to receive compensation for all medical expenses related to the injury. This includes the cost of emergency room visits, surgeries, medication, physical therapy, and any other necessary medical treatment.
This also includes future medical treatment related to the accident for the injured person’s life.
Workers who cannot work due to the injury are entitled to recover lost earnings. This includes not only lost wages to date but also future earnings if the injury results in a permanent disability that affects the worker’s ability to earn a living.
If the injury results in a permanent disability, additional damages may be awarded. This could include the cost of any necessary ongoing care or assistance.
Pain And Suffering
The court may also award damages for physical pain and suffering and emotional distress caused by the accident and injury.
Although the amount of these damages is subjective and depends on the severity of the injury and its impact on the worker’s quality of life, there are two ways that New York State courts may take into consideration the calculation for pain and suffering:
a) As a multiple of one and a half to five times or more of the injured worker’s economic loss (i.e., current and future medical bills, current and future lost wages, current and future paid services, property damage, etc.).
So, assume your economic loss between past and future medical bills and past and future lost earnings due to the construction accident is $500,000. In that case, your bodily injury claim can generally be worth between $750,000 and $2,500,000 or more.
b) Per diem, which calculates the days the injured construction worker is presumed to have Pain and Suffering. This calculation is generally based on a multiple of the victim’s lost wages.
Suppose the injured worker is in Pain and Suffering for two years and earns $75,000/ year; the bodily injury case may be worth $150,000 or more.
It’s important to note that, unlike in a regular negligence case, the worker’s possible contributory negligence does not reduce the amount of damages they can recover under the Scaffold Law’s strict liability standard. This means that even if the worker was partially at fault for the accident, it does not diminish the owner’s or contractor’s liability.
Remember, the amount of damages awarded will vary based on each case’s specifics, including the injury’s severity, the impact on the worker’s life, and the worker’s earning capacity. It’s always advisable to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can provide guidance based on the specific circumstances of the accident and injury.
Our team at Spar & Bernstein has been handling construction accidents for over 50 decades. We will research your case and explain the most effective strategies to protect your rights and secure compensation.
Please read our detailed guide for more information about your rights after a construction accident.
When To Contact A Construction Accident Lawyer
If you sustained injuries or faced adverse consequences as a worker or bystander due to a construction accident, contact a construction accident lawyer to explore your options for seeking compensation.
Situations in which you might need to seek the advice of a construction accident lawyer include:
- Serious injuries: If you were involved in an accident and sustained serious injuries, such as fractures, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or amputations, a construction accident lawyer can help you seek fair compensation if the injuries resulted in a long-term or permanent disability that requires ongoing medical care and rehabilitation, and you have lost earning capacity. As a result, an attorney will ensure your compensation covers long-term care and lost wages.
- Fatal accidents: If you lose a loved one as a result of a construction accident, an experienced attorney can help you file a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.
- Unclear liability: If you were involved in an accident and it is unclear who is at fault, a construction accident lawyer can investigate liability and identify responsible parties.
- Third-party involvement: If you were involved in an accident and your injuries occurred due to a third party, such as a property owner, subcontractor, or equipment manufacturer, a construction accident lawyer can help you pursue a claim against the responsible party on top of your workers’ compensation.
- Disputes with insurance companies: If you were injured in an accident and there are disputes with insurance companies regarding the compensation you are being offered, a construction accident lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to reach a maximum settlement.
Seek the services of a construction accident attorney if liability in your case is unclear or if third parties contributed to the accident.
Need A Construction Accident Lawyer? Contact Spar & Bernstein
Coping with injuries from a construction accident can be an overwhelming experience. That is why our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys at Spar & Bernstein are dedicated to guiding you through every step of the legal process while you focus on your recovery.
Whether you are dealing with workers’ compensation claims or exploring third-party liability, our personal injury team is here to advocate for your rights.
From researching your accident to defining liability and assessing your case’s worth, we will ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
We are proud to have protected the interests of many construction workers over the years. Although prior successful outcomes do not guarantee a similar result, our recent success stories include:
- $14,750,000.00 (Fourteen million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars) for a construction accident at a building owned by the city of New York
- $5,000,000.00 (Five million dollars) for an accident involving a fall off an elevator shaft at a construction site
- $3,000,000.00 (Three million dollars) for a scaffold fall
- $2,100,000.00 (Two million one hundred thousand) for a slip-and-fall at a construction accident
- $1,750,000.00 (One million seven hundred fifty thousand) for a falling debris accident
Contact our team if you were injured at a construction site or lost a loved one due to a construction accident. We will look into the details of your case, answer any questions you might have, and explain what to do next.
FAQs About Construction Accident Law
Do you still have questions about construction accident law? Check out the section below.
What should I do if I was injured in a construction accident?
If you were injured in a construction accident, call an ambulance to the construction site where you were injured and wait for immediate medical treatment. This will give you the fastest medical treatment and document the accident that occurred on the construction site.
If you can, take pictures and videos of everything around you. Ask a friend or co-worker if you are too injured to do so. It may be the only opportunity you have to document the conditions of the site that caused your injury. After seeking medical attention immediately:
- Report the incident to your supervisor or employer.
- Document the details.
- Consult a construction accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Read more about what to do after a construction accident in our extensive guide.
What types of compensation can I pursue after a construction accident?
You will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation after a construction accident. You can file a personal injury claim against third parties and seek economic and non-economic damages depending on the circumstances.
Please schedule a consultation with our knowledgeable attorneys at Spar & Bernstein to explore your options.
Is there a time limit for filing a construction accident lawsuit?
Yes, the statute of limitations can vary based on the jurisdiction. In New York, for example, the time limit for filing a personal injury claim is three years from the accident date. The time limit for filing a wrongful death claim is two years.
Talk to our construction accident lawyers at Spar & Bernstein. Our team will investigate your case and help you pursue compensation within the legal time limits.
Bradford H. Bernstein
This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.View Brad's Bio