Every April at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, solemn construction workers observe an annual memorial Mass for their New York City construction worker colleagues who’ve died in accidents on the job over the previous twelve months. Since the memorials at St. Patrick’s started in 2008, 140 New York City construction workers have been honored and memorialized in this way. The service has actually been conducted in New York every year since 2000, and it was first held at the Priory and Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street.
But when seven construction workers died due to a crane collapse on 51st Street in 2008, the annual Mass was moved to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and has remained there ever since. At the time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the crane collapse the worst construction accident in New York City in recent history. Twenty-four other persons were injured in the incident, and eighteen nearby homes were evacuated.
Conditions haven’t improved much for the city’s construction workers since 2008. In fact, the current work to expand the city’s skyline has led to record numbers of construction accidents and injuries. According to the city’s Department of Buildings, in 2015, 471 construction workers and bystanders were injured in New York City, a figure that represents a 91 percent increase over the total of 246 injuries reported in 2014.
Construction scaffolds, for example, can pose a real threat to safety when they are not built and handled properly. Every day in the United States, over two million men and women on construction jobs use scaffolds to carry out construction work. About 4,500 workers are injured every year in the United States while using scaffolds, and about four dozen of those injuries each year are fatal injuries.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS?
New York City actively enforces comprehensive construction safety standards, but in construction work, accidents and injuries are inevitable. Inadequate safety practices, a lack of employee training, hazardous on-site conditions, and old or defective construction and safety equipment are just a few of the many reasons why construction accidents happen. However, even in the midst of these potential dangers, a construction worker in New York City still has the right to expect that the job site will be reasonably safe and the right to expect protection from unnecessary hazards and injuries.
If you are a construction worker and you suffer a work-related injury in New York City, what are your rights and options? What’s your legal recourse? The details and particulars of every construction accident and injury are different, so an injured construction worker in New York City will need the specific legal advice and guidance that an experienced Bronx personal injury attorney can provide after reviewing the case.
Anyone injured doing construction work in New York City will most likely qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is generally a “no fault” system for paying benefits to injured workers. Under workers’ comp, an injury victim does not have to prove that another person or party caused a work-related injury through negligence. In most cases, to receive workers’ comp benefits, an injured worker only has to prove that an injury happened and that it happened in the course and scope of the worker’s employment.
WHAT DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COVER?
Every employer in the state of New York is required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation claims typically pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and partial or permanent disability. When someone receives workers’ compensation benefits, that person forfeits any right to pursue other damages such as pain and suffering. However, in some limited situations, an injured New York City construction worker may be entitled to bring a personal injury claim outside of the worker’s comp system.
Typically, a construction worker works with a number of subcontractors and vendors. Others on a job site may be operating heavy machinery or driving delivery trucks. Even persons who are not at the construction site may have a role in a construction accident – engineers, architects, and equipment manufacturers. If a construction worker is injured due to the negligence of one of those persons, the worker may have a claim against that person and/or that person’s employer.
A personal injury lawsuit generated by a construction accident and injury will be similar in most ways to a lawsuit filed by an injury victim after a traffic accident. The same rules and procedures apply. For a personal injury lawsuit to prevail in the state of New York, a plaintiff (injury victim) typically must prove that another person or party – the defendant – had a duty to act in a safe and reasonable manner, failed to act in a safe and reasonable manner (that is, was negligent), and that, as a result of that failure, the plaintiff was injured.
WHO GOVERNS THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?
In New York City, the construction industry is governed by a plethora of confusing and often-overlapping local rules, regulations, and ordinances, state and federal laws, and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. The U.S. Department of Labor alone has established over 180 regulations governing construction site activities, safety requirements, and accidents.
Construction-related injuries are often catastrophic, sometimes permanently disabling, and always legally complicated, so any injured New York City construction worker is going to need the advice and services of an experienced Bronx personal injury attorney. Frequently-occurring violations that commonly lead to construction site accidents and injuries include but are not limited to:
- failing to use – or the improper use of – construction safety equipment
- failing to train construction workers appropriately
- failing to alert construction workers regarding known hazards at a job site
- inadequate or defective guard rails, stairs, or scaffolding
- inadequate protection from electrical wiring and equipment
- failing to maintain a job site that is safe and hazard-free
Safety at the job site is everybody’s responsibility. If you find that your employer is violating local, state, or federal safety rules, first file a formal complaint with a manager, a foreman, or a supervisor. It may simply be that someone has overlooked the matter, but if that doesn’t resolve it, contact the New York City Department of Buildings or speak to a personal injury attorney who has experience dealing with the construction industry.