If you are an independent contractor who works construction, and if you are injured at a New York City construction site, what is your recourse? How dangerous is construction work in New York? If you’re an independent contractor, or if you’re involved in any way with construction in New York, keep reading, because you need to know the risks, and you need to know what your rights are if you’re injured.

On any given weekday, millions of men and women across the United States are working at more than a quarter-of-a-million construction projects. These laborers routinely work around precarious scaffolding, live electricity, excavations, plumbing systems, and a number of other construction site hazards.

Particularly in New York, construction work has been getting more dangerous. Construction-related deaths in New York City jumped from 17 in 2011 to 25 in 2015. Across the state, the number of construction-related deaths jumped from 33 in 2011 to 55 in 2015. Serious construction site injuries in the state jumped from 128 in 2011 to 435 injuries in 2015.

WHY IS CONSTRUCTION WORK SO DANGEROUS?

Since 2015, injuries and deaths continue to rise. Earlier this year, Charlene Obernauer, the executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health, told the New York Daily News, “We really need to see and make sure that we have adequate inspections and adequate enforcement, because without that we’re going to see higher numbers of fatalities.”

But even with adequate inspections and enforcement, accidents and injuries seem to be inevitable at construction sites. Insufficient safety procedures, inadequate safety training, hazardous site conditions, and defective or worn-out equipment are several of the reasons that so many accidents and injuries happen at construction sites.

If you are an independent contractor, and you are injured on a construction site in New York City, here’s what happens. The general contractor responsible for managing the project typically begins an investigation into how the accident happened.

Two questions have to be answered after an independent contractor is injured on a construction site in New York City:

– Who controlled the independent contractor’s actions?
– Did negligence on the part of any involved party cause or contribute to the injury?

WHEN ARE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS AWARDED IN NEW YORK?

If an independent contractor is covered by workers’ compensation, in most cases, that will be an injured independent contractor’s only option for compensation. Under workers’ comp rules, a worker injured on the job does not have to prove that anyone caused the injury by acting negligently. In most cases, to receive workers’ comp benefits, an injured worker must prove only that an injury occurred in the course and scope of his or her employment.

In some very limited situations, and even when an independent contractor who is injured at a construction site is covered by workers’ compensation, an injured construction worker may qualify to pursue a personal injury lawsuit apart from the worker’s compensation system and in addition to the benefits that workers’ compensation provides.

Why? Because employers aren’t always at fault for construction injuries. Third parties including other independent contractors, delivery drivers, and vendors also work at construction sites, and equipment manufacturers, engineers, and even the architects of the project may have a share of the liability when a construction site accident happens.

CAN AN INJURED INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR FILE AN INJURY LAWSUIT?

When an independent contractor doing construction work in New York City is injured due to any third party’s negligence, the independent contractor may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against that negligent third party or that party’s employer. If you are injured on a New York City construction site, as soon as you have been examined by a healthcare provider, discuss your rights and options with an experienced Bronx personal injury attorney.

While state law in New York requires every employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance, on large construction projects, general contractors also typically carry liability insurance, and that insurance usually covers the independent contractors working for the general contractor. General contractors also typically require independent contractors to carry their own policies.

At smaller construction projects, no insurance may be available. Independent contractors need to have their own insurance, and anyone hiring independent contractors – such as homeowners hiring for minor renovations – should hire only those independent contractors with proof of their own liability insurance.

WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR INJURED CONTRACTORS?

If an independent contractor is injured because another contractor – or even a customer – was negligent, the contractor might be able to collect on a policy held by the negligent party. This is particularly important when an independent contractor does not have his or her own insurance. Many homeowner policies also provide some limited coverage for injuries sustained by contractors working on the home.

Outside of workers’ compensation, if an independent contractor is injured because of his or her own negligence, the independent contractor’s ability to collect any compensation at all will be severely limited. Injured independent contractors with no workers’ compensation coverage – or insufficient workers’ comp coverage – should consult an experienced Bronx personal injury attorney.

Construction-related claims and lawsuits should always be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney who routinely represents injured construction workers. These claims and lawsuits are almost always legally complicated for a number of reasons. Some cases, for example, will be complicated because of confusion over licensing and permitting.

CAN LICENSING LAWS IMPACT PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS?

Depending on the location, size, and type of construction project, a license or permit may be required, and a noncompliant, unlicensed independent contractor who is injured on such a project may be unable to recover any compensation whatsoever. Licensing and permitting regulations vary among jurisdictions, so if you’re injured, you’ll want an attorney to explain how the licensing rules may apply in your own situation.

When independent contractors sustain construction-related injuries, there are a variety of ways that an injured contractor can be compensated – or left without compensation. The applicable insurance policies – or a lack of insurance coverage – will usually determine what happens next and whether or not compensation will be paid.

Thus, the best recommendation for an independent contractor who does construction work in New York City is this: Carry your own liability insurance, and seek legal advice from an experienced construction accident attorney if you are injured in any way whatsoever in any construction accident in or near New York City.