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Construction site accidents in New York: What are your rights?

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In September, the city of New York issued 1,499 stop-work orders at construction sites across the five boroughs. It was the only way to avoid a potential avalanche of construction site accidents, injuries and fatalities as construction projects resumed in the wake of COVID-19.

New York City Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Roca had taken that unprecedented action because of unprecedented negligence: After seven fatalities at New York construction sites over the first five months of 2021, city inspectors found over 3,600 safety violations at the 7,500 sites they visited around the city. 

With five new construction safety bills in front of the New York City Council, worker safety is front-and-center. As pandemic unemployment benefits expire and workers head back to construction sites, more accidents are likely to occur, and if you’re a victim of an accident, it is important to know your rights. That’s why you should contact Conexión Legal by writing to us through WhatsApp, or by calling 1800 201 1220, where we can offer free legal advice, and connect you with construction accident attorneys in New York who can help with your case.

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Three legal paths to follow after a construction site accident

Workers’ Compensation

If you are injured or became ill while performing construction work in New York City, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation, which can pay for workplace injuries based on a variety of factors, including pre-injury wages, disability level and your ability to turn to work.

Workplace injuries or illnesses arise out of and in the course of employment. That includes the results of repetitive or difficult movements (heavy lifting or repeated movements of the hand and wrist), cardiovascular or stress-related illnesses caused by a stressful work environment, as well as the larger, more sudden and catastrophic injuries like lacerations, loss of limb, crushing, electrocution, or impalement.

Unfortunately, workers’ compensation laws are complex, and many employers and insurance companies will try to argue that your injury or illness was not related to the job site. Deadlines have to be met, and proper documentation is required to prove that the injury or illness was caused by the job in question. That’s where having an experienced construction site accident lawyer can help.

Personal Injury

Workers’ compensation can help with injuries stemming from even normal construction job site activity. Personal injury claims, though, are based on fault, while a workers’ compensation case is not. In order to recover damages in a personal injury claim, you must be able to prove negligence — that a party did something wrong in order to cause the injury, or create the unsafe conditions that allowed the injury to occur.

While construction sites are the most dangerous job sites in the United States, employees head to work with the reasonable expectation that their employers and supervisors will make a good faith effort to ensure they are as safe as they can possibly be. That is not always the case. Even before the pandemic slashed profit margins, construction companies often put profits ahead of safety. 

It is estimated that one-fourth of the 45,000 construction sites in New York City are not complying with safety regulations, which can range from unsecured or defective equipment to faulty scaffolding to exposed wiring to improper licensing to outdated or absent safety training. If your injury was caused by such negligence on the part of supervisors, site owners, the construction company or management, you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit, where you can not only recover lost wages, medical bills and future earnings, but damages related to pain and suffering.

Determining who is liable in a personal injury suit, though, is tricky. The owner of the land on which the construction project takes place could be held liable in the event of an accident, but their liability depends on their control over the site. In some cases, the land owner gives control over the land to the contractor or another party for the duration of the project. An attorney you reach through Conexión Legal can help you determine whether you should file a personal injury suit, and if so, which party or parties can be held liable.

Wrongful Death

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry has more deaths than any other industry in New York City. Not surprisingly, Manhattan — home to multi-billion-dollar real estate developments and construction projects — accounts for the vast majority of both accidents and deaths.

Under New York City workers’ compensation law, a surviving spouse — without children — of a worker who is killed because of a construction site accident can receive 66.67% of the deceased construction workers’ average weekly wage. Once a surviving spouse remarries, they can receive a lump sum, equivalent to two years’ worth of benefits. If there are no surviving dependents, the insurance carrier is supposed to pay $50,000 to the decedent’s parents or estate. However, that money may not be enough for a family who has suffered emotional and financial harm from the death of a loved one.

If, for instance, a construction worker died of a fall because the owner of the project failed to supply safety harnesses, that worker’s family could sue for wrongful death due to wrongful, negligent or reckless acts which caused the accident. Financial damages that may be recovered in such a suit could include medical bills, funeral and burial expenses and support for surviving family members based on the decedent’s lost future earnings. Spouses may recover for loss of services, while children may recover for loss of parental care and guidance.

Whether a construction site accident results in injury, disability or death, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Conexión Legal offers free legal advice and can connect you with attorneys who can help you determine the best course of action. Write to us through WhatsApp, or call 1800 201 1220 to schedule your free consultation.

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