QUEENS CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT AND ITS APPLICATION TO NEW YORK’S LABOR LAW

On June 20, 2017, 3 construction workers were injured in Queens during the construction of an apartment building when 1200 pound laminated beams, bags of cement and other materials fell from the top floor of the building to the basement pinning the workers underneath the materials. According to the Building Deputy Commissioner, materials are to be delivered to the ground level unless an engineer confirms that the location where the materials are placed can support the weight of the materials.

New York’s Labor Law section 240(1) was enacted to protect construction workers from falling hazards either from objects falling on a worker or a worker falling from a height. The statute requires that contractors, owners and their agents provide construction workers with “scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slingers, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices.” The Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the statute is very case specific as to in what circumstances a worker is entitled to compensation for injuries.

In the case of falling objects such as what happened in the Queens accident, the Court of Appeals initially required that there be an appreciable height difference from where the object fell and where it landed for the accident to fall within the protections of the Labor Law. However, in Runner v. New York Stock Exchange, Inc. 13 NY3d 599 (2009) the Court of Appeals held that the central inquiry was not the height differential, but “whether the harm flows directly from application of the force of gravity to the object.”

In the past, the Court of Appeals limited liability for injuries from a falling object to objects that fell while in the process of being hoisted. Recent case law however has found liability where the object was stationary but the fall was a foreseeable consequence of the failure to provide a safety device enumerated in Labor Law section 240(1).

In applying the recent case law on falling objects in Labor Law cases to the Queens accident, an argument can be made that the materials that fell should have been secured and failure to do makes the owner, contractors and/or agents strictly liable for the workers’ injuries. However, this area of law in particular is constantly changing so it is important that if you are injured in a construction accident that you contact a knowledgeable attorney who can thoroughly evaluate the facts of your case and apply it to the most current law. The attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP have successfully obtained recoveries for workers injured in construction accidents including a $6.6 million recovery for a client who was paralyzed as a result of the accident. Contact the experienced attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP today for a proper evaluation of your accident to ensure you receive just compensation for your injuries.

FALLS AND COLLAPSES: A MAJOR CAUSE OF CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS

Construction work has one of the highest fatality rates in the job industry. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), in 2015 1 in 5 worker deaths were in construction. The leading cause of worker death in the construction industry was falls. The second leading cause of death was being struck by an object. These statistics do not take into account workers who survived but sustained injuries on construction sites.

In response to the inherent danger associated with construction work and the requirement to work at “elevated heights,” the New York legislature enacted special provisions in the New York Labor Law (sections 200, 240 &241(6)) to provide protection to laborers by ultimately placing the responsibility of workplace safety on owners, general contractors, and their agents as opposed to the workers. The definition of elevated heights varies from case to case but has covered anything from as high as skyscrapers to pipes at ground level.

The business community, especially the insurance industry and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have fought with the Legislature in Albany to change these laws. The law firm of Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP has recognized the importance of this law to protect construction workers and has fought diligently in the Legislature to preserve these protections.

On the individual level, the attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP have fought successfully for injured workers who have fallen from ladders or scaffolds or have been struck by falling objects as a result of collapsing scaffolds and ladders. In the process, we have managed to obtain substantial recoveries that have made our clients financially whole.

Although employees in New York are protected by the Workers Compensation law to help recover for medical expenses and lost wages the system simply does not provide full compensation for seriously injured workers. The New York Labor law allows injured workers to seek additional compensation from third parties, those other than their employer.

If you are a construction worker injured by falling off a ladder or a scaffold or struck by a falling object, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP has had long and successful handling of these cases for over 30 years and is here to help you recover for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

MOST COMMON CAUSES OF CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS: THE “FATAL FOUR”

In 2015 there were 4,379 worker fatalities in the private industry and 21.4% were in construction. The most common causes for construction industry deaths are referred to as the “Fatal Four.” According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), eliminating the Fatal Four would save the lives of 602 workers in the United States every year.

  1. The leading cause of construction accidents in 2015 were falls. In that year, falls accounted for 38.8% of all construction industry deaths.
  1. The second common cause of death that made up 9.6% of all deaths in the construction industry resulted from workers’ being struck by an object.
  1. Electrocutions claimed the lives of 8.6% of construction workers in 2015 and was the third leading cause of death in the industry.
  1. In 2015 7.2% of deaths resulted from workers’ getting caught in or between objects and was the fourth common cause of construction industry deaths. The accidents the CDC includes in this category are “workers getting caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects and struck, caught or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment or material.”

The fatality rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average for all industries so it is important for all employers and employees to be aware of common accidents in order to ensure that proper safety precautions are in place to prevent injuries.

New York Labor Law §240(1), also known as the Scaffold Law, provides protection to construction workers from elevation related risks. The law seeks to protect workers from injuries sustained from falls and being struck by falling objects which are the top two most common causes of deaths in the construction industry according to the CDC.

For more information or legal advice on how to pursue a claim for injuries sustained from a construction accident contact the attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP.