You’re a construction worker injured on the job. You’ve applied for Workers’ Compensation, but are you entitled to more for your disability, pain and suffering, and loss of income?
No attorney can tell whether you have a claim without a thorough investigation of the facts. But New York does entitle injured construction workers in certain circumstances to seek additional compensation.
Do I have a case?
New York’s Labor Law gives construction workers injured on the job, under certain circumstances, the right to sue the general contractor and the owner of the premises. For the most part, workers bring those lawsuits under three sections of the Labor Law.
Labor Law Section 200 allows injured workers to sue general contractors, and property owners with supervisory control, who fail to provide construction workers with a safe place to work. This duty requires them to correct any unsafe condition that they either created, knew of, or should have known of, and to regularly inspect the work site for any such conditions.
Labor Law Section 240(1), the “Scaffold Law,” allows injured workers sue contractors and owners for most gravity-related injuries. This includes most times when a worker falls, whether or not a scaffold is involved; and when a worker is injured by a falling object.
Labor Law Section 241(6) allows injured workers to sue contractors and owners for injuries caused by any violation of the rules established in the New York State Industrial Code.
An important exception to Sections 240(1) and 241(6) is that owners of one- and two-family homes may not be sued unless they directed or controlled the work.
Importantly, as injured workers often suffer loss of income far beyond what is compensable through Workers’ Compensation, the Labor Law allows full recovery of lost income.
Do I still have time to bring a lawsuit?
New York’s statutes of limitations impose time limits for bringing a lawsuit. A claim for personal injury, including claims under the Labor Law, must be commenced within three years. If you miss the statute of limitations deadline you cannot bring a claim, even if the facts are on your side.
If your case involves the state or a local government—for example, if you were injured working on public property, like a bridge or government building—then you face additional deadlines.
Where the State may be liable, you have only ninety days to do one of two things: either start a lawsuit by filing a Claim; or file a Notice of Intention to File A Claim, which lets you start an action within two years from the treatment complained of.
Where a city or local government may be liable, you have ninety days to file a Notice of Claim. This does not start an action, but filing the Notice lets you start an action within one year and ninety days of the date of accident.
What happens after a consultation?
The first step in any construction accident investigation, even before bringing a lawsuit, is to review any accident reports or other documentation of the accident. Typically injured workers have copies of any such documents or can request them from their employer.
Next we must determine just who are the owners and contractors on the job site. It’s not always clear, nor is it always whom the employee sees as owning or controlling the property. This can require a search of public records to determine ownership.
We also need to review the worker’s relevant medical records. If the worker doesn’t have those records, he or she can authorize us to obtain them from their treating physicians.
We then examine the records, and if injury and disability are confirmed we are able to represent you in a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation beyond Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Once a case is begun, there is extensive pretrial discovery, where the parties exchange all relevant evidence. The parties and other witnesses will also have to appear for deposition, where they will answer questions under oath. These are usually done in a conference room rather than in court, but the transcripts of such depositions can be evidence at trial. Injured parties also usually have to appear for an examination by a physician hired by the defendants, who are entitled to confirm the injuries claimed.
Often, expert witnesses must be retained who can testify at trial about the conditions that led to the injuries. Treating physicians may also be asked to prepare reports about the cause of the worker’s injuries and their current condition.
At the end of discovery — which can run a year or more — the parties will get a trial date. That will likely be months away, during which time the parties might reach an agreement to settle the case, or one party might prevail in a motion for summary judgment and win the case without going to trial.
While Labor Law cases may settle before trial, it has been our experience that the best way to achieve a satisfactory settlement for a client is to be fully prepared and ready to proceed to trial.
If you think you may have a claim under the Labor Law, contact the DelliCarpini Law Firm for a free consultation. We’ll answer all your questions and determine whether you have a claim. Contact us online or call us at 516.307.8818.