New York Construction Accident: What to Do After On-Site Injury

Video Transcript:

Tom Markovits:

If they’re injured, obviously the first thing to do when you're at the job site is to report the job to your employer or your foreman.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you or a loved one or injured on a construction site, do you know where to get help? Well, we're going to find out right now because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi again, everybody. I’m Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is New York City attorney Tom Markovits. I want to remind you that if you'd like to get questions answered about your specific situation, head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do all your asking right there; it’s a very simple process. 

Tom, nice to see you. Thank you so much for answering our questions today. So let's just go back a little bit. You've been doing this for a few years, let's say. In the course of your career, what are some of the more common construction accidents that you've seen?

Tom Markovits:

In my career I've seen pretty much every type of fact pattern and accident involving construction, but some of the more common ones are falls from ladders, or workers falling from an unguarded scaffold that's missing railings, or a worker doing painting of a building or pointing or even bricklaying and being on a ladder, and some other worker walks by and hits the ladder and knocks the worker off; or even workers at work sites who fall into unguarded openings that should have been covered. Those are pretty much the way they go, but I would say the most common is really a fall from a ladder while working at a height, either painting or doing sheetrock work or something of that nature.

Rob Rosenthal:

Seems like there's never any lack of construction projects going on in and around New York. Is this an inherently dangerous job, construction work?

Tom Markovits:

Construction workers do some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in the city. You're talking about people who do iron work, building skyscrapers, or sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, and these are really sort of the most difficult and in many ways the most dangerous jobs, mostly because they are working at a height. For example, dangling on the side of a building from a scaffold, or on a 20-foot or 30-foot extension ladder. So yes, these jobs are inherently dangerous.

Rob Rosenthal:

So if a worker in New York City is seriously injured or killed, what’s your advice? What should they or their family members do right away? What would some of the first things be they need to do?

Tom Markovits:

If they are injured as opposed to killed—God forbid—but if they're injured, obviously the first thing to do when you're at the job site is to report the job to your employer or your foreman, so that there's a record of your accident. Then the next thing to do is to contact a lawyer that has expertise in handling construction cases. Often, for example, if it's a defective ladder that's involved that might be missing slip-proof shoes and it slips out from under a worker, sometimes these things disappear from the work site. So you want an experienced attorney that knows how to handle these cases, to immediately start an investigation, to interview witnesses at the site, to visit the site, take photographs, and then, of course, thereafter to guide you through the workers’ compensation process and to advise you of your rights under special laws in New York that protect construction workers. 

Rob Rosenthal:

You mentioned workers’ comp; is it only just workers comp for all these cases or could there be other types of relief available to them?

Tom Markovits:

In New York, especially for construction workers, we have specialized laws that allow construction workers—and this would include masons and bricklayers and carpenters, in other words, construction entails many different trades—but using generically the word construction workers now have specific laws that protect them in the event of falls from heights, or what we refer to as gravity-related cases; for example, falling off a ladder or a scaffold or falling down into an opening of some kind. This law in addition to workman's comp allows a construction worker injured on a job site to bring a lawsuit in addition to the workers’ comp benefits or workman’s comp claim that he filed. This is particularly for construction workers injured on the site to know, because often workers’ compensation will not really fully compensate a worker for his full loss. If there's a catastrophic injury, workman's comp may pay some medical bills and they may pay some time off from work, but the worker could be disabled from ever working again. So having this right under special laws in New York that protect construction workers would certainly be very beneficial for them and would be very important for them to explore, in addition to their workman’s comp claim. 

Rob Rosenthal:

What about a third party case? Could that be something that could happen too? Explain what that is.

Tom Markovits:

Yes, exactly. So all workers injured on the job—and this applies to all workers in all industries, not just construction—but particularly in construction, if you are hurt on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation that pays your doctor bills, pays your hospital bills, and pays your time out of work. But in certain circumstances, you as the construction worker injured on the job site may additionally have the right to sue the owner of that property where you were working, or a general contractor or even a subcontractor or another trade working on the site to sue for being injured on the job. That's what's commonly referred to as a third party lawsuit. As I mentioned, New York has what's referred to as the Labor Law, and there are usually three sections of it; Labor Law section 240 and 241, and these provide particular protections to construction workers injured on the job site. 240 is commonly called the Scaffold Law, and it protects workers from a height or fall into an opening, and the 241-6 is a section that sets out specific rules and guidelines for how certain jobs—for example, demolition or excavation—need to be performed. So if there's a deviation from these standards, then a worker in addition to compensation, may have the right to sue under these labor laws that I've mentioned; these give them additional rights to be fully compensated for their loss and injury.

Rob Rosenthal:

What if the worker is a member of a union? Do they automatically get an attorney through the union or how does that work?

Tom Markovits:

No, they don't automatically get an attorney assigned by the union. In fact, the union representative or an attorney suggested by the union might have a conflict of interest with the worker’s best interest, because after all, the union may want to stay in the good graces of an employer or of a trade. But the other point is that while some unions do have pre-paid legal plans, usually these cover routine legal services like drafting a will or a real estate transaction, or maybe a landlord-tenant issue. Really, if the construction worker is injured on a site, the best remedy and the best way to proceed is really to hire an attorney that specializes in construction type cases and knows his way around these rules and regulations as opposed to a union attorney who, as I mentioned, might have different interests in mind.

Rob Rosenthal:

Really good advice. Lots of really helpful information, Tom. Thank you so much for helping us out today. 

Tom Markovits:

Thank you. 

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been New York City attorney Tom Markovits. Remember, if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, just head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do your asking right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with 

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