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New York’s legal protections for construction workers

New York’s construction workers routinely face hazards that can lead to serious injuries and fatalities. Although an employer’s workers’ compensation provides some financial protection, it may not provide adequate relief for the serious losses that are suffered. Other contractors and subcontractors working at a construction site may also be liable for injuries suffered by a worker who is not employed by them.

Ordinary negligence law in New York allows an injured worker to file a lawsuit against a third-party contractor working at the site which is responsible for a dangerous condition that caused the injury. That defendant is liable if the party had control of the condition or knew or should have known that it was dangerous.

New York’s Labor Law 240 provides protections to construction workers who perform necessary work in erection or repair of a building who are injured on a scaffold ladder or similar device on tall structures. In addition to receiving workers’ compensation, these workers may obtain damages against a third party that was responsible for supervising the construction and did not provide necessary safety devices such as a safety harness, scaffold or safety line. The defendant is not liable, however, if the worker was solely responsible for the injury. This law does not apply to repair and routine maintenance work to a structure.

A contractor or other party is strictly liable for injuries under Labor Law 241 for violations of safety codes at work site that leads to an injury. A worker does not have to prove that a defendant’s negligence caused the injury because the code violation alone indicates that it was at fault.

Recovery under any of these claims requires the worker to reimburse a portion of the workers’ compensation that was awarded. Time periods govern the time a lawsuit may be filed for injuries that are suffered.

Workers and other guests on a premise should seek legal advice to assure that their rights are protected in a cause of action for injuries or other losses that are suffered. Legal assistance can help determine whether these laws or a premises liability lawsuit can provide compensation for these injuries.

Source: New York City Bar Legal Referral Service, “Construction site accidents,” Retrieved Jan. 2, 2015