I was injured in a construction accident when I was electrically shocked at a job site. I was unable to work for more than six months, and have received nothing from my employer. Can I receive compensation for my injuries?
Yes. But you have asked a very complicated question which will be answered in two blogs.
You first have a Worker’s Compensation claim. Worker’s Compensation benefits provide medical care and lost wage benefits. It sounds like you are an electrician and were shocked doing some wiring. I am also assuming that you are not in a union. Local 3 electricians have extensive Worker’s Compensation protection. The union even has its own private venue for union electricians injured on the job. Since you are non-union electrician, your claim for Compensation benefits will be handled like all other Compensation claims.
Since it has been six months and you have received no Compensation benefits, I am assuming there is a problem with your employer on the job site. If your employer has Worker’s Compensation insurance, you should file a C-3 claim form with the Compensation Board. (There is a 30 day statute of limitations to notify your employer about a Compensation claim. There is a two year statute of limitations to file with the Compensation Board.) Once you file a C-3 claim form with the Compensation Board, your case will be indexed and the carrier will be notified. It is even possible for you to look up your employer’s insurance carrier by yourself through the Compensation Board.
If your employer has no Compensation insurance, you have a choice of remedies: (1) you can sue your employer in Supreme Court for your injuries or (2) pursue a claim in the Compensation Board with the uninsured employer’s fund.
If you elect to sue your employer in Supreme Court you get two benefits. First, you can sue your employer for your pain and suffering besides being reimbursed for lost wages and medical bills. Second, you will have the benefit of having to only prove the slightest negligence on your employer’s part, because under Worker’s Compensation Law § 11, your employer may not offer any evidence of the employee’s negligence in the accident. However, this may not be the wisest decision.
I am assuming that you have been having trouble contacting your employer and obtaining any information since you are without any benefits for six months. Unfortunately, as experience has taught, you will probably learn that your former employer is out of business and has closed the entity that hired you. In other words, there probably will be no assets to attach to a judgment. You would win your lawsuit, but collect no money. In these circumstances, your wisest course of action would be to pursue a Workers’s Compensation claim with the uninsured employer’s fund.
However, once you pursue a Worker’s Compensation claim, you cannot sue your employer for pain and suffering. Worker’s Compensation Law § 29. But since your former employer is probably insolvent, you are actually giving up nothing and gaining medical coverage and lost wage benefits.
If you choose the second option, you will probably have a claim for your pain and suffering under New York Labor Law which will be covered in part 2 of this already long post.