Labor Law Scaffold Cases

I fell from a scaffolding when I was installing windows on a house. I injured my leg and will not be able to work for some time. Can I bring a claim for personal injuries?

The answer is probably yes. There may be some changes to this post depending upon the specific facts of your case. However what you described seems like you have a Labor Law case.

You should first apply for Worker’s Compensation benefits. Worker’s Compensation benefits will pay for your medical bills as well as pay you a portion of your salary while you are recuperating from your injuries.

You did not say if you fell at a commercial job site or you were doing repairs at a home. The Labor Law has an exception for one and two family dwellings. Generally homeowners who employ contractors to do improvements are not held to the same standard as commercial owners and general contractors. Thus, when you mentioned that you fell installing windows on a house, it was assumed that you were working on a job site installing windows on new construction. However, if a homeowner hired you to replace windows on an existing house, your case probably will not be covered under the labor law. But there would definitely be more questions such as if the homeowner directed the work, did he provide tools and material? If this were the case, then the homeowner might be liable under the Labor Law.

The type of case you described is covered under the Labor Law § 240. Owners and general contractors on job sites have a non-delegable duty to ensure the safety of workers. You did not specifically explain the reason that you fell from the scaffold. One issue might be the height of the scaffolding and whether the scaffolding had any safety railings on it. 

Since you were not specific about the reason for your fall, you will not get a complete answer in this post. However all cases involving falls from a height or objects falling from a height onto a worker are generally covered under Labor Law § 240. The worker can claim absolute liability against the owners and general contractors on the job site. (Absolute liability means that owners and general contractors are responsible for all the damages in a personal injury claim without any deduction for a worker’s negligence.) An injured worker can recover for personal injuries from the owner and general contarctor and obtain Worker’s Compensation benefits from his employer.

Construction Site Claims – Part 2

In the first part of this post, the injured party was an electrician who was shocked while working at a job site. The question was general one, so there were certain assumptions made in answering the first part of the question. Those assumptions were stated and the answers given were based on those assumptions. Similarly, there are assumptions made in this post, and those assumptions are stated and the response is made with those assumptions.

The first part of this post dealt with an electrician who was receiving no Worker’s Compensation benefits. The prior post suggested that the injured worker should make a Worker’s Compensation claim to obtain medical and lost wage benefits through the uninsured employer’s fund. The second claim the injured worker has is a lawsuit in Supreme Court against the job site owner and general contractor under the Labor Law.

There is an assumption that the job site was part of commercial building remodeling or new construction. If this accident occurred on a small repair of a one or two family home, none of the following information is applicable.

In this case, the injured worker can sue the general contractor and building owner for pain and suffering under Labor Law § 241(6). That particular statute places the burden for safety on a job site away from the injured worker’s employer to the general contractor and building owner. That means that the general contractor and building owner have  a “non-delegable” duty to maintain a safe worksite.

In order to maintain an action under Labor Law § 241(6), the injured party must plead and prove that the owner and/or general contractor violated a specific regulation promulgated by the New York State Department of Labor. There are thousands of such regulations. Unfortunately, only some of the regulations are deemed to outline specific duties. If the regulation in question outlines a general duty of safety, that regulation cannot be the basis for a Labor Law claim.

Over decades of caselaw in written decision from appellate authorities, the Courts have determined many regulations are specific enough to be the basis of a Labor Law claim. In this particular case, there are regulations that Courts have found to outline specific duties that when violated, form the basis of a claim under the Labor Law. Some the those regulations are found in 12 NYCRR 23-1.13. These regulations require general contrators, owners and employers to correctly label circuits and de-energize circuits when certain types of work are performed. 

This is not the end of the story. But this is the end of this post. There is no specific description of the accident. Depending upon what actually happened, there may be no case. The important lesson to this two part post is (1) obtain Worker’s Compensation benefits as quickly as possible to obtain medical treatment and lost wage benefits and (2) if possible, bring a claim for pain and suffering under the Labor Law in Supreme Court. There are many topics concerning Labor Law claims that will be covered in future posts.

Construction Site Claims Part 1

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.