We have great respect for our construction workers. They perform extraordinarily important and essential tasks. Construction workers work long and hard hours. Their jobs are often profoundly demanding and they certainly run the risk of serious injuries. They deal with heavy machinery, dangerous and unsafe workplace conditions, and on a daily basis they place their safety, and even their lives, on the line.
There are a number of legislative protections that affect the construction workplace. Therefore, it is crucial that when a construction worker is injured on the job an investigation be immediately conducted by the victim’s lawyers to fully ascertain the parties that may be responsible for the worker’s injuries and the conditions of the workplace itself, so as to identify whether certain statutes and rules have been violated. This is an investigation that must be conducted at the earliest opportunity and should only be done by competent and experienced lawyers and their investigators.
Even if a construction worker is injured as a result of the negligence of the worker’s employer, as long as the worker is covered by workers’ compensation insurance, he cannot sue his employer. Workers’ compensation would be his only remedy against the employer. An exception to this rule is that when an employee is injured by an intentional or willful act of his employer, he may have the option of bringing a suit against his employer. The other exception to this rule is when the employer was required to have compensation coverage but failed to do so.
With the exceptions as noted the employer’s exclusive liability to the employee is under the Workers’ Compensation Law. This is significant because awards under the Workers’ Compensation Law usually are substantially less than money damage claims against other entities which may be sued.
Although as we have stated, the Workers’ Compensation Law ordinarily bars actions by injured workers against their employers for job-related injuries, injured workers are entitled to bring actions for their injuries against other potentially responsible parties, including the owners of the property and the building contractors. Both the owners and the contractors have obligations that are required by the common law and specific obligations as enumerated in the existing rules and the statutes. As a matter of fact, it’s important to note that a contractor may not make an agreement with other parties which would exempt the contractor from liability to workers arising out of the contractor’s negligence for the work performed or services rendered in the construction, maintenance and repair of the property.
There are provisions of the Labor Law which provide protection for an employee. Sections 200, 240 and 241(6) of the Labor Law are often the basis for recovery by the employees against other parties.
Labor Law §200 protects an employee from the negligence of the owner, contractor or agent of a premises for a condition that is unsafe or for a failure to correct a dangerous condition of the premises despite having had actual or constructive knowledge of that dangerous condition. The employee must be provided with a safe place to work, which means that the place where the employee is working must be so constructed, equipped, arranged, operated and conducted so as to provide reasonable and adequate protection for the lives, health and safety of all persons employed therein or even persons who are lawfully frequenting such places. In essence, the workplace must be safe.
Section 240 of the Labor Law, often called the Scaffolding Provision, protects employees whose job places them in a situation where they might fall. Often this covers falls from ladders or scaffolding as well as other injuries due to the effect of gravity. Section 240 of the Labor Law requires all contractors and owners in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning of building structure to furnish scaffolding, hoists, ladders and other devices which are to be constructed, placed, operated and maintained to give proper protection to the person performing the work. This statute protects the worker from any elevation–related risk.
Section 241(6) of the Labor Law in effect encompasses many site safety rules and regulations, all of which require the employee to work in a safe environment. Section 241(6) of the Labor Law mandates that the owner or general contractor in an area where construction, evacuation or demolition is taking place is liable for injury to a worker caused by a failure to use reasonable care in constructing, shoring, equipping or guarding the worksite or in arranging, operating or conducting the work in that area. The owner is liable for an injury due to the failure of a general contractor or subcontractor to use reasonable care even though the owner did not control or supervise the area or the work being done there and did not or could not know of any danger to the plaintiff.
In addition to the above statutes, there are multiple rules and regulations involving the workplace and the obligations of owners and contractors which, if violated, can provide a basis for a finding of negligence and responsibility.
We emphasize that it is crucial for an injured worker or the family of a worker who has been killed to seek competent, knowledgeable legal assistance. Our firm has enormous expertise in the field of enforcement of the rights of injured construction workers. We have obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and judgments when we have represented construction workers who have been injured or families of construction workers who have been killed. We respect all of the wonderful and necessary jobs that are performed by construction workers and we take pride and pleasure in our obligation to secure for them and their families the highest possible compensation.