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Causes of Construction Accidents in New York City

Offered by Pasternack, Tilker, Ziegler, Walsh, Stanton & Romano LLP

New York City is the largest city in the United States, and it is constantly changing, growing and building. Construction is a thriving industry that employs hundreds of thousands of workers. But it’s a dangerous occupation and there is always the risk of a construction accident that leaves workers with serious and sometimes fatal injuries.

According to the NYC Department of Buildings, there are more than 1.1 million buildings in the city. At any given time, there are about 35,000 active construction sites throughout the five boroughs. As deadlines approach and pressure mounts to complete projects, worker safety can sometimes slip through the cracks.

There are many hazardous conditions on construction sites that pose a risk to workers. Heavy equipment such as bulldozers and cranes are in motion. Loads of building materials are being moved and lifted throughout the day. Workers use power tools and welding equipment. Many workers do their jobs high off the ground while others work deep underground in trenches. Some work with or near live electricity.

There are numerous safety regulations designed to protect workers that must be followed on all construction sites. These include safety standards from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, as well as regulations in the state Safety & Health Codes and the NYC Construction Codes.

But it only takes one mistake for something to go wrong, leaving a worker seriously injured.

What are some of the causes of construction accidents in NYC?

Since the city’s building boom in 2011, there had been a steady increase in construction incidents involving injuries. In 2019, this trend reversed, and there was a 24% decline in incidents involving injuries or fatalities. These incidents declined again in 2020, though construction had slowed considerably because of the pandemic.

In 2019, there were 565 construction-related incidents with injury or fatality. In 2020, these incidents dropped 14.2% down to 485 incidents.

In 2019, these incidents can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Other Construction Related (including demolition, electrical, illegal construction and plumbing) 317 (56%)
  • Worker Fell 141 (25%)
  • Scaffolding/Shoring Installations 16 (3%)
  • Material Failure (Fell) 59 (10%)
  • Mechanical Construction Equipment 21 (4%)
  • Site Protection 12 (4%)
  • Demolition 8 (1%)
  • Excavation/Soil Work 3 (1%)

In 2020,

  • Other Construction Related (including demolition, electrical, illegal construction and plumbing) 314 (65%)
  • Material Fall 20 (4%)
  • Scaffolding/Shoring Installations 6 (1%)
  • Mechanical Construction Equipment 3 (1%)

A closer look at these incidents reveal specific mistakes that led to the accidents:

  • There was a failure to remove excess rope, resulting in a crane accident.
  • Required railings were not put in place, and a worker fell three stories.
  • A worker fell from an improperly installed scaffold.
  • A third floor deck collapsed after a failure to brace it.
  • A worker was hit by a beam and fell to the ground after a failure to properly access a sidewalk shed.
  • Failure to shore and brace an existing façade resulted in it falling onto two workers, killing one.
  • Failure to secure a temporary elevator platform resulted in worker being pinned between the platform and a deck.
  • A worker fell three stories to the basement floor after failure to secure an unmarked stairway well.
  • A worker fell 20 feet after access was allowed without proper tie-off equipment.
  • An unlicensed workers performed electrical work.
  • A worker was killed and three others injured after a section of cornice fell on them due to inadequate safety measures being taken.
  • A worker fell 10 stories after a site safety plan was not followed.

Workers’ compensation is designed to help injured workers

When a construction incident results in injury, New York state’s workers’ compensation system can provide injured workers with certain benefits. These benefits include medical expenses for treating the injury, lost wages if the worker can’t return to the job for an extended period, and disability payments if the worker suffered a disability in the incident. (There are also benefits available to the families of workers who suffered fatal injuries.)

However, workers must submit a claim for benefits and there is a process that needs to be followed.

  • The injured worker needs to get medical care (for example, at a hospital or from their doctor).
  • The workers need to notify his or her supervisor about the accident.
  • The employer needs to report the injury (or illness) to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), as well as the company’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier.
  • Injured workers are required to file Form C-3, Employee’s Claim for Compensation with the Board with 2 years of the date of the accident (or from the date the illness was discovered).

This seems like a straightforward process, but there’s a lot that can go wrong, resulting in a denial of benefits. All requested information must be provided on the form, which needs to be filled out properly. There are deadlines that must be met for reporting and filing a claim.

In fact, many claims for benefits are denied at first. There is an appeals process, but it can be confusing and intimidating for workers who just want to focus on recovering from their injuries. That’s why it’s always advisable for workers to get legal representation from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

How a workers’ compensation attorney can help

An experienced lawyer will have a thorough knowledge of the workers’ compensation system and how to address problems with claims. A lawyer can appeal a claim to the Workers’ Compensation Board and represent the injured worker at all hearings and all the way up to the Court of Appeals, if needed. Many times, a skilled and experienced attorney is able to negotiate a settlement that meets the needs of the injured worker.

Construction accidents also often give rise to third-party liability claims, since there are usually multiple companies involved at the same construction site. A third-party claim can cover losses not covered by workers’ comp, such as pain and suffering or excess wage loss. An experienced attorney can investigate the circumstances of an injury and determine whether a third-party personal injury claim is viable.

If you were injured while working at a construction site in New York City – or lost a loved one in a construction accident – it’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible. Contact Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. Our firm has been fighting for injured workers for more than 90 years.

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