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Injury Claims Under New York Labor Law 240, the “Scaffold Law”

Offered by Keogh Crispi, P.C.

Construction work can be hazardous under any circumstances, but it’s still more dangerous when differences in elevation are involved. Two of the four leading causes of fatal construction accidents are falls from heights and objects falling from heights. Especially in New York City, where most construction sites span multiple levels, the forces of gravity are an ever-present hazard for construction workers.

That’s why New York has a unique law, Labor Law 240, that holds property owners and general contractors accountable for worker safety regarding gravity-related accidents. Understanding Labor Law 240 is important to know your rights if you’re hurt on the job in New York.

What is Labor Law 240?

Labor Law 240 is a New York statute that applies to construction, demolition, and repair work. Under Labor Law 240, when construction workers are facing hazards involving the forces of gravity (for instance, working on the upper floors of a building where a fall to ground level would cause serious injury), they must be provided with fall protection equipment, including:

  • Scaffolding
  • Ladders
  • Slings
  • Hoists
  • Hangers
  • Pulleys
  • Ropes
  • Stays
  • Any other necessary safety equipment

In addition, Labor Law 240 specifies that scaffolds must be able to bear at least four times the maximum weight required for workers and materials placed on them.

The protections of Labor Law 240 apply broadly to most types of construction and construction-related work, from carpenters and laborers to plumbers and HVAC technicians.

Under Labor Law 240, the property owner and general contractor are subject to absolute, non-delegable liability for gravity-related injuries if they don’t follow the safety standards laid out in the law. The only exception is for owners of one- and two-family homes who contract but do not direct work (for example, a family that hires a roofing company to work on their house).

What is absolute liability?

In the context of Labor Law 240, “absolute liability” means these cases are an exception to New York’s usual laws on comparative negligence. Typically, when someone is injured in an accident where they are partially at fault, their recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault. For instance, an injured person awarded $100,000 but found 20% at fault would have their recovery reduced by 20% to $80,000. But in Labor Law 240 claims, this does not apply; if the owner or general contractor is liable, they’re liable for the full amount.

In addition, this responsibility is non-delegable, meaning it can’t be delegated to a third party such as a subcontractor. The property owner and general contractor must ensure workers on the site have the right equipment to protect against gravity-related hazards.

That doesn’t mean every gravity-related accident is the responsibility of the owner and general contractor. There are some exceptions where another party can be responsible for an injury, usually involving extreme negligence or intentional acts. For the most part, though, the owner and general contractor can be held accountable under New York law.

What types of situations are covered by Labor Law 240?

Labor Law 240 is commonly known as the “scaffold law,” but it might be more properly called the “gravity law” because it applies to all types of gravity-related accidents, including falls off ladders, raised platforms, and roofs, through unfinished floors, and even down elevator shafts. It also applies to incidents where an object or piece of equipment falls from height and injures or kills a worker below.

So, if you were injured in a gravity-related accident due to a lack of safety equipment, unsecured materials or equipment, or a defect in the safety equipment that was provided, you most likely have a claim under Labor Law 240. This is important because a personal injury claim under Labor Law 240 can often provide compensation for costs not covered by workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering or excess wage loss. In some circumstances, filing a Labor Law 240 claim can dramatically affect the amount of compensation you recover.

An experienced attorney will make all the difference in your case

The existence of Labor Law 240 does not make lawsuits a “slam dunk” for construction workers. In fact, Labor Law 240 claims are quite complex and often highly contentious. Therefore, a thorough investigation is required to determine exactly what happened and where a violation of Labor Law 240 occurred. Moreover, you need an attorney to establish the extent of the damages you suffered and advocate for full and fair financial compensation for those losses.

That’s why the lawyer you choose will make all the difference. You need an attorney who knows the courts in your jurisdiction and has extensive experience and a winning track record in Labor Law 240 cases. If you were hurt on a construction site in New York, contact a construction accident attorney in your area today.

Construction Accidents
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