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Construction Injuries Under New York Law

Construction Injuries Under New York Law
One look at the New York City skyline can tell you that the city is currently undergoing a building boom. With more and more construction projects beginning each month, construction worker injuries and deaths are on the rise. The growing number of deaths and injuries were brought to the attention of New Yorkers on January 31st, when thousands of New York City construction workers assembled to mourn the tragic loss of 30 workers who died in construction related accidents over the past two years. With the upsurge of construction site related injuries and deaths, it is important for workers employed in construction to be aware of their rights and remedies.

It is no secret that the building construction trade has one of the highest injury and death rates of any employment field. In recognition of the issue, the New York State legislature has attempted to reduce the number of hazards and dangers that construction workers are faced with on a daily basis. The efforts by the New York State Legislature are codified within chapter 31 of the Consolidated Laws of the State of New York, the Labor Law. The Labor Law provides both broad and potent rights, as well as civil remedies when those rights have been violated.

For instance, the Labor Law provides a specific cause of action for workers who are injured because of falls from elevated heights, or due to objects falling from elevated heights. Section 240 of the Labor Law imposes specific duties and requirements on contractors and owners of the property where the work is being done. Additionally, subsections 1-5 of the Section 241 provide a cause of action against contractors or property owners who fail to provide proper flooring and enclosures during the construction process.

Understanding Section 240 and 241(1) through (5) of the Labor Law is important to being successful in a claim for damages resulting from a job site injury. The reason being, is that a violation of the section results in absolute liability. This means that any comparative negligence or fault by the plaintiff will not reduce the verdict. Unlike the common-law approach to a negligence action, the plaintiff's contributory negligence is completely irrelevant to the plaintiff's claim under these sections. To have a cause of action under these subsections, a factual determination will be made that addresses what type of work was being performed, factors which led up to the ultimate injury, and the type of equipment, tools, apparatus, and materials that were being worked with. The plaintiff's role in the construction work will also be looked at.

If an accident does not fit within one of the above subsections, there still may be a claim brought under the common-law principles of negligence, or Sections 200 or Section 241(6) of the Labor Law. These sections impose a general duty to protect the health and safety of employees. The protection must be reasonable and adequate protection to such persons and a look of the Construction Code will often reveal if an employer has breached their duty. The largest difference of bringing a claim under these sections is that the plaintiff's contributory negligence will be addressed. In other words, if the plaintiff's actions were one of the factors leading to the injury, then their award will be reduced by the amount they contributed to the event occurring. The amount of negligence will often be determined by a jury.

Overall, an understanding of the New York Labor Law and the relevant sections could be the difference between winning and losing a claim for injuries sustained as a result of construction accidents. An attorney knowledgeable in construction related accidents can assess the facts of your case and help you decide what route will be most likely to produce the best results. 

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