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Workers may collect full tort damages in construction accidents

The usual rule that a worker cannot sue his or her employer for negligence and civil damages does have exceptions in New York City and other localities. When the employer is guilty of egregious wrongdoing, the courts generally have the discretion to allow a recovery by the employee against the employer. However, for the most part, the recovery of economic damages in construction accidents, which is over and above the limited amounts available from workers' compensation, is accomplished by pursuing a claim against a third party other than the employer.

There are numerous potential defendants that may participate on construction jobs. There may be property owners, other contractors, developers, engineers and others who may be brought in as defendants in a personal injury tort claim on behalf of the injured or dead worker. A Staten Island workplace tragedy that occurred two years ago is an example.

When the worker died from the collapse of a mezzanine floor on top of him during a demolition of an auto sales building, there were others that could be named for negligence instead of the employer. The worker's widow and his five children filed a claim through the decedent's estate claiming negligence against the property owners and the developer. Interestingly, this could open the door for those defendants to bring the employer into the case as a third-party defendant.

The worker's estate in that event would not be suing the decedent's employer but would instead be suing only the original defendants. Those defendants would be looking for contribution over from the employer in the event of a verdict against them. The complications of this kind of litigation under New York City and state law may or may not be problematic, depending on the full array of fact and law that is applicable. The injured worker or the estate of a deceased individual will benefit greatly by consulting as soon as possible with a personal injury firm that is familiar with these kinds of construction accidents.

Source:, "Car dealer, building owner sued over fatal mezzanine collapse during demolition", Frank Donnelly, Nov. 12, 2016

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