Construction is a notoriously dangerous industry. The work often involves heavy machinery, powerful tools, sharp blades, electric currents and toxic substances. The hazard that presents the greatest danger, though, is gravity.
Falls are a leading cause of injury and death among construction workers nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 40 percent of worker fatalities in 2016 resulted from falls.
If you have been unfortunate enough to get injured in a construction site fall – or tragically lost a loved one in a fall-related construction accident – you have legal rights. You may be entitled to compensation under New York’s “Scaffold Law.”
Understanding the Scaffold Law
This landmark law, found at N.Y. Labor Law §§ 240 – 241, establishes strong legal protection for injured workers and family members of those who are tragically killed on the job. Simply put, it requires construction employers, general contractors, developers and site owners to provide their workers with a safe place to do their job. The law requires that construction workers be provided with the appropriate and properly working equipment so they can do their job in the safest way possible. When employers fail to make safety a priority, leading to devastating accidents, they can be held accountable – and they can’t get out of it by pointing the finger at the injured worker.
Despite its moniker, the law covers more than just scaffolding; it also mentions ladders, hoists, slings and other fall-protection equipment.
To prevail under the Scaffold Law, injured workers (or their loved ones) must show two things:
- A safety violation: The employer (or site manager) must have failed to furnish proper safety equipment or violated other established safety standards, whether local, state or federal. In the context of falls, this typically means not providing the right fall protection or not sufficiently training workers on how and when to use it.
- A causal link: The employer’s safety violation must have contributed to the accident. In some cases, this is a relatively straightforward element to prove. Your employer didn’t provide you with a safety harness, so when you lost your footing, there was nothing to catch you. But in other cases, causation can be more complex – especially if your employer puts up a fight in court or tries to put the blame on you. Perhaps the equipment they provided malfunctioned or was otherwise subpar. Perhaps the scaffolding was not set up quite right. Employers often take every opportunity to leverage gray areas in their defense, and it may take a wealth of detailed evidence to refute their arguments.
Employers can’t escape responsibility by arguing that your negligence played a role in the accident. However, they can do so if the accident was solely due to your carelessness rather than a lack of fall protection or the appropriate safety equipment. When employers try to shift the blame by raising these defenses, an aggressive and proactive legal strategy is essential for protecting your rights.
Pursuing a claim under the Scaffold Law
As you can see, navigating the nuances of New York’s Scaffold Law can be tricky. And much may be at stake: the medical bills alone from a serious fall injury can quickly skyrocket. Fortunately, you don’t have to sort through these complexities on your own, provided you have the right attorney at your side.
If you were injured in a fall-related accident – or lost a loved one in such a tragedy – we invite you to speak with us about your rights. We can help you hold the right parties accountable.
At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our team has secured millions of dollars for fall victims and their families, including:
- A $12,000,000 settlement on a Scaffold Law claim for a construction worker who suffered debilitating injuries after falling into a shaft while working on the Number 7 line subway extension
- A $10,875,000 settlement for a laborer who fell off a roof and landed on steel rebar, resulting in severe internal injuries
- A $7,400,000 settlement for a worker who fell off a narrow beam, sustaining serious back injuries
- And many more
Our legal team will take immediate steps to build a strong case from the start, including:
- Pursuing a full investigation
- Collecting detailed evidence
- Exploring all potential avenues for recovery
- Developing an effective approach to resolve your claim, whether through mediation, arbitration or litigation
Our lawyers are in a strong position to fight for you in court if needed. Yet by putting in the effort upfront to establish a well-documented case, we are often able to achieve positive results for our clients through out-of-court settlements, sparing them the stresses of trial. Of course, every case is different, and you can count on us to take an approach that is geared toward success for your situation.