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Open Elevator Shaft Accidents

Compensation for Victims of Construction Site Elevator Falls and Accidents

According to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), between 2010 and 2019 there were more than 500 incidents involving dangerous elevators in New York City, which led to 48 serious injuries and 22 fatalities. A quarterly report released in 2018 by The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) found that 145 construction workers died in elevator-related incidents between 2011 and 2016.

Clearly, open elevator shafts can be a very serious hazard on construction sites, as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) accident reports frequently point out. In one case, a 47-year-old employee impaled his leg on a scaffold post as he fell through an open shaft of a second-level elevator while trying to place a floor lamp at its edge. In another case, a 20-year-old worker assigned to replace broken sprinkler pipes was found dead at the bottom of a freight elevator shaft, having apparently fallen 20 to 30 feet through the open elevator doors.

These horrific accidents, among others, drew attention from the public and New York lawmakers. In January 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Elevator Safety Act, legislation aimed at reducing elevator-related accidents. The new law requires anyone performing elevator work to be licensed by New York state. The law also created the New York State Elevator Safety and Standards Advisory Board, which will establish recommendations for elevator inspections and promote public safety, among other things. Despite ongoing efforts to improve construction safety, accidents involving elevators and elevator shafts continue to injure and kill workers in New York and beyond.

Common Causes of Elevator-Related Construction Accidents

Construction workers frequently face the risk of serious injury on the job, and elevators can be extremely dangerous. There are many factors that contribute to work site elevator accidents, including:

  • Inadequate maintenance and servicing
  • Inadequate safety warnings
  • Leveling issues
  • Defective elevator equipment
  • Broken doors
  • Faulty wiring
  • Open shafts

Some construction site accidents are unavoidable, but many could be avoided with proper safety precautions, procedures, and equipment. Construction companies, contractors, and supervisors have a duty under the law to obey local, state, and federal regulations to provide a safe working environment for employees. Those who fail to do so may be held legally responsible if an employee is hurt on the job.

Legal Protections for New York Workers

While workers are compensated for on-the-job injuries through New York’s workers’ compensation system, injured employees may also have the legal right to bring a “third-party” lawsuit against an entity or individual who may have been legally responsible to maintain a safe workplace for the employees. To be fair, workers’ compensation benefits are often insufficient to cover many medical expenses or fail to approximate a worker’s lost wages.

State laws have carved out protections for construction workers who were injured due to worksite safety violations under some very specific, and sometimes complicated, circumstances. These laws may permit an injured worker to pursue compensation for serious on-the-job injuries, including those sustained in falls down elevator shafts. These include:

  • New York State Labor Law 240, commonly called the “Scaffold Law,” allows property owners and contractors to be held strictly liable for elevation-related accidents. Frequently these kinds of accidents are the result of a worker who fell or something that fell and struck a worker. Cases brought under this law can result from falls from scaffolding and ladders, and in some less common cases, falls during work on or near elevators. The law requires that workers be provided with proper tools and safety equipment as well as a safe way to accomplish their job. This affords workers with the best possible legal protection from elevation-related injury risks, including falls.
  • Labor Law 241 allows contractors and property owners to be held responsible for injuries suffered by workers during construction work under very specific circumstances. The law allows for some workers who were injured during construction work on or near an elevator to recover under this statute.
  • Labor Law 255 requires that every elevator used in connection with a factory be constructed, guarded, equipped, maintained, and operated according to safety guidelines.

There are certainly vocal opponents of these worker safety laws, but it is too well settled that many serious injuries and fatalities involving workers on elevators under construction or at construction sites are traced back to safety violations or circumstances where employers cut corners, exposing workers to harrowing dangers. When an elevator-related accident occurs on a construction site, these laws can help obtain critical and just compensation for survivors and their families.

Pursuing Justice for Workers Injured by Dangerous Elevators

In general, New York law holds construction company owners and general contractors liable for injuries or fatalities that occur due to unsafe working conditions. If you were injured by falling down an unguarded elevator shaft or injured by a falling object in an elevator shaft, you may be eligible for compensation.

At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our New York construction accident attorneys are committed to fighting for the maximum compensation to which you may be entitled. Our construction accident attorneys will ensure juries and insurance companies consider the full ramifications of an elevator shaft accident on your life and future. We understand your very real concerns about returning to work, paying your rent or mortgage, and providing for your family. We will thoroughly investigate the facts of your claim and pursue every potential source of compensation. We will not rest until justice is done on your behalf.

Verdicts and settlements in elevator accident cases include*:

  • $7,200,000 settlement for the family of a man who was tragically killed after falling down an elevator shaft
    Our client was the family of a 25-year-old husband and father who became stuck in the elevator of a building in which he was working. The elevator had stopped suddenly in between two floors, because of a power outage in the building. After waiting for several minutes, he opened the elevator doors himself and tried to slide out into the hallway; instead, because the elevator was stuck between floors, he fell 50 feet to the bottom of the elevator shaft, suffering fatal injuries.
    We filed claims against several entities whose negligence contributed to the plaintiff’s death. This case settled shortly prior to trial for $7.2 million.
  • $7,000,000 settlement for a worker who had nine surgeries after falling down an elevator shaft
    At the time of the accident, our client was maneuvering a pallet jack onto a freight elevator. His back came into contact with the elevator doors, which gave way, causing our client to fall 30 feet to the bottom of the elevator shaft. He suffered severe crush injuries and now has very limited mobility.
  • $5,500,000 recovery for a man injured in a work-related elevator accident
    Our client was a truck driver delivering office furniture to a construction site in Manhattan. While he was loading furniture onto the freight elevator, an elevator operator pressed the button to close the elevator gate and the gate struck our client in the head, neck, and back. Our client sustained serious spinal injuries, requiring extensive treatment and surgery.
    After jury selection, our attorneys settled the case for $5.5 million for medical expenses and loss of future earnings.
  • $4,000,000 recovery for an elevator erector injured in a construction site accident
  • $3,000,000 recovery for an elevator worker who fell because of unsafe working conditions
  • $2,250,000recovery for the spouse of an elevator erector killed in a construction accident
  • $1,900,000 settlement for a 32 BJ Union worker injured in an elevator accident

To read the full list of successful results we have obtained, please view our Verdicts & Settlements page.

Contact an Elevator Injury Attorney Serving New York

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury in an elevator fall or open elevator shaft accident, it is critical that you act promptly to protect your rights under New York law. Schedule a FREE consultation with the skilled injury lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy. Call us at 212-736-5300, or contact us online today.

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*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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