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Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit After an On-the-Job Accident

A work injury is a stressful experience. Not only are you concerned about healing from unexpected injuries, but you are also likely unsure when — or if — you will be able to return to work. You may be wondering how you will pay for your medical expenses while you are recovering.

Need to Know:

  • Personal injury lawsuits and workers’ compensation are two different ways that injured workers can obtain compensation for damages after a work accident.
  • Accidents involving construction workers are governed by the New York State Labor Law and Part 23 of the Division of Safety and Health Industrial Code Rules.
  • There are a number of third parties who could be responsible for a work accident, including the work site contractor, property owner, and equipment manufacturer.

Sometimes, work accidents are truly unavoidable, and in that case, workers’ compensation programs can help solve some of your financial concerns. But what happens when a worker becomes injured as a result of another party’s negligence? Under those circumstances, an injured worker may be able to obtain more than workers’ compensation allows by filing a personal injury claim against the negligent party.

In This Article:

The personal injury lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have over 30 years of experience helping injured workers and their families get the compensation they deserve. Notable results in work accident cases include a $53.5 million jury verdict and $15 million settlement. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a FREE consultation with a qualified attorney today.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

personal injury lawsuit is a legal claim brought by an injured person against the negligent party. For example, a pedestrian hit by a driver who ran a stoplight would likely have a personal injury case against the driver, or a construction worker struck and injured by a falling object that wasn’t secured might have a personal injury case against the contractor of the work site.

Many different laws will be applicable depending on what type of claim you have arising from an accident.  In a case involving a motor vehicle accident, in addition to the law relating to general negligence, the New York state vehicle and traffic laws will be applicable. These are the statutes that regulate the operation and ownership of motor vehicles on roadways in New York. The most common include the Rules of the Road which govern the laws that all drivers, bicyclists, moped riders, scooter riders, and pedestrians must follow when operating a vehicle or walking on the streets of New York.

Accidents involving a slip or trip and fall or a defective condition at a residential or commercial building (non-construction site accidents) are called premises liability cases and are normally governed by the general negligence law and body of caselaw regarding premises liability accidents. We also look to the New York City or New York State Building Codes for guidance in premises liability cases.

Also, accidents involving construction workers are governed by the New York State Labor Law and Part 23 of the Division of Safety and Health Industrial Code Rules. In most construction site cases, sections 200, 240, and 241 of the Labor Law will apply. These sections of the Labor Law exist to protect construction workers by requiring owners and general contractors to provide adequate protection to workers and ensure the overall safety of the construction site.

How does a personal injury claim play a role after a work injury?

In high-risk industries such as construction, work injuries can unfortunately be quite common. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, over 140,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported. Sometimes, work injuries result from the negligence of someone else involved in the work being done, such as the property owner, the site contractor, or an equipment manufacturer. In cases like these, injured workers are often unaware that they could have a right to sue the negligent party and receive compensation for their damages. Damages an injured worker can make a claim for include:

  • Past and future medical costs
  • Funeral and burial expenses (if a worker’s injuries are so severe that they die as a result)
  • Loss of income and future loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering experienced at the time of the accident, as well as in the future
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of companionship with spouses and/or family members
  • Emotional trauma, such as depression or PTSD

Note that some of these damages allow the injured worker to obtain compensation for both past and estimated future expenses. For example, a worker might need to pay for lifelong medical treatment from injury complications, even though the initial injuries sustained at the time of the accident have healed to the best of their ability. Or, a worker may be permanently disabled from work and will need compensation for loss of the wages he would have earned if not for the accident.

How is this different from workers’ compensation?

Both personal injury lawsuits and workers’ compensation are ways that injured workers can obtain compensation for damages after a work accident, but they are different. Workers’ compensation is a program, often run by the state, that allows any worker who is injured on the job to obtain compensation for their medical costs and some of their lost income while they recover. Any negligence that contributed to causing the accident does not have an impact on the injured worker receiving compensation; as long as they were injured in the course of performing their job duties, and their employer has workers’ compensation insurance, they can apply to obtain benefits through their state’s workers’ compensation program. A personal injury lawsuit, on the other hand, is only possible if the negligence of one or more parties caused the worker to be injured. Additionally, personal injury claims allow the injured worker to receive compensation for more extensive damages than workers’ compensation does.

How to File a Personal Injury Claim After a Work Accident

If you want to file a personal injury claim after an on-the-job accident, there are certain steps you should take. As with any legal matter, there are time limits and administrative obstacles that could limit a worker’s ability to file a claim if they do not know how to do so.

The steps below are meant to be informative, but it is important to note that one of the best things to do if you are considering taking legal action against a negligent party is to contact a personal injury lawyer. They will be able to help you navigate any filing deadlines and give you the best chance of receiving the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to.

Seek medical help. 

You may find it beneficial to see a medical professional after a work injury. It may be obvious that you should seek medical treatment because it is immediately apparent that you have sustained an injury. Still, some injuries can take longer to manifest, meaning that even if you don’t feel hurt right away, you could start feeling pain weeks after the accident.

Under these circumstances, you may find it was a wise decision to seek out medical advice early on. Why? If you see a doctor soon after your work injury, there will be a record showing that you sought medical attention after the accident, which can be helpful in later justifying a medical evaluation and proving the severity of your injuries if any complications arise later after making a claim.

Report the accident to your employer. 

Just as it is important to seek medical attention for your injuries right away, it is also important to report the accident to your employer as soon as possible after it occurs. Again, this is so the accident is on record. Having proof that the accident occurred, and that it caused your injuries, can become very important as your claim progresses.

This is because the opposing party may try to argue that your accident wasn’t that serious, or that your injuries and the resulting complications occurred for reasons other than the work accident. Having the report is concrete evidence that your accident happened when you said it did, and caused the injuries you are experiencing.

Contact a personal injury attorney. 

Unless your injuries are extremely minor, you should strongly consider retaining a personal injury attorney to help you through the claim process. It is extremely difficult to try and file a personal injury lawsuit alone, especially while trying to recover from injuries. There are time limits within which injured workers must file both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims, or they may lose their right to file a claim at all.

For workers’ compensation, that deadline can be extremely short; in New York a worker has 30 days. For personal injury, it is slightly longer; in New York a worker has three years to file a claim, although there are rare exceptions to this rule. A personal injury lawyer can ensure that everything you need is filed in a timely manner and will fight to make sure you get every dollar of compensation you deserve. Additionally, most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that, as the client, you don’t have to pay anything up front; your legal fees are typically a percentage taken out of your total settlement once your case is resolved.

To summarize, the most important things you can do after becoming injured in a work accident are: get medical treatment, report the accident to your employer, and contact a personal injury lawyer who can help you navigate the claims process. Recovering from a work injury is a stressful process, and there is no need to make it more stressful by trying to handle a complicated legal process yourself. To schedule a free consultation with a qualified personal injury lawyer, call 212-736-5300 today.

Who is Liable in Personal Injury Lawsuits?

Although liability in personal injury lawsuits might seem straightforward (the negligent person who caused the accident is the one responsible), it is not always that simple. Sometimes there are multiple parties whose negligence contributed to causing the accident.

And because of workers’ compensation laws, an injured worker is almost never able to sue his employer, even if the employer acted negligently. However, there are other people, (typically called “third parties” because they are a third entity aside from the employee and employer) who could be responsible for an accident. Below are some examples of third parties who could be found liable after a work accident:

  • Work site contractor: Contractors (and/or subcontractors) oversee and manage the work site. They are responsible for most of the daily activities that occur at the site, including worker safety. If you were injured on the job because safety procedures were not followed, it is possible the site contractor could be found at fault.
  • Property owner: Although the contractor is essentially the work site manager, the owner of the site also has a responsibility to ensure his property is safe to work on. If you were injured while on your work site, or perhaps if you are a pedestrian that was injured while passing a work site, the property owner could be at fault for your accident. These cases are often referred to as premises liability cases and are a type of personal injury case. A common example of one of these cases is a slip and fall accident.
  • Equipment manufacturer: If any equipment on the work site malfunctions and causes an injury, it is possible that the company that manufactured that piece of equipment could be found at least partially liable for the accident. For example, if a worker was injured while using a defective saw, the company that made the saw could be found responsible for not ensuring their product was safe for use. This can also sometimes include manufacturers of toxic substances or equipment that is supposed to protect from toxic substances. For example, if a worker becomes sick from exposure to asbestos, it is possible they could sue the manufacturer of any safety equipment they wore that was supposed to protect them from asbestos toxicity, but did not.

Can I sue my employer?

It is incredibly difficult to bring a personal injury claim against your employer, even if they acted negligently. This is because most employers have workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance gives their employees the right to receive compensation if they are injured on the job, and in turn, employees cannot take legal action against their employer.

However, there are rare exceptions to this rule: if you believe your employer intentionally harmed you (your injuries were not just a result of negligence), you may be able to bring a lawsuit. Or, if your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance (which is also rare) you could potentially bring a personal injury claim. Liability can be tricky to determine in these cases, which is why it is best to speak to a personal injury lawyer who can help you with your claim.

Even though you may not be able to bring a claim against your employer based on the worker’s compensation laws in New York, it is still important to report an accident to your employer immediately if you are injured at work. This is important because your employer must investigate the occurrence of the accident, which should include taking statements, photographs, preserving evidence, and completing an accident report. This investigation will help the injured person with their personal injury claim if they file a lawsuit.

Multi-Million Dollar Results for Injured Workers

At Block O’Toole & Murphy, we understand how scary and frustrating it is to be injured on the job because someone else was acting negligently. Our personal injury lawyers have resolved numerous cases for workers who were victims of work accidents that occurred because of another party’s carelessness and will fight until we get our clients the maximum amount of compensation they deserve.

Select results include:

  • $53,500,000 jury verdict for a construction laborer who was devastatingly paralyzed from the waist down after he fell at a work site while working to install an AC unit
  • $15,000,000 settlement for the surviving wife and five children of an HVAC worker who was tragically killed on the job when he was crushed by a falling air chiller
  • $12,000,000 settlement for a Local 147 tunnel worker who suffered severe injuries, including internal organ damage and neurologic injuries, after he fell 40 feet down a ventilation shaft on his work site
  • $11,500,000 settlement for a union construction worker whose wrist was severely cut by a defective saw that kicked back, leaving him with lacerated tendons and eventual Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
  • $11,000,000 settlement for a worker who became permanently disabled from construction work after he stepped through an unsecured hole cover and fell three stories
  • $10,875,000 jury verdict for a Local 731 union worker who needed multiple surgeries for internal injuries suffered after he fell and was impaled on a vertical piece of steel rebar
  • $10,500,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the surviving family of a 50-year-old worker who was fatally struck in the neck by a defective saw
  • $7,400,000 settlement for a union sheet metal worker who needed a spinal cord stimulator implant after he fell while on the job from a beam that was too narrow
  • $7,300,000 settlement for a 56-year-old worker who was performing demolition work when a steel beam fell on top of him, resulting in serious injuries and the amputation of his arm
  • $7,000,000 settlement for a 25-year-old carpenter who suffered facial injuries and neck pain after he was struck in the face by a five-pound metal clamp that was not properly secured
  • $7,000,000 settlement for a worker who fell 30 feet down an elevator shaft while on the job, and required nine surgeries because of his serious crush injuries

If you have been injured on the job and believe it was due to someone else’s negligence, our expert personal injury lawyers are available to speak with you. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a FREE, no-obligation consultation today. We serve New York and New Jersey.

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