Laborers – skilled or unskilled — are an integral part of every construction project. In fact even with the advancements in technology, it would be impossible to construct a building without the involvement of laborers, who pour hard, physical work into such projects. The work carried out by laborers may vary from performing skilled jobs such as carpentry and masonry to tasks that might not necessarily require training or licensing such as carrying objects, drilling, yard work, etc.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of construction laborers and helpers was projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Laborers and helpers work in just about all aspects of construction activity and the demand for these workers usually mirror the level of overall construction growth in an economy.
The reality on New York City construction sites is that all laborers are exposed to significant risk of injury. Laborers working at New York construction sites may suffer injuries as a result of falls, falling objects or debris, crane accidents, heavy machinery accidents, struck-by incidents, electrocutions, burns and explosions etc.
Any laborer who is injured in a New York City construction accident must remember that he or she has legal rights. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer can help injured workers and their families protect their rights and best interests in the aftermath of a work-related injury accident.
There are number of different types of accidents that might seriously injure or even prove fatal for laborers. Here are just a few examples:
Falls from heights: Many laborers, especially those working in the construction industry, are required to work from heights. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in the year 2013, there were 294 fall-related fatalities out of 796 total construction accident deaths. Laborers such as painters, carpenters, ironworkers and bricklayers are often required to work from heights such as on ladders, scaffolds and roofs and employers and property owners and general contractors etc. must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely.
Struck by Falling Objects and Vehicles: According to OSHA, getting struck by falling objects, debris and vehicles at construction sites is another leading cause of construction-related fatalities About 75 percent of struck-by deaths involve heavy equipment such as trucks or cranes. Falling objects can be any number of things including equipment or tools that fall from a worker’s tool belt and strike another person below. Workers are also at risk of being struck by masonry walls, ceilings, trenches or other improperly secured structures that may collapse at the worksite. The presence of vehicles and heavy equipment and machinery such as forklifts and cranes at sites present a constant hazard to laborers who may be hit or run over by them. These types of accidents may occur as a result of operator error or equipment malfunction.
Electrocution: The most common electric shock-related injury is a burn. Electrical burns cause tissue damage that results from heat generated by the flow of electric current through the body. Electrocutions or electrical accidents often occur when workers come in contact with live power lines. Employers, property owners, general contractors and supervisors etc. must carefully examine a site before work commences to ensure that there are no such hazards.
Amputations: Laborers who work at construction sites often use heavy machinery and power tools for cutting and shaping materials such as wood and stone. When these machines don’t have safety guards on them or when workers don’t have proper protective gear, an accident may result in finger or limb amputations. These are catastrophic injuries that may result in a lifetime of pain and disability for workers.
Toxic exposure: A number of worksites use toxic and hazardous chemicals such as asbestos, benzene, lead, silica, etc. that can cause severe injuries and illnesses. Laborers exposed to toxins may suffer acute injuries such as burns or poisoning that is symptomatic and must be treated right away. They may also suffer latent injuries, which are those that are not apparent right away. These injuries include illnesses such as cancer that may take years or sometimes, even decades to surface. Workers in such cases may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the toxic substance or manufacturers of the safety equipment that proved ineffective in the handling of the toxic substance, and/or property owners, general contractors and/or others.
Injuries Suffered in Laborer Accidents
With the number of dangers concealed in construction and worksites, laborers are at risk of suffering serious, life-changing or even fatal injuries. Here are a few examples of the types of injuries laborers and helpers may suffer as a result of workplace accidents:
- Head injuries: These are among the most common injuries suffered by laborers. Head injuries may occur at a worksite when a worker falls from a ladder or scaffold or gets hit on the head by a falling or flying object. These types of accidents may result in traumatic brain injuries, which can prove catastrophic and leave victims with debilitating permanent injuries and disabilities.
- Spinal cord trauma: Spinal injuries may also occur when workers take a fall. When the spinal cord is injured, depending on the nature, extent and location of the injury, laborers may become paralyzed or rendered quadriplegic or paraplegic. Those who suffer neck or back injuries may also be left to cope with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. Those who suffer these types of serious injuries are often unable to return to work or earn a livelihood.
- Bone fractures: Although bone fractures are not life threatening, injured victims take a long time to recover if ever from these injuries. Multiple bone fractures do have the potential to leave an individual permanently disabled. Those who have suffered bone fractures must often go through lengthy rehabilitation to try to regain lost strength, flexibility and mobility. Even after extensive rehabilitation, many victims are not able to return to their pre-accident condition.
- Internal injuries: When workers are crushed by equipment or suffer falls from heights, they may suffer from internal trauma. Injury to organs such as the lungs, spleen or kidneys may prove fatal for workers.
- Amputations: Limb and finger amputations may leave workers unable to continue earning a livelihood. Injured victims often need prosthetics and other costly equipment to maintain their quality of life.
- Burn injuries: Electrocution or fires at construction zones and work sites may cause severe burn injuries to victims, which can be painful and costly to treat. Serious burn victims usually require extensive rehabilitation and several skin graft procedures.
What Causes Injuries at Worksites?
There are a number of reasons why laborers are injured at worksites. The most common reason why this occurs is due to safety violations at the worksite. The U.S. Occupational and Safety Administration requires all employers, property owners, and general contractors etc. to provide safe conditions for their employees. This includes providing:
- A safe work environment: This means that employers and others must inspect the worksite for any potential dangers. They should spot fall hazards, live power lines, holes that are not closed, etc. Work should not commence until the location has been thoroughly investigated for potential hazards.
- Job and safety training: All workers who are at the site must have proper job and safety training. This means that laborers who are required to do certain jobs actually know how to do those jobs. Employers and others should also provide them with detailed safety training so workers know how to do their jobs in a safe manner.
- Protective equipment: Laborers should be provided with protective gear such as hard hats, safety goggles, boots, gloves, etc. Fall safety protection such as harnesses, handrails and safety nets is a must for construction workers. When workers do not have sufficient safety gear, they are at risk for suffering serious or even fatal injuries.
- Safe conditions: Employers must ensure that the work is done under safe conditions. For example, before starting trenching or digging operations, employers should ensure that the trenches are properly secured to avoid deadly cave-in accidents. Workers should also not be allowed to operate in extreme weather conditions such as severe cold, heat or wind, which may prove treacherous.
Can Your Employer Be Held Accountable?
Injured victims of workplace accidents can file for workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. Workers’ compensation helps pay for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. However, workers’ compensation is usually never always enough to pay for all of the damages and losses suffered by injured laborers and their families. This is often the case when a worker suffers permanent injuries or disabilities, or is killed in an accident. Families struggle to cope with such losses emotionally and financially because they’ve lost a primary or sole wage earner.
Sometimes, your employer’s, general contractor’s and/or property owner’s, etc. actions (or the lack there of) may allow you to file a lawsuit. If your employer’s conduct is intentional, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. Employees may also be able to sue their employers outside of the workers’ compensation system under certain conditions.
Workplace accidents may be investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Construction companies, property owners, contractors or manufacturing plants that fail to follow federal safety standards are cited and fined by OSHA investigators.
Third Party Compensation for Work Injuries
If you are a laborer who has been injured on the job, workers’ compensation may not be the only source of compensation. In our experience, we have seen numerous cases in New York where workers’ compensation benefits were simply not enough to cover the losses of catastrophically injured workers, left unable to provide for their families.
In such cases, laborers may be able to file a third party claim for significant or huge money damages. A third-party claim is typically filed against a party other than employer, whose negligence caused or contributed to the worker’s injuries, damages and losses and is usually worth much more than workers’ compensation claims. Such a claim helps seriously injured workers and their families seek and obtain monetary support during their most challenging times. Here are a few examples of third-party claims:
- The manufacturer of the defective product can be held responsible for injuries caused by malfunctioning products or equipment.
- General contractors or sub-contractors who are part of the project.
- Building or property owners/managers.
- A project manager, engineer or architect supervising the project.
- A scaffolding company that fails to install properly.
- Vendors or contractors who are a part of the project.
- A firm that is responsible for equipment maintenance, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Injured laborers can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. If you have been injured, it is important that you keep a record of all your losses including medical expenses and wages lost. Do not sign a settlement agreement until you have discussed your case with an experienced lawyer who has successfully handled cases similar to yours.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury on the job or if you have lost a loved one in a workplace accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case. We have recovered many millions of dollars for clients and laborers who were hurt at work sites.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com
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