Residential and commercial painters in New York City can often be seen working on scaffolding, skyscrapers, cranes and bridges. Painters spend much of their time working at great heights, typically from ladders and scaffolds, and constantly face the danger of falling and suffering catastrophic injuries.
A painter may suffer injuries due to a fall from an elevation or even as a result of stretching his or her body awkwardly when attempting to reach ceilings and walls. This type of stress and strain on the body can result in long-term back and muscular injuries as well. If you have suffered an injury on the job, it is important for you to assess your options and understand your rights. You may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries, damages and losses.
Some of the most serious injuries suffered by painters in New York City involve falls from ladders and scaffolds. Some of the common causes of these types of accidents include:
- Poor ladder maintenance: Mud, paint, soot and other debris should be removed from the steps and the locks and pulleys. It is also important to inspect ladders for defects such as damage to the side rails, rungs, rope, feet, pulley and locks.
- Defective ladders: Defectively manufactured ladders could potentially fail and cause serious if not catastrophic injuries. In cases where a defective ladder injures a painter, the injured victim can seek compensation from the manufacturer of the faulty ladder as well.
- Improper scaffold construction: Hazards that can lead to scaffolding accidents include missing base plates, sloping platforms, overextended planks, broken frame pins, missing guardrails, slippery platforms and missing braces.
- Lack of safety gear or fall restraint systems: There are a number of safety precautions that should be taken when painters are required to work at higher elevations. For example, safety nets should be utilized when workers are high enough to pose the risk of fatal injuries from falls. Workers should also be provided with harnesses that prevent them from falling and suffering an injury.
- Adverse weather conditions: It is rare to see painters at work outdoors on a rainy day, but many painters regularly have to deal with windy conditions when working in New York City. A sudden gust of wind can force a painter off a ladder or scaffold. Work should be suspended when the winds pick up and the conditions become dangerous.
- Slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall hazards: Construction sites present a number of slip-and-fall and/or trip-and-fall dangers including those from spilled liquids, scattered tools, equipment, debris and open holes. It is the job of an employer to mitigate these types of hazards and make the site safer for workers. A worksite supervisor should scout the area for any potential hazards and remove them.
Avoiding Ladder Accidents
Painters in particular tend to work on ladders more than any other construction worker. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ladder accidents cause about 300 fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries each year in the United States. There are several safety measures that must be followed at the worksite in order to reduce these types of accidents.
Each ladder must be inspected properly before every use. Multiple workers should not get on a ladder at the same time. Damaged ladders should be isolated and marked “do not use.” Ladders must be properly secured when they are being transported. Ladder rungs should be free of grease, oil and other slippery substances that could cause a worker to slip and fall. The maximum load for a ladder must never be exceeded. Ladders must be placed on even and stable ground. Workers should never overextend over, under or toward the sides of the ladder. Painters should wear protecting clothing, a hard hat and rubber-soled shoes when they are working on ladders.
Injuries Frequently Suffered by Painters
The majority of painter injuries involve muscle strains in the painter’s arms, neck, shoulder and back. Painting requires strenuous actions including climbing, kneeling, stretching and bending increasing the probability of suffering knee, ankle and leg strains as well. These types of injuries typically only require rest, ice and stretching. If the pain continues, however, it may be the sign of a more serious issue that requires medical attention.
Some of the more serious injuries that painters suffer occur when they fall from higher elevations. Such falls can result in severe injuries including, but not limited to:
- Bone fractures: Arm and shoulder breaks can affect a painter’s ability to return to work. Skull fractures and fractures to the vertebrae can have lifelong consequences if the brain or spinal cord is damaged.
- Brain injuries: Falling from a ladder or scaffolding while painting can lead to catastrophic injuries particularly if the victim strikes his or her head against the ground. Anyone who has suffered a head injury should get immediate medical attention.
- Concussions: These are a type of traumatic brain injury that usually does not get the medical attention it requires. Many people dismiss concussions as “mild brain injuries.” In addition, doctors may misdiagnose a concussion because the symptoms may not be immediately apparent. Like any other traumatic brain injury, a concussion can have serious consequences and must be treated right away.
- Spinal cord injuries: Violent falls can result in spinal cord damage. In some cases, serious back and neck injuries can result in paralysis leaving a painter with permanent injuries and disabilities – unable to earn a livelihood.
- Leg injuries: A broken leg may keep an injured worker from returning to work for several months. He or she may need lengthy rehabilitation to recover completely. In some cases broken bones may never completely heal especially in cases where the victim suffers complex fractures or crushing injuries near the ankle.
- Knee injuries: Any type of injury to the knees and other joints can be painful and impede an individual’s movement. In severe cases, a worker’s mobility may be limited for months or he or she may need knee replacement surgery. The costs of surgery and rehabilitation can add up very quickly. Even after surgery and treatment, a worker could be left with chronic pain or permanent injuries.
- Arm injuries: When painters suffer serious injuries to their arms, they may find it impossible to do their jobs or even perform simple daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, cooking or eating. Surgery and rehabilitation may be required in such cases and can prove very expensive.
- Elbow injuries: All injuries relating to joints such as elbows and knees can hamper movement and keep the victim out of work for a lengthy period of time. Rehabilitation and therapy may be needed to help elbow injuries heal.
- Burn injuries: These types of injuries can be caused by caustic substances such as paints or other chemicals used on the job.
- Toxic exposure: Exposure to paint products, solvents, lead, asbestos and other toxic chemicals commonly found at construction sites can lead to long-term health consequences for painters.
New York Labor Laws
In New York State, there are several laws that protect workers in the construction industry including painters:
New York Labor Law Section 200: This section states that all construction industry employers must provide their employees as well as other workers on their site with a reasonably safe environment. This law specifically requires employers to ensure that all machinery and equipment used on the worksite is properly maintained and operated.
New York Labor Law Section 240: This is also known as New York’s Scaffolding Law. This section places the burden of worker safety (those working on scaffolding) on construction companies, contractors and building owners as opposed to the workers themselves. Property owners and contractors are required to provide workers with fall safety restraints such as safety harnesses, guardrails, safety nets and fencing. This law states that scaffolding at construction sites should be able to hold four times the amount of weight it is expected to bear.
New York Labor Law Section 241: This law pertains to construction activity that occurs at ground level. This section outlines regulations relating to how sites should be shored and protected to prevent accidents and enhance safety for workers. This section is designed to prevent accident such as slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents, drowning, chemical hazards and toxic exposure.
Companies that employ painters are legally required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. A successful workers’ compensation claim can result in support for medical bills as well as a portion of the wages lost during the victim’s recovery. Many painters, however, are self-employed and therefore may not be protected by workers’ compensation insurance.
Self-employed painters in New York City would be well advised to purchase their own insurance to protect themselves in case of an accident or injury. In some cases, workers can file a third-party claim for significant money damages against a party who is not their employer and is responsible for their injuries. Examples of third parties include construction companies, general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, manufacturers of defective products, etc.
Damages that Can Be Claimed
Painters who are injured on the job can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to:
- Medical expenses: All medical costs relating to the injuries including emergency transportation, ER treatment, surgery, hospitalization, medical equipment, medications, etc.
- Rehabilitation costs: Medical insurance often doesn’t cover all rehabilitation expenses. Painters who are injured on the job may need to undergo physical therapy. They may need chiropractic care or other extended treatments to completely regain their strength, mobility and flexibility after a serious injury.
- Lost income: When workers are seriously injured, they cannot return to work until they have completely recovered. Returning to work before the injuries have healed may result in further injury. As a result, victims stand to lose significant amounts of income.
- Lost future income: If a painter has sustained catastrophic injuries, he or she may not be able to ever return to work. This may mean that he or she may never be able to return to the work force or earn a livelihood again. This can be devastating to families where the injured worker is the primary or sole wage earner.
- Past and future pain and suffering: Plaintiffs can seek compensation for the physical pain and emotional suffering the injuries have caused them and will continue to cause them in the long term.
- Permanent injury: When a painter suffers a catastrophic injury, he or she may be left with permanent disabilities.
- Wrongful death: If a painter suffers fatal injuries on the job, his or her family may file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault or negligent party. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, lost future income and benefits, medical expenses, funeral costs, pain and suffering, etc.
Contacting an Experienced New York Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction 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. Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York in 2010.
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.
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