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Construction sites can be dangerous for workers and pedestrians, know your rights

Tuesday afternoon, another construction worker died when he fell 13 floors from a scaffold to a sidewalk shed at the Sherman Towers on East 76th Street and First Avenue around 4:00pm. Sources say the 30 year old was bleeding from his head and it is unknown if he was wearing a safety harness. He was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

This incident is the second fatal construction accident within the last week. A worker at Friedman Landis’ 400 Times Square fell four stories down an elevator shaft on August 25th.

With construction being a dangerous occupation and construction sites being hazardous to both workers and pedestrians, here a few frequently asked questions to help you stay informed if you ever find yourself, or someone you know, hurt as a result of a construction accident.

Q: We have some safety issues at my workplace, how do I take steps to assert my right to a safe workplace?

A: If your workplace isn’t safe, the first thing you should do is report the potential hazard to your boss or supervisor. Be sure to follow up with written notification of the hazard. If the issue isn’t addressed properly by your employer, you can file a complaint at your local OSHA office.

Q: I was injured on a construction site. Am I limited to just workers’ compensation benefits?

A: Workers’ compensation benefits are only applied to injuries you suffered at work that you employer is responsible for. If your injury was caused by another person or company, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the person or company who caused your injury.

Q: If a person is walking on a public sidewalk next to a construction site and is injured by construction materials, is the construction company responsible for their injuries?

A: The short answer is yes, the construction company is legally responsible for injuries caused by their activity if they didn’t adequately protect the public from the hazard. If there is an open hazard (like a ditch) the construction company has a duty to warn the public about the hazard and protect them from injury by using guard rails, warning signs and other barriers.

Q: I was injured while working on a large construction project. I know my claim against my employer will be handled through workers’ compensation, but can I sue the person who owns the property?

A: Being able to sue a property owner for a work related injury often hinges on how much control the property owner had over the project and if the control they exercised contributed to your injury by creating an unsafe environment. An experienced construction accident attorney can help you determine who is legally responsible for your injuries.

Q: Can I apply for workers’ compensation benefits for any injury that happens at work?

A: Workers’ compensation covers almost all injuries that occur on the job. However, workers’ compensation only covers accidental injuries, meaning if you someone deliberately hurt you, workers’ compensation may not cover your injuries and you would need to pursue a lawsuit against the person who injured you.

Q: I work at a construction site. Who is responsible for making sure it is safe?

A: The property owner and general contractor are legally responsible for making sure the construction site is safe for everyone who works there. If an accident happens, both the owner and the general contractor may be liable for your injuries.

Q: I think I need to file a complaint against my employer with OSHA, but I am afraid they may retaliate against me. Can they do that?

A: In order to encourage employees to report unsafe working conditions to OSHA, the law protects employees from retaliation. If you file a complaint with OSHA your employer cannot decrease your hours or reduce your pay, your employer cannot fire you or deny you a raise. If your employer does something in retaliation after you report a workplace violation, you can protect your rights as a “whistleblower” by filing a complaint with OSHA within 30 days detailing the retaliatory action.

Q: I was hurt at work and the OSHA investigation showed that my employer violated several OSHA regulations. Will this help my case?

A: Not necessarily. If the violation caused or contributed to your injury, then the court will consider it in evaluating your employer’s responsibility for your injuries. In some jurisdictions the OSHA violation proves negligence, in other jurisdictions, the violation is only one factor in determining whether or not your employer was negligent.

Q: I was working in construction when I was injured, should I call a personal injury attorney to discuss my case?

A: Yes you should. An experienced construction injury attorney can help you determine who is responsible for your injuries, if workers’ compensation will apply to your case and if any OSHA reports need to be filed.


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