Construction Accidents in NYC: Workers’ Rights, Laws & Stats
New York City is home to some of the world’s most iconic skylines, thanks to the amount of construction taking place each day—especially in the city’s current “building boom.” Unfortunately, the construction industry behind the boom has become New York’s most dangerous workforce.
Construction accidents may seem commonplace, but recent studies show that New York City jobsite injuries at an all-time high—and continue to increase. Whether an employee, visitor or passerby, construction sites are dangerous for any person near them. Here is everything you need to know about construction injuries in New York, including the latest accident statistics, your rights as a victim of an accident, and what to do to receive compensation if you’re injured.
NYC Construction Accident Statistics
Fatal Accidents in NYC
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Vital Statistics, construction is the most dangerous job in New York City. Construction workers account for 27% of all work-related deaths in NYC, despite making up only 5% of the city’s total workforce.
These same statistics show that New York City’s construction fatality rate is higher than that of the national average. The factors that put New York construction workers at higher risk than other states include:
- Accelerated schedules: In the city that never sleeps, New York construction projects are often met with haste and ambitious timelines for completion
- Short term contracts: Many workers bounce around new job sites, frequently needing to readjust to new equipment and increasing the likelihood of an accident
- Shortage of skill: The current shortage of skilled laborers means that those currently employed are often overworked, short-staffed and working among less qualified personnel
Most Common Causes of Construction Accidents in NYC
OSHA is a federal agency that enforces rules and regulations for the workplace to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed. Employees can file complaints and request OSHA inspect their workplace if they suspect any violations or negligence.
The vital statistics report shows at least one major OSHA violation in 90% of construction accidents. The most common violations are related to:
- Training requirements
- Fall protection standards
- Scaffold safety standards
- Stairway safety standards
- Ladder safety standards
Top 5 Most Common Construction Accidents
These are the top five most common causes of injury on construction sites, according to OSHA:
- Falling or lack of fall protection
- Falling/insecure materials and debris
- Unsafe equipment or lack of protections on power tools
- Lack of protection for excavation/soil work
According to the vital report, falling is the leading cause of construction work related deaths in New York City, making up 58% of fatal injuries. From the total number of unintentional construction injuries, most fatal falls occurred from:
- Scaffolds (25%)
- Ladders (16%)
- Roofs (11%)
The degree of injury from a fall is generally due to how high you fall from. Although injuries vary depending on the method of impact, falling by any means on a construction site can lead to serious injuries repercussions, such as:
- Skull fracture and/or traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Nerve damage
- Spinal fracture and other back injuries
Complications from such extensive injuries are likely to impose mental repercussions as well. Depending on the accident, workers may suffer through a long emotional recovery on top of their physical recovery.
Construction Laws and Regulations in New York
It’s important to consider factors that may influence statistics, such as an increase in reporting and more jobs in existence. Still, workplace injuries continue to increase despite government efforts to improve safety. There are state, city and federal laws imposed to keep construction sites safe, yet accidents are still frequent.
These laws hold any building owners, general contractors, and construction companies legally responsible for the well-being of everyone on site. If you receive an injury due to a company’s failure to keep you safe, you have a right to compensation.
Criteria for Death and Fatalities in NYC
Prior to a law passed in 2017, only deaths violating New York City construction codes were counted by the Department of Buildings. Meanwhile, deaths related to workplace safety violations do not contribute to the data.
This means a death deemed “workplace related by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would not need to be reported to any city agencies. The passing of this law ensures that the city will continue to get data imperative for future health and safety solutions.
NY State Construction Accident Injury Laws
In different states, it is often your responsibility to prove the injury was not your fault in order to receive compensation. However, New York Labor Law 240, or “The Scaffold Law, assigns responsibility to general contractors and business owners for providing all necessary safety equipment for construction projects twenty feet off the ground.
This law further outlines how you may still be able to receive compensation for injury despite your own negligence to follow safety rules and guidelines. Regardless if you in part violated safety regulations, it is always in your best interest to pursue legal action.
The Stop Work Authority
Stop Work Authority is a program implemented at job sites to foster a “safety first environment. It is designed to encourage workers and employees to speak up and stop the work if he or she perceives a hazard. Reasons a worker might be hesitant to address a violation could be due to peer pressure. Many tend not to go against the grain or become bystanders and wait for someone else to act.
SWA programs are voluntary and reduce injuries and fatalities by empowering workers to advocate for themselves. They are the best way to let employers know of existing safety issues and provide the opportunity to fix them. The program is significantly more effective when following the order of the multistep process:
- Follow up
Stop Work Authority permits any worker of any level to halt a task upon the sense of danger. Though not required, employing these practices in the workplace ensures your employer is tending to both ethical and legal responsibilities.
What to do After a Construction Accident
The most critical action is to provide safety and medical attention for everyone harmed. Afterwards, it is important to formally report and document everything you can about the circumstances of your accident.
Consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to guide you through the process and maximize the chance of a favorable outcome in court. Thoroughly recording these details will assist you and your legal team when it comes time to file claims and lawsuits. Whether an employed worker or civilian, you have the rights to compensation for injuries sustained on the job site.
Filing a Construction-Related Lawsuit
Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may have cause for a personal injury claim, a worker’s compensation claim, or both.
Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury claims are filed after negligence or wrong-doing of another person causes harm to an individual. Most states have a statute of limitations of 2-3 years, meaning you have 2-3 years after sustaining the injury to make a claim.
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court. Having good legal assistance will ensure you build a strong claim. The process will probably include reviewing medical records, tallying medical bills and lost wages, interviewing witnesses and assessing other damage sustained from the construction accident.
The judge or jury will decide if the defendant in your case is liable for your injury. In most cases, you will be seeking compensatory damages you repay for your loss. However, punitive damages may be awarded in excess if the judge or jury find the defendant’s negligence to be intentional or purposely cruel.
Compensatory damages cover various expenses such as:
- Medical bills
- Ambulance costs
- Future medical costs
New York Workers Compensation
Worker’s Compensation is an allowance awarded by the state to help handle medical expenses from your injury. Eligibility for worker’s compensation is based solely on the fact that you were injured while working. This means it does not matter if you are at fault for your injury, do not hesitate to file your claim.
In the unfortunate event of fatal injuries on a construction site, a loved one or beneficiary can file a wrongful death claim. If the construction company is found liable for the death, monetary compensation is awarded to the deceased person’s family. As no family deserves to endure such trauma, this type of compensation is usually higher than other personal injury settlements.
Contact a NYC Construction Accident Lawyer
Contractors and owners in the construction industry have an ethical and legal responsibility to ensure safe working conditions for all. Claims from a construction accident injury can involve more than one area of law. Whether an employee of the industry or unsuspecting passerby, contact a lawyer to help consider all your legal options.