Should I Hire A Construction Accident Attorney?
Victims of construction accidents aren’t always sure if they need to retain an attorney. The answer is, of course, dependent on the facts and circumstances of your case, but it is frequently yes.
How Can a Construction Accident Attorney Help?
The average construction injury will be a worksite injury to an employee on the construction site owned or operated by the worker’s employer. There can be devastating consequences from the injuries in these accidents, which will change the victim’s life forever.
This fact pattern presents the classic Workers’ Compensation situation and one that a skilled and knowledgeable construction accident lawyer will know intimately. An experienced lawyer will know how to find all the consequences covered by Workers’ Comp and ensure that you receive them.
New York State has some fairly tight deadlines for filing suit on a slip-and-fall or premises liability cause of action. From the date of the injury, you have three years to file a suit. This relatively short time frame to recover from your injuries is one of the reasons you should act quickly in consulting a construction accident attorney. The attorney can also help determine whether your potential contribution to the accident may affect your ability to recover from your injuries.
New York State Fall Laws
The Scaffolding Law also protects construction workers in New York. Legislators intended to protect the rights of construction workers who fall or suffer injury due to falling objects. It sets out minimum standards for scaffolding and other safety measures that owners and contractors must provide at any construction site.
Some of the required equipment includes scaffolds, ladder, hoists, hangers, pulleys, and stays. If there is an incident, a construction accident attorney will rely on experience and knowledge to investigate whether a violation may have contributed to your injuries, providing coverage under the statute.
The Scaffolding Law applies to gravity-related worksite accidents such as:
- Putting up a building or similar structure
- Demolition sites
- Putting up scaffolding, hoists, and other equipment required by the law
- Pointing a building or structure
- Repairing, remodeling, painting, or cleaning or a building or structure
The Scaffolding Law also allows for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, which are not easily available under Workers’ Compensation.
One of the most important things that a construction accident attorney can help you with is determining who the parties in your case will be. For example, even if you suffered an injury at work, other parties may be potentially liable for your injuries. There are usually a lot of different companies and people, and sometimes even governments involved in these projects. You, or better yet, your attorney, must consider each of them for potential damages.
Your experienced construction action lawyer will have made this analysis many times before.
The attorney will have looked at the worksite and the facts of your case and then consider:
- Worksite Maintenance – As noted above, New York law expects employers to maintain safe and, to the extent possible, hazard-free construction zones. Failing to comply with the Scaffolding Law or leaving dangerous messes like spills and scraps lying around create an environment where the liability may extend beyond Workers’ Comp, particularly if an employer used a third-party maintenance company on the site.
- Faulty Materials or Equipment– Somebody manufactured all of the equipment at your construction worksite. When they place a piece of equipment into the marketplace, those manufacturers are making certain promises about it. The equipment will have a purpose, and the maker is telling you that it is fit for that purpose. It will have a safe way of operating, and the maker says it is doing that. If these and other manufacturer statements aren’t true, your construction accident attorney will know how to proceed against the equipment manufacturers.
- Failure to Comply with Scaffolding Law – The Scaffolding Law is a strict liability statute. If you suffered an injury in a gravity-related accident, your employer is fully liable if they did not meet the required standards, no matter how catastrophically. The benefits the Scaffolding Law guarantees are separate from payments under Workers’ Comp and will be the responsibility of the property owner and the general contractor.
- Faulty Maintenance of Equipment – Much of the larger and more complicated equipment at a worksite requires regular maintenance to operate properly. Your employer will either be responsible for that maintenance or will have contracted with a third party for it. If a third party was hired and failed to maintain the equipment that caused your injuries properly, your construction accident lawyer will understand how to involve that company in liability for your claims.
- Inspection Failures – If there is evidence that failure to comply with applicable worksite regulations, including the Scaffolding Law, contributed to your injuries, someone will likely call the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to inspect the site. The evidence gathered in that inspection may be highly useful to your construction accident attorney in establishing non-Workers’ Comp liability.
- Third-Party Negligence – If more than one workforce is present on the site, and you suffered an injury due to an employee of a company other than your employer, your experienced construction accident attorney will be aware of the implications of those facts. Your attorney can then approach the second company for participation in your damages recovery.
Under the New York Labor Code, construction site employers have three primary responsibilities.
- Provide health and safety protection to workers
- Appoint competent and experienced supervisors
- Ensure equipment and safeguards are well maintained and in safe working order
In addition, the Code requires that employers give their workers appropriate protective equipment for the tasks they are required to perform on the worksite.
Some of the mandatory equipment includes:
- Eye protection
- Respirators with filters
- Protective clothing
- Hard hats
- Foot protection
- Waterproof closing
- Safety belts and harness
- Tail lines
- Danger notices and warnings
If the employer fails to take the precautions imposed by the Code, an injured construction worker may be able to file a negligence suit against the employer if the violation caused the injury. Your experienced construction accident lawyer will be familiar with these provisions and will be able to apply them to the facts of your case.
All New York property owners owe a duty of care to ensure that their properties are free of dangers that could harm visitors to the property. However, if the property owner can show that the visitor assumed the risk of the injury sustained, a victim may not recover. New York’s premises liability law tends, in operation, to favor the property owner over the injured party, but a knowledgeable construction accident attorney will have worked through these defenses previously and can bring experience to your claim.
Impact of Safety Violations
If an owner or any other party with responsibilities for workers in a construction worksite fails to comply with the mandatory requirements, that can serve as strong evidence of negligence. This negligence, often completely outside the Workers’ Compensation system, will allow your highly capable construction accident attorney to begin the process of recovering damages for your injuries beyond those provided for in standard Workers’ Compensation arrangements.
Evidence of inspection failures, prior equipment problems, and other injuries at the worksite, or even other sites of the same owner or contractor, can be used by your skillful attorney to ensure that you receive adequate and full compensation for your injuries suffered due to their negligence.
The attorney will want to investigate the accident, the worksite, and the owner’s and contractor’s safety record promptly and thoroughly. Done well, this process will lay a solid foundation for the success of your recovery.
When Should You Hire the Construction Accident Attorney?
Because of the potential number of issues involved, regulatory, legal, and factual, and because of the relatively short time frame in which to work, your wisest course of action is most likely to start looking for a construction accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident occurs. There will be Workers’ Compensation stepping in almost immediately, but a well-informed attorney can help you to avoid making mistakes that could adversely affect your case down the road. Beyond that, as the victim of what may well be catastrophic and life-changing injuries, having a battle-ready advocate on your side will relieve you and your loved ones of the stress of fighting on your behalf alone.
Questions to Ask Your Construction Law Attorney
Retaining a qualified and experienced construction accident attorney is not just a matter of doing a Google search and picking the first name that comes up.
Before signing a retainer or fee agreement, you should ask your prospective New York construction accident attorney:
- How much of your practice is construction law? You will want a lawyer who concentrates their practice in this area. You are looking for experience and knowledge—not just of the law, but of how to work in this complex and convoluted system of recovery functions.
- How long have you been doing this? Again, you want a lawyer who has been doing these cases for a while. Of course, everyone has to start somewhere, but in a complex and complicated field of law like construction accident liability, you’ll be far better off in the hands of a highly experienced lawyer who has worked this system for some time.
- How many cases have you handled? Cases settled are not just a measure of how much of this work your candidate has done. Settling a case is generally better for you than litigation. An attorney who settles rather than being forced to litigate may well gain you a better result in the long run.
- Do they settle or go to trial? On the other hand, you want to be sure that your prospective construction accident attorney is willing and able to litigate if it is necessary. It’s also important that the defendants and their attorneys recognize that as well. Knowing that you can and will litigate can loosen the settlement logjam in many cases.
- What are typical awards or settlements for cases like mine? Settlements and awards in construction site accident cases can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of millions. When you ask about typical awards and settlements, make sure that the sums quoted to you are from cases similar to yours. If you permanently became a wheelchair user and can never work again, it doesn’t matter what someone who broke an arm and missed a week’s wages received.
- How do you charge fees? Are your contingency fees net or gross? What will I owe if you don’t close in my favor? Most construction site accident cases will fall under a contingency fee payment plan. The basic tenet of the plan is that, unless your attorney concludes your case in your favor, you will not owe attorneys’ fees for the case. However, discuss what a favorable outcome that might trigger a payment obligation is. Will your attorney pay your share before or after expenses are taken out of the award? Are there fees you might have to pay even if you don’t win your case? If so, what are those, and can you get an estimate? Do you have to put a retainer down? Will state law affect the percentage of the award that goes to the attorney? Your lawyer should answer all of these questions and more to your satisfaction before you sign a contingency fee contract.
A Knowledgeable Attorney Can Make All the Difference in your NY Construction Accident
You or a loved one has suffered a severe injury in a construction site accident. You are struggling to get by on Workers’ Comp and trying to recuperate at the same time. Now is not the time to focus your energy on fighting with defense attorneys. Find a skilled and experienced construction accident attorney who can take the pressure away from you and work to get you the best possible solution to bringing your life back to normal.