What is the New York Scaffold Law?
Construction can be a dangerous field to work in. Likely, that is no surprise to you. A construction worker is constantly surrounded by heavy, blunt objects, cutting tools, trip hazards, and deafening noise. However, as dangerous as those things are, a primary culprit in many construction-related accidents is gravity.
While on a construction site, a worker may be surrounded by fall hazards. Falling from scaffolding can result in serious injury or even death. New York State takes this type of accident very seriously and is the only remaining state with an absolute liability standard for gravity-related construction accidents. The legislation related to this standard is commonly referred to as the New York Scaffold Law.
This law can help a victim receive compensation after a construction site fall injury. Although money is no replacement for good health, it can provide you and your family with financial security. This is especially valuable as you learn to adapt to life after a serious injury and need time to recover.
Hill & Moin LLP’s construction accident attorneys are determined to protect the interests of New York workers and other residents hurt in scaffolding accidents due to negligence.
The Reason the New York Scaffold Law Exists
The New York Scaffold Law was created to protect workers against risks and injuries that are gravity-related. Initially, we might think to ourselves: How serious is this problem? How many adult construction workers get hurt by falling?
Actually, falling is more serious and happens more often than you may realize. Reports from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicate that thousands of injuries are caused by scaffolding falls each year. Construction falls in recent years also account for about 40 to 60 deaths annually.
Additional studies by OSHA also show that of the top fatal accidents in the US construction industry, falls take the lead at 36.4 percent.
To help construction workers, New York State, as early as 1885, enacted Labor Law 240. This law makes scaffolding and other safety devices mandatory, which must be provided by contractors and owners. Safety devices are specifically needed regarding “the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing of a building or structure” with the purpose of protecting the workers.
Labor Law section 240 is distinctly applicable to “gravity-related accidents.” This expression has a broad definition. It refers to injuries caused by a fall that happened because of a change in elevation. It also applies to injury stemming from objects that were improperly hoisted or secured and fell. In general, this law applies to all New York construction.
Listed below are just some of the requirements outlined in the Scaffold Law:
- Scaffolding that is 20 feet or more off the ground must have a safety railing that reaches a minimum height of 34 inches
- The railing must be connected to the scaffold in a way that prevents swaying
- The safety rail must fully enclose the scaffold
- The scaffolding must be capable of supporting 4 times its maximum weight
These rules exist to protect workers. Parties who are responsible for managing the construction project have the legal accountability to provide scaffolding and other safety equipment outlined by the Labor Law. If they fail to provide or meet these requirements, this fact alone could entitle an injured victim to receive compensation.
What “Gravity-Related Accidents” Include
In relation to the New York Scaffold Law, persons have commented that the expression “gravity-related accidents” is excessively vague. Well, there can be no doubt that these words do cover a very broad idea. However, rest assured that litigation does not need to get bogged down by arguments about what qualifies as a “gravity-related accident.”
The first and fundamental question to determine whether your injury is covered by the Scaffold Law is: Was gravity intrinsically involved in your accident? If the answer is no, then the New York Scaffold Law is not applicable.
However, if the answer is yes, then all that must be established to reach a successful claim is the following:
- Who is the responsible party – For example, the owner or general contractor in charge of the construction project
- What were you doing at the time of the accident – The action you were performing must be a covered activity
If these fundamental issues are undeniable, the only counterargument an owner or general contractor can attempt to pursue is that you were negligent; that you had all required safety provisions and safety instructions in place yet displayed deliberate disregard for the safety devices and instructions.
Thus, the opposing party may attempt to prove that the accident and injury were caused by your willful and intended disregard for the safety provisions and instructions. This argument is called the “worker recalcitrant” defense, and it is very difficult to prove.
This does not mean, though, that claims involving the New York Scaffolding Law can be established effortlessly. The New York Scaffold Law is specific about what it covers. The courts analyze and apply the law and the circumstances of the accident strictly.
The reason that such a careful and exact examination is conducted is that the New York Scaffold Law allows injured workers to obtain greater monetary restitution than they might get in a normal workers’ compensation case.
Not all persons in a construction area can make use of this law. It only affects workers within the construction industry. Individuals, such as pedestrians, persons in a passing car, or other passersby who might get injured while in the vicinity of a construction site do not qualify to use the New York Scaffold Law. They may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to receive compensation.
Your Workers’ Compensation and the New York Scaffold Law
Will your eligibility to receive workers’ compensation be hindered or voided if you take legal action using the New York Scaffold Law? The quick and easy answer to this question is no.
This having been said, keep in mind that insurance companies often aim not to pay out money. Or, at least, to pay as little as possible.
It is probable that insurance companies will make an effort to avoid paying compensation through workers’ compensation when the New York Scaffold Law is used. This, among other reasons, underscores the importance of using capable and skillful lawyers familiar with the New York Scaffold Law.
Our New York Law Firm of Hill & Moin LLP can prevent insurance companies from weaseling out of their accountability.
Construction Workers Who Are at Special Risk From Scaffold Injuries
Likely, at some point, all construction workers need to reach something a little beyond their reach. In many cases, a small ladder will suffice. However, there are some aspects of construction work that cannot be accomplished without scaffolding.
The following workers are at heightened risk from scaffold injuries:
- Window washers
- Maintenance workers
The jobs listed above require relying on scaffolding to keep people safe as they focus on doing their work properly. The New York Scaffold Law is essential to these workers since the possibility for serious injury is high when scaffolding is not correctly set up or properly maintained.
Injuries That Can Result From a Scaffold Accident
The height involved in scaffolding work is likely to cause serious injuries from a fall. Workers who use poorly constructed or maintained scaffolding may suffer injuries such as:
- Internal bleeding
- Broken bones
- Damaged internal organs
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries
Unfortunately, at times, owners, general contractors, or other persons in charge of a construction project feel pressured to take shortcuts in the project. Often, this is because they need to reduce costs or reach a deadline.
Safety is frequently among the first “corners” that are cut. The New York Scaffold Law is therefore a crucial deterrent to owners, general contractors, or others from taking dangerous liberties in regard to scaffolding.
Attorneys Who Understand the New York Scaffold Law Are Crucial to Your Case
Construction workers perform hard, exhausting work every day. Daily, they experience scrapes, bruises, bumps, and cuts that they don’t complain about because they feel that it goes with the territory.
However, when they are injured because owners or contractors are neglectful or delinquent, construction workers should not be expected to just grin and bear the pain and costs of the accident. You have the right to sue for proper compensation, even as an undocumented worker.
No matter your immigration status, we are here to help. Hill & Moin LLP has helped victims of a wide range of backgrounds receive compensation for past and future lost earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. In the case of a fatal fall, the deceased worker’s family can obtain compensation for their tragic loss.
It is always our determination to secure the future of our clients. Call (212) 668-6000 to find out the Personal Injury Recovery SolutionsⓇ we can offer you.