According to New York Labor Law 240, employers must provide adequate devices and equipment to keep employees safe while working at elevated levels. In other words, all contractors, owners, and their agents must erect or provide scaffolding, slings, braces, ladders, ropes, pulleys, hoists, blocks, irons, and other devices to protect employees who are repairing, erecting, cleaning, altering, pointing, painting, or demolishing a building or structure.
The law also requires scaffolding or staging over twenty feet from the floor or ground, erected with stationary supports or suspended or swung from overhead support, to have a safety rail. The rails must be of a suitable material attached, braced, or bolted properly that rises at least thirty-four inches above the floor or main portions of the staging or scaffolding and extends the entire length of the outside and ends. The fastenings of the staging or scaffolding must prevent it from swaying from the structure or building.
Eligibility for Compensation Under the Scaffold Law
The scaffold law only applies to gravity-related accidents. That could include injuries caused by a fall from a higher location than where the worker landed or an injury that occurred when some unsecured object fell from a height and injured a worker. Nearly all construction is covered except one- and two-family homes with no commercial purpose.
Specific types of construction work covered under the law include:
- Erecting safety devices, such as hoists, blocks, slings, stays, pulleys, and braces
People who walk by the worksite and get hurt by collapsing scaffolding or objects that fall off the scaffolding can’t pursue a claim under the scaffold law. It only covers employees injured on the job.
Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim and Claim Under the Scaffold Law?
Yes. Pursuing a claim under the scaffold law does not affect eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is employer-paid benefits for job-related injuries. You can’t sue your employer if you collect workers’ compensation. However, you can sue a third party, such as an owner, general contractor, or their agent, in a claim under the scaffold law if your injury occurs in a scaffolding accident.
Workers’ compensation only covers medical treatment, a portion of lost wages, and permanent disability that results from a work-related accident. A scaffold law claim could compensate an employee for additional losses such as pain and suffering. It also supplements lost income not covered by workers’ comp.
Permanent injuries often require ongoing medical care. You might be unable to return to your previous place of employment, care for your family, and perform routine tasks. Although disability benefits are available under workers’ compensation, the payments might not account for all the expenses you incur. When you file a third-party lawsuit under the scaffold law, you might recoup some of those costs so you can afford household assistance, childcare, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents
Although labor laws provide standards that employers, property owners, and contractors must meet, many violate these laws, endangering the safety and lives of workers. Those violations can include various circumstances, such as:
- Collapsing equipment
- Damaged or defective railings and other safety devices
- Defective parts and devices
- Failure to have an onsite person qualified to supervise the installation of safety systems
- Improperly securing the scaffolding to the building or structure
- Inadequate maintenance
- Inadequate safety gear
- Inexperienced workers
- Loading the scaffolding beyond the weight limit
- Missing support pieces
- Poorly constructed scaffolding
- Setting up scaffolding too close to power lines
- Unsecured tools and other debris falling from scaffolding
- Unstable surfaces
Common Injuries in Scaffolding Accidents
Scaffolding accidents don’t include only falls. They can also be slip and fall accidents, unsecured tools falling from an elevated working platform, and a range of other scenarios. Injuries vary from minor to life-threatening, depending on the circumstances. Some accidents are fatal.
The most common scaffolding injuries include:
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Crush injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Loss of limb
- Nerve damage
- Permanent impairment or disfigurement
- Spinal cord injuries
- Torn ligaments and tendons
- Traumatic brain injury
Compensation for Scaffolding Accidents
Holding a third party liable for the injuries you sustain in a scaffolding accident requires that you prove various factors. You must establish these elements to bring a successful claim under the scaffold law:
- The construction project was owned or run by an owner or general contractor
- The law covers the activity involved in the accident
- The injury resulted from a gravity-related incident
If you file a lawsuit against an owner or contractor who is liable for a scaffolding accident, the money you receive might compensate you for your:
- Emotional distress
- Hospitalization, prescriptions, rehab, and other medical expenses
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Lost future earnings
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring or permanent loss of limb
You might also recover punitive damages. This financial award punishes the defendant for their misconduct and is intended to deter similar behavior in the future. To be awarded punitive damages, you must show clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s recklessness, wanton or willful negligence, or conscious disregard for the rights of others.
Deadline to File a Lawsuit in New York
You can sue a third party for injuries in a scaffolding accident. However, you must adhere to a strict deadline. In New York, the statute of limitations allows a three-year timeframe to file a lawsuit. That means you have three years from the accident date to initiate your lawsuit against the owner, contractor, or their agent.
Injured in a Scaffolding Accident? Call Us Today
Finz & Finz, P.C. has over 35 years of experience representing injured workers in complex cases. We know how to hold individuals and companies liable for the harm they cause. You will be our top priority when you hire us and receive the personalized attention you deserve. We will fight hard to try to achieve the best possible result.
If you sustained injuries in a scaffolding accident due to someone else’s negligence, call us at 855-TOP-FIRM for a free consultation today.