Construction sites are some of the most dangerous workplaces in the country. The dangers of these sites are especially visible in New York City, as this sprawling metropolis continues to grow with new building projects every day. Over the past couple of years, construction unions and activist groups have worked to raise awareness of the dangers of construction work and the fact that most construction injuries and deaths are preventable. But unfortunately, construction project managers, property owners, and others have failed to do all that they can to prevent accidents, injuries, and deaths on their job sites.
Recent Ceiling And Building Collapse Accidents On NYC Construction Sites
In one recent example, two construction workers were injured when a wall collapsed inside of a Queens recycling plant. In June, at least three construction workers were injured when crane materials caused a roof to collapse, trapping the workers under debris in the basement. A collapsing wall is an event that should never happen, as long as workers and management are following safety rules. So what options do construction workers have when they’re injured in a preventable ceiling or building collapse?
Like virtually all other workers in NYC, construction workers are entitled to financial compensation when a work-related injury impairs their ability to return to their jobs. But seeking compensation for a construction injury is more complicated, as you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit in addition to workers’ compensation.
What Are The Common Causes Of Collapsing Structures?
In an 18-year investigation of 96 collapsing structure accidents, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration found that 20% of the accidents were caused by design flaws by architects and structural engineers. In the remaining 80% of accidents, errors by construction workers were to blame. Some examples of construction errors which could lead to a structural collapse include:
- Disregarding instructions from architects and engineers
- Using cheap materials
- Inadequate lateral bracing
- Overloading walls and ceilings
- Use of recycled materials from other projects
If you were injured in a ceiling or wall collapse while working construction, the odds are that some form of negligence is to blame. These accidents don’t just happen on their own – in one way or another, they’re virtually always caused by human errors.
Do I Have A Case For A Lawsuit?
While you may not be permitted to sue your employer for a work injury, construction job sites are different than most other workplaces. In most cases, construction workers are sharing their job site with workers from other employment sources – including numerous independent contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and others. If you were injured in a structural collapse caused by a third party (someone with a different employer than you), then you’d likely have a strong case for a lawsuit against that party and/or their employer.
Workers’ compensation may prove financial support for your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages, but these benefits often fail to provide the full compensation injured construction workers need. A personal injury lawsuit can provide for both economic and noneconomic losses, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Lost wages and loss of earning potential
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages in cases of extreme negligence
If you arrive at a settlement or win a favorable court ruling in a lawsuit, the amount of award will be based on a combination of these damages.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
If your accident was caused by the negligence of anyone other than a co-worker or your employer, then you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Possible negligent third parties may include:
- Independent contractors – Independent contractors work for themselves, so they’re not protected from lawsuits under workers’ compensation. If an IC made a careless mistake that resulted in your accident, he or she could be held liable for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, perhaps an IC used a crane to place a heavy load of materials on the roof, which caused it to collapse and trap you in debris below.
- Other subcontractors – If you’re sharing your work site with another subcontractor and their employees, those parties could be held liable for causing a preventable accident.
- Architects and engineers – If the collapse occurred due to defective design or construction, the architects and engineers responsible for planning the structure could be held liable
- Property owners – Property owners in NYC all have a legal obligation to make sure their buildings are free of dangers which could hurt others. An example of property owner liability might be if you were working a renovation project for an older building and were injured when a wall or ceiling collapsed.
How Can A Lawyer Help?
In order to determine your best route to financial compensation, you’ll need to speak with an experienced Queens construction injury lawyer. Your lawyer can help investigate the details of your accident, determine who was at fault for causing it, gather evidence on your behalf, and build a successful case for a settlement or favorable court verdict. If you want to learn more about your legal options after being injured in a structural collapse while working in construction, just get in touch with us today for a free consultation.