Construction Worker Falls
One of the most dangerous things about construction work is that it must often be done from heights. Because this elevated work is so dangerous, New York State has a special law, Labor Law section 240, which gives workers who fall from heights an easy-to-prove lawsuit claim against the owner of the worksite, the general contractor, other contractors and subcontractors, and others as well.
A typical construction worker fall occurs where the worker falls from a roof, falls off a ladder, falls off a scaffold, falls from a lift, falls from a bucket or hoist, falls into a hole or pit or trench, falls from an open window, falls into a basement, or falls from one floor to another through a hole or opening or unfinished area in a floor, or falls with scaffolding that collapses or fails. The worker does not need to fall far in order to qualify for a falling construction worker lawsuit. A fall of just a few inches can qualify. Unfortunately, most construction worker falls are from many feet up, and cause serious injuries or death.
New York Labor Law section 240, known as “the scaffold law”, is so protective of falling workers that in most cases it even allows such workers to recover fully their pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses when they themselves were largely at fault for falling. As long as the worker was not the ONLY cause of the fall, he can usually recover fully even if he was mostly to blame. And even where the falling worker himself made a mistake, most falls at construction sites happen at least in part because someone did not provide the worker with a safely placed ladder or scaffold, or did not insist on having the worker tied up by lanyards or other devices, or did not barricade areas where the worker could fall. When this happens, the owner of the worksite, as well as the general contractor and others, will generally be 100% liable to the injured worker, even if the worker could have done a better job protecting himself. New York State’s Labor Law section 240 provides this extraordinary protection to construction workers who are injured from working at elevations precisely because this work is so dangerous. In passing Labor Law section 240, New York State’s law makers wanted to make sure that the worksite owner, the general contractor, other contractors and subcontractors, and everyone involved in the construction site, did everything in their power to avoid these terrible construction accident falls.
New York State and Federal construction worker safety rules detail the safety mechanisms that are required for workers working from scaffolds or other heights. For example, employers are required to provide workers on suspended scaffolds with an arrest system to protect against the failure of the scaffold or its components. This system usually consists of a full body harness, rope grab, lanyard, vertical lifeline and an independent lifeline anchorage. The full body harness is a system designed to distribute the impact from a fall among the shoulders, thighs and buttocks. A correctly designed harness permits a worker to remain suspended after a fall without restriction of blood flow, which otherwise could cause internal injuries.
A lanyard, another device used to hold a worker up and prevent his fall, attaches a safety harness to a rope grab on a lifeline. Lanyards are supposed to be kept as short as possible so as to minimize fall distance so that he can never fall a distance of more than six feet. Rope grabs are equipped with a cam device that locks onto the lifeline.
Fallen construction workers often suffer extremely serious injuries, including broken feet, ankles, legs, arms, and other fractured bones, back injuries, including crushed or severed spinal cords, paralysis, quadriplegia, paraplegia or worse, death. These devastating injuries can require surgery, along with months, years or a lifetime of lost income, pain and suffering and medical expenses. The pain and suffering can be excruciating, and the loss of enjoyment of life heartbreaking.
The Syracuse, New York construction fall accident attorneys of Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in construction accidents and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a construction accident, contact us for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.