Construction work is one of the most dangerous professions in New York City. As we detailed in our last blog, in New York City alone, 31 construction workers were killed on the job in the last two years. 29 of those deaths occurred on non-union work sites. This statistic bears out what we commonly see in our law practice: non-union workers risk their life and limb every time they step on a work site.
Though insurance carriers and contractors would like to refer to these injuries as “accidents,” most construction-related injuries are the direct result of a manager’s or company’s negligence. Safety violations were found at 90 percent of fatality sites inspected by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2015.
If you are a non-union worker or day laborer injured on a construction site, the following 6 steps will help ensure you are protected in getting the compensation you deserve:
1) Obtain Immediate Medical Attention
Though your employer should call 911, in our experience, attempts to “cover up” the injury by taking the wounded employee to a private physician or a hospital far from the worksite are common. Some employers have taken advantage of workers who cannot speak English by lying to the hospital staff about how the injury occurred. Make no mistake about it, the employers are doing this to avoid responsibility for their negligent actions. You can combat this by taking accountability for your own treatment. Phone a loved one, a friend, or an attorney who will give you advice and representation immediately.
2) Don’t Sign Away Your Rights
When an injury occurs, insurance companies and employers view the worker as a liability. They may pressure you to sign a quick and cheap settlement agreement – don’t fall for it. Many of our clients waited weeks before calling our office because their employer falsely claimed that their medical bills and lost wages would be covered. In truth, this offer was made precisely so that the injured worker would delay in obtaining the proper legal advice they needed to make an informed decision. In the wake of a workplace injury, we recommend consulting a lawyer before signing any paperwork.
3) Take Photographs
Take photographs of the scene of the incident and the equipment involved. These pictures will serve as a visual record of the scene as it was at the time of the accident. We have encountered many cases where the injury is denied or the facts of how the injury occurred are changed by the employer to avoid responsibility.
4) Take Notes of What You Remember
Memories grow hazy with time, so as soon as you are able, write down everything you remember about the incident. Include the names, addresses and contact information of any co-workers that witnessed the injury, as well as the person that hired you. Having access to a witness to what occurred is vitally important to your case.
5) File a Report with Your Employer and a Claim with the Worker’s Compensation Board.
Notify your supervisor and employer of the injury by sending them a written statement that details the incident as you remember it. Be as specific as you can with the facts of the injury and how it occurred. As always, be honest and if you are not certain of a matter, use phrases that express your level of confidence, such as “I think” and “I believe.”
If you are unable to work because of your injury, you are entitled to worker’s compensation. Worker’s compensation is a set amount of money that reimburses you for your injury expenses. To receive this compensation, you must file an Employee Claim Form with the Worker’s Compensation Board. If you fail to file your claim within two years of the injury or fail to notify your employer, you could lose your rights to worker’s compensation.
6) Speak with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Though you should apply for Worker’s Compensation, oftentimes the money you receive will not be enough to cover the cost of all the expenses you accrue. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may be able to obtain additional compensation. Speak with a law firm who has experience with construction-related personal injury law to see if you have a case. You should not need to pay any fee to speak with the lawyer; most personal injury lawyers handle cases on a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning that they are not paid unless they win a recovery on your case. If an attorney wants to charge you a fee for discussing your personal injury or worker’s compensation case, walk out.
Caesar and Napoli, P.C. is a law firm in New York City that is focused 100 percent on personal injury cases. We have won hundreds of millions of dollars for victims of scaffolding falls, ladder accidents, injuries from defective work equipment, third-party claims, union worker injury claims, falling objects and debris, and heavy equipment accidents. For a free consultation, call (888) 235-6766.
Bravo, Dominique “2 Years, 31 Dead Construction Workers. New York Can Do Better.” The New York Times. 16 January 2017.
Garner, Stephen “What To Do After A Construction Site Accident.” LinkedIn, 15 September 2015.
Kleeger, Hecht and P.C., Damashek “7 Steps To Take After A Construction Accident In New York.” Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., 12 Nov 2014.
“What To Do After A Construction/Worksite Accident.” Law Offices of Alan Levar.