Building and scaffold collapses are among the most catastrophic accidents on construction sites. These types of accidents often lead to severe injuries, including disfigurement, crush injuries, spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, permanent disability — and, in some cases, fatality. Workers typically cannot sue their employer for the injuries they’ve suffered in a building or scaffold collapse accident due to New York’s Workers’ Compensation laws. However, they may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent third party on the construction site to recover their economic and non-economic damages.
Common Causes of Building and Scaffold Collapse Accidents
Over the course of a construction project, workers are required to work below ground level in order to dig the foundation of the building, run utility lines, and perform many other tasks. Unfortunately, when proper safety precautions are not taken, walls, beams, roofing, and other building parts can cave in on workers, leading to significant injuries. Although building collapses are sometimes unavoidable, they are usually the result of a third party’s negligence or carelessness.
Building collapse accidents can be caused by a wide variety of reasons, including the following:
- Poor building design by architects or engineers
- Use of defective building materials
- Demolition or construction errors
- Failure to follow construction regulations
- Code violations
- Failure to properly train workers
- Defective machinery and equipment
- Weak or defective beams
- Fire, water, or environmental damage
Not only do construction workers perform many tasks below ground — a substantial amount of work must be carried out at great heights. Like building collapses, scaffold collapse accidents are often due to a third party’s carelessness. For example, common causes of scaffold collapses include safety code violations, negligent manufacturing, unsafe scaffolding design, defective pulleys, malfunctioning brakes, and overloaded scaffolding. They can also be caused by lack of training, failure to provide protective gear, and lack of guardrails.
Liability for Building and Scaffold Collapse Accidents
Critically, regular inspections should be performed to identify defects in the structure of a building and the scaffolding. In addition, a building site should also be inspected daily to ensure that environmental conditions have not adversely impacted the work. Workers must also be provided with adequate safety gear and proper training. Failure to ensure a safe working environment can result in the responsible party incurring liability for any injuries that occur due to their negligence.
Even though Workers’ Compensation prevents a worker from suing their employer, a number of third parties are present on construction sites who may incur liability for a construction accident. For instance, a contractor, general contractor, or property owner may all be held accountable for failure to maintain a safe work site or any other negligent actions that caused a worker to sustain injuries. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, an engineer or architect might be legally responsible for an accident caused by a fault in the design of the building. If the accident was caused by defective machinery or equipment, a product manufacturer may be to blame.
Notably, a contractor or owner can be held strictly liable for New York Labor Law violations — such as failure to provide a worker with adequate safety gear under the “Scaffold Law.” In such cases, negligence does not need to be proven. Instead, a worker must only establish a Labor Law violation occurred to recover their damages.
Workers who demonstrate that a third party is responsible for their construction accident injuries may be entitled to monetary recovery beyond Worker’s Compensation benefits. Specifically, they may be eligible to receive compensation for their economic damages, including unreimbursed medical expenses, lost wages, future lost earnings, and out-of-pocket expenses. They may also recover for their non-economic damages — including the pain and suffering they experienced due to another’s negligence.
Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve suffered injuries in a building or scaffold collapse accident on a construction site, it’s crucial to have a skillful attorney by your side who can conduct a comprehensive investigation and ensure all responsible parties are held accountable. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has represented victims of construction accidents for over three decades and provides adept advocacy to secure the best possible outcome in each unique case. Contact us today for a consultation.