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What is Needed to Prove Liability in Construction Site Accidents?


Construction sites are some of the most dangerous working environments. Due to the inherent hazards of the job, accidents causing severe injury can happen at any time — especially if proper safety measures are not implemented and followed. While a construction worker is not permitted to sue their employer for job-related injuries because of New York’s Workers’ Compensation laws, there is often a third party who should be held accountable in a personal injury action. However, it’s crucial to understand how liability works in these cases to ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Construction Accidents Based on Negligence

There are three main categories that construction accident lawsuits can fall under when it comes to liability. The first category concerns unsafe work conditions that lead to accidents. In such cases, the defendant — usually, a property owner, contractor, subcontractor, or another third party — may be held liable if they had the ability to control the construction site. Accidents arising from general negligence fall under Labor Law § 200.

In order to prevail in such a claim, an injured construction worker must demonstrate that the defendant in the suit was aware, or should have been aware, of the hazardous work condition but failed to remedy it. The dangerous condition must also have directly caused the injury. A third party may also be held liable in the event they caused the safety hazard that led to the injury.

Industrial Code Violations

New York Labor Law § 241 applies to industrial code violations. To bring a personal injury claim under this statute, a plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant had control over the worksite. Rather, it must be established that someone within the chain of construction knew or should have known about the violation. A plaintiff is also required to show that their injuries arose as a result of a work-related activity that falls under the statute, including one of the following:

  • Construction
  • Erection
  • Repair
  • Maintenance
  • Excavation
  • Demolition
  • Painting
  • Moving or painting of a building

Under this statute, owners and contractors are also mandated to arrange and guard equipment in a way that provides reasonable and adequate safety for workers and others who are lawfully on the site.

Labor Law § 240(1): The Worker Safety Statute

Also known as the “Scaffold Law,” New York Labor Law § 240(1) protects workers from height-related accidents and injuries. The statute not only covers falls from ladders and scaffolds, but also injuries caused by falling objects. Under this law, workers must be provided with adequate protective gear and well-maintained equipment to perform tasks above ground.

Critically, Labor Law § 240(1) imposes absolute liability on an owner or contractor who failed to take the necessary precautions. In the event a plaintiff can establish they weren’t provided with proper hoists, scaffolding, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, ropes, or other devices, it can be very difficult for a defendant to raise a defense in a personal injury action. The injured construction worker can only be found liable if the defendant can prove that the worker was the sole proximate cause of the accident, or they were recalcitrant.  

Contact an Experienced Construction Accident Attorney

If you’re a construction worker who was injured on the job, you might not only be entitled to Workers’ Compensation — but you may also be eligible to file a personal injury claim. It’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible who can advise you regarding your legal rights and remedies. The knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have more than three decades of experience helping injured workers obtain the monetary recovery they deserve for their injuries.   

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a consultation.