Falls From Heights
Construction workers in New York must frequently work at heights — climbing ladders and standing on scaffolding. When a construction worker falls from a height, the outcome can involve catastrophic or even fatal injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found that falls are a leading cause of deaths among construction workers. If you fell due to dangerous work conditions in Syracuse, Rochester, or the surrounding areas, you may be able to recover compensation. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, our Syracuse construction accident attorneys can evaluate your situation and advise you on whether you may have a claim for damages.Injuries Caused by Falls From Heights
Employers should keep their construction sites safe and ensure that employees and others use appropriate equipment, such as protective gear. Workers must be adequately trained. New York has labor laws that give special protection to workers hurt in construction accidents, especially to workers injured because of falls. If you were hurt as a result of negligence or as a result of violations of New York Labor Law Sections 200, 240, or 241, you may be able to recover damages.
The strongest protection against injuries arising out of falls from heights is provided under Section 240. This law is also called the Scaffold Law, and under this law, a building owner, general contractor, project owner, or project manager can be held liable if a worker is injured in a fall from a height or an elevated platform, or by being hit by a falling object. Under this law, scaffolding or staging that is more than 20 feet from the ground must have a safety rail that meets certain requirements. The purpose of the law is to protect against accidents arising out of gravity. Generally, a property owner or construction company cannot defend against this type of claim by arguing that it has a history of safety in the past.
Liability under Section 240 rests on proving that there was a statutory violation that was the legal cause of the injuries from the fall. Assuming that you can prove this, your damages cannot be reduced by any negligence of your own in causing the fall.
However, the Scaffold Law does not apply to a single- or two-family home if the owner does not direct the work. For example, if a homeowner has a single-family home built, and you fall from scaffolding on the third floor, you cannot hold the owner liable for this unless the homeowner directed the work. This law applies to most other structures, such as commercial buildings, apartment houses, and homes involving three or more families. It also applies to people involved in erecting, demolishing, repairing, renovating, painting, cleaning, and pointing buildings, as well as erecting certain devices like hoists and ladders.
Another law that might apply after a fall from a height is New York Labor Law Section 200, which codifies and mirrors common-law negligence. It requires owners and contractors to use reasonable care in order to protect workers and visitors at a construction site from injuries. If you fall from a height as a result of a contractor or owner's failure to use reasonable care, you could invoke this law to recover compensation if Section 240 did not cover the situation. However, your own comparative negligence could be used to reduce your compensation. For example, if you chose not to use a flashlight provided to you and fell off the edge of a building in the dark, your damages might be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Less often used in cases involving falls from heights, Section 241 spells out specific acts that need to occur on a construction job site and certain equipment that should be furnished. It provides details about how a construction site is supposed to be built, equipped, and protected. For example, it states that when double floors are not used, the floor that is two stories below the story where work is being performed is to be planked over. If you fall from a height and are injured because this type of precaution was not taken, you may recover compensation under this law.
You can file a lawsuit under any of these code sections and also file a workers' compensation claim. The claims are not mutually exclusive and can move forward at the same time.Discuss Your Job Injury Case With a Syracuse Lawyer
If you suffer injuries due to a fall from a height, our attorneys may be able to help you recover damages. We represent injured people in communities such as Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Auburn, Elmira, Norwich, Cortland, Delhi, Herkimer, Watertown, Lowville, Oneida, Wampsville, Utica, Canandaigua, Oswego, Cooperstown, Ithaca, Lyons, and all of Upstate New York. Call us at 315-479-9000 or contact us via our online form for a free appointment with an injury lawyer.