Workers Injured on Construction Sites Have Protections

on May 13, 2014 by George Panagiotopoulos

New York’s labor law affirms the long-standing duty imposed on both property owners and general contractors to provide construction workers with a safe work site. To establish liability, an injured worker must show that the owner or general contractor supervised and controlled the work and the area where the alleged defect or dangerous condition arose from caused the injuries.  However, when an owner or general contractor created the hazard, or had actual and/or constructive notice of its existence on the construction site, the injured worker does not need to show supervision and control.  Indeed, New York’s well-known “scaffold law” states that contractors and property owners are responsible for ensuring that scaffolds, hoists and other devices that enable aboveground building construction and repair “shall be constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.”  When injuries result from a violation of those terms, the law says, contractors, owners and their agents are strictly liable, regardless of the injured party’s own comparative negligence or assumption of risk.

Most recently, this issue was addressed in the case of Kolb v. Lambert, an April 2014 decision.  In Kolb, the injured worker was a carpenter performing renovation work at the owner’s premises.  The worker tripped and fell over a 1″ to 1 1/4″ flooring differential at a six-foot wide entranceway that separated the kitchen and sunken living room. The Court held the case should proceed to trial since there were fact issues as to whether the owner had notice of the alleged hazard as it had existed for several days before the worker was injured.

The ultimate responsibility for safety practices is placed upon those who are in the best position to exercise ultimate control. Basically, an owner of the property is usually the person who has ultimate control over his or her property. Once an owner hires a contractor to perform work on the property, the contractor is charged with the responsibility for compliance with the Labor Law’s provisions.

george picBoth the owner and the general contractor are held responsible under the statutes for work site injuries. The duty imposed upon an owner is an absolute duty; while the duty can be contracted to another to perform, the owner will still remain liable to the worker for any injuries proximately caused by the violation of the Labor Laws.

For example, in one case, the worker was injured after cardboard caught fire and the worker ran for water in a nearby janitor’s closet and tripped and fell over debris on the floor. The court held there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the general contractor had either created the unsafe condition or had actual or constructive notice of the condition for purposes of liability. Depending on the circumstances, the labor laws can be very favorable for a worker injured at a worksite in New York and can help an injured worker recover an award that he or she ultimately deserves.  

At Slater, Tenaglia, Fritz & Hunt we take your injury seriously. We are aggressive in pursuing the full and fair compensation you deserve from the negligent party that caused your accident. To schedule your complimentary initial consultation, contact us by phone at (201) 820-6001 in New Jersey or (212) 692-0200 in New York. We can also be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and on the Internet. All personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not pay our fees unless we recover for you. Contact us today!