Construction work is especially important in Queens. The people who live here rely on the efforts of construction workers to expand and improve our city. These efforts are critical to our continued growth, and should be commended.
Construction workers not only do important work, they also do dangerous work, and unfortunately, often suffer injuries from it. After giving so much to the environment around them, shouldn’t they be treated well when injured? The state of New York recognizes their value and has actually put some special laws in place to help protect these individuals. If you are one of the dedicated workers we are describing, and you’ve suffered injuries, there is help available.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
In many states, employers are required to provide insurance for their employees, in case of injury. This insurance is called workers’ compensation. At times, this support is the only option. But depending on the details surrounding your injury, there are times where it proves in your best interest to deny workers’ compensation and further explore your legal options. The support you can receive from a lawsuit typically far exceeds the support you can attain through workers’ compensation alone.
One incredibly important detail to note is that if you accept workers’ compensation from your employer, you simultaneously give up all of your rights to take legal action against them. You may still be able to look into 3rd party lawsuits, but your options will be limited. If you have not yet accepted workers’ compensation from your place of employment, it can be greatly beneficial to evaluate all of your options before doing so.
Common Problems With Workers’ Compensation
- Do you deserve less support? Workers’ compensation typically only covers about 1/2-2/3 of a worker’s weekly paycheck. Generally, a lawsuit can provide much more substantial compensation and cover more than medical bills, like punitive damages, pain and suffering, and more.
- Can you afford to wait? Because workers’ compensation is run through a governmental agency, everything has to be carefully documented and approved. If you need medical procedures now and don’t have time to wait for approval, this can be incredibly frustrating.
- Have you suffered more than physical injuries? Workers’ compensation does not consider support for pain and suffering, although this may be very much deserved in your case.
- Have you been denied? Workers’ compensation claims aren’t always approved. Wondering what to do next?
Because employers provide workers’ compensation to their employees, an employee may not be entitled to sue. Generally, you cannot sue your employer. There are many things that occur on worksites, however, which can contribute to injury and therefore entitle you to sue a general contractor, 3rd party, or the property owner. The best way to know what options are available to you is to talk with an experienced scaffolding accident attorney. They will be able to explain your rights, and will likely begin by looking into the Scaffold Law.
What is New York’s Scaffolding Law?
Throughout the State of New York, there are special and unique provisions designed to specifically consider workers who were injured because of working at a height or working from differing heights. This can include workers who use:
- Hoists, ropes, and pulleys
- Braces, slings, stays
- Other devices used when working at different heights
Section 240 of New York’s Labor Laws, commonly called the Scaffolding Law, protects anyone working at a height and provides them special rights under the law. As soon as an individual is able to establish a workplace violation under this law, full liability for their injuries falls on the shoulders of the property owner or general contractor. Generally, this does not require proof of negligence. Even if there were no safety or OSHA violations that contributed to the injuries sustained, an employer could still be held liable.
There are several additional exceptions which entitle you to take legal action after sustaining a workplace injury as well, although New York’s Scaffold Law was specifically designed with construction workers in mind, and takes great consideration for how these individuals should be protected, both before and after an injury.
Other Exceptions Entitling You To Take Legal Action
If you feel that any of the following criteria apply to your scaffolding injury, you may also be entitled to legal action:
- You feel that your accident was intentionally caused by someone
- You feel that your accident occurred because of the negligence of a 3rd party
- You feel that your accident took place due to a defect in machinery, safety equipment, or product
- You feel that your accident happened because of a mistake made by someone other than your employer
Can I Be Fired For Taking Legal Action?
Many injured people refrain from looking into their legal rights for fear of being fired or experiencing some sort of retaliation. The U.S. Department of Labor developed The Fair Labor Standards Act to protect employees from several issues, including this one. If you are a victim of employer retaliation after filing a lawsuit, you are likely entitled to another, separate lawsuit.
Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), retaliation can include:
- Being fired or demoted
- Being unfairly and unnecessarily disciplined
- Being isolated from others
- Having your workers’ compensation claim interfered with
- Being threatened, either verbally or physically
You can find additional information on this topic through the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (or EEOC)
7 Common Injuries Sustained In Scaffold Accidents
Scaffolding accidents can cause a vast range of injuries, from minor to severe. Things that most commonly occur, however, when a worker falls off of scaffolding or is injured due to the structure, are:
- Broken bones, fractures, and dislocations
- Impalement or amputations due to sharp, falling objects
- Burns and electrocution, depending on the equipment being used or where an individual may land
- Excessive bleeding, either external or internal
- Trauma to the spine, neck, or skull
- Brain damage and bleeds
- Paralysis or death
Trauma To The Brain And What It Can Cause
Depending on how hard your skull has been hit, you may suffer from brain injuries. These injuries can range in seriousness but certainly provide a lot of stress, discomfort, and suffering. Many additionally require significant time off of work. Do you have a family to support? We firmly believe that time spent away from work to recover from an injury should not mean that your paychecks stop coming in.
- Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries – cause either brief or no loss of consciousness, confusion, and dizziness
- Moderate Traumatic Brain Injuries – cause loss of consciousness which can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours, as well as longer-term confusion (possibly lasting days or weeks), with the potential for behavioral, cognitive, and physical impairments that can last several months or become permanent.
- Severe Brain Injuries – cause changes within a person’s capacity to process thoughts, move, speak, or feel emotions, and increases their risk for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. If the damage is substantial enough, a severe brain injury can also cause complete neurological deficits and a long-term comatose condition or death.
Types Of Brain And Skull Injuries
A scaffolding accident that damages the brain or skull can result in brain damage ranging from mild to severe:
- Concussion – can range in severity and cause victims unconsciousness or death
- Contusion – a bruise on the brain due to a brain bleed, sometimes requiring surgery
- Coup-Contrecoup – severe contusions experienced on both sides of the brain
- Diffuse Axonal – the ripping of brain structures, causing brain damage (either temporarily or permanently,) a comatose condition, or death
- Penetration – an object penetrating the skull and entering the brain, causing serious brain damage, coma, or death
Resources For Emotional Support In Queens
After a traumatic injury, many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are suffering from symptoms connected with this disorder, it does not mean that you are weak or that anything is wrong with you. Experiencing at least some of the symptoms associated with PTSD after any major, life-changing event is considered very common and normal.
Frequently asked questions and additional information concerning PTSD can be found online at PsychCentral.
Psychology Today has many specialist profiles available online, as well as a full page dedicated to traumatic brain injury therapists in Queens County. Reaching out for emotional assistance can be just as important as reaching out for medical assistance for your physical injuries. It can help you to recover more quickly and thoroughly.
Getting The Help You Need And Deserve
The aftermath of any type of work accident can be overwhelming, confusing and stressful. When you are injured, the outside world commonly sees and addresses the physical injuries.
Your suffering, however, can include so much more than just physical pain. You may worry about returning to work, especially in the same capacity, and about the potential for other injuries. You may spend many sleepless nights wondering how to pay the bills, or if you will ever feel the same. Life changes, and you deserve support through all of those changes.