New York City Scaffolding Accident Lawyer
On November 2, 2022, a construction worker slipped and fell from scaffolding at a building site in downtown Brooklyn. He fell 35 stories and was rushed to the hospital, but he died of his injuries. The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident and found several safety violations, including one for not properly securing scaffolds.
Unfortunately, these types of accidents are far too common in New York City. On June 22, 2023, ABC News reported on another construction worker who was rescued after falling between two buildings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He fell some 30 feet. The fire department had to cut open a wall to pull him out of the gap. The Department of Buildings (DOB) later reported that he had fallen from a pipe scaffolding on the building’s third floor.
The 2022 safety report from the DOB shows that worker injuries on building construction work sites were up for the second year in a row, increasing by 9.7 percent compared to 2021. OSHA states that preventing scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths every year.
Falls from heights such as scaffolds, ladders, and rooftops are one of OSHA’s “Focus Four” construction hazards because they are a leading cause of injury and death in construction workers. The administration has this to say about scaffolding: “Scaffold incidents causing injury or death to workers is often the result of either the planking or support giving way, by the worker slipping, the absence of fall protection, or being struck by a falling object, These incidents can be avoided by compliance with OSHA standards.”
Yet many contractors fail to make sure that scaffolds are safe for workers. At Chaffin Luhana, our mission is to help restore victims injured on construction sites to wholeness in New York and New York City. When we take on your scaffolding accident case, we put our decades of national experience to work fighting for you to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.
What is a Scaffolding?
In building construction, a scaffold is a temporary platform that elevates and supports workers and materials during the construction, repair, or cleaning of a structure like a building or monument. It’s typically made from metal poles and wood planks and is supposed to be durable enough to hold the weight of construction workers and their equipment.
There are different types of scaffolding, depending on what workers are using it for. Each has its own qualities and benefits.
- Single scaffolding: This scaffolding stands parallel to a wall of a structure and uses vertical supports called standards. It’s most commonly used for brick masonry.
- Double scaffolding: Stronger than single scaffolding, double scaffolding has two rows. The first sits parallel to the wall, while the other sits away from the first row. Most commonly used for stone masonry.
- Cantilever scaffolding: More unsteady than other types, cantilever scaffolding is used when the ground is strong enough to support the standards and when the wall’s upper level is under construction.
- Suspended scaffolding: This type uses wires and chains to suspend the scaffolding from a structure’s roof. Used by painters and window cleaners.
- Trestle scaffolding: In trestle scaffolding, the platform sits on top of a ladder with wheels for maneuverability. Used by maintenance workers, warehouse workers, and painters.
- Steel scaffolding: Made of steel, this type is more durable, sturdier, and more fire-resistant than other types.
- Patented scaffolding: With this scaffolding, the platform sits on height-adjustable brackets. It’s also made of steel and comes equipped with special couplings that lock supports together.
- Wooden and bamboo scaffolding: These are more common in Asia. They are more flexible and eco-responsible than other types.
- Tube and clip scaffolding: Made of steel and easy to assemble, this type is popular as it is highly adaptable to irregular and oddly shaped structures.
- Kwikstage scaffolding: Made of galvanized steel, this scaffolding has a non-slip platform and double guard railing, which makes it safe for workers and equipment.
What are the Dangers of Scaffolding on Construction Sites?
Scaffolding is a common, useful, and efficient way to allow people to work at various heights. When built incorrectly or hastily, however, it can be dangerous. The most common dangers associated with work on scaffolds include the following.
- Defects: The scaffolding wasn’t built properly and has defects that could lead to falls.
- Falling objects: When workers are moving equipment and working with materials and tools overhead, there is a risk that some of those objects may fall and hit someone below. Employers should provide a cover for each level of scaffolding to help prevent these types of injuries.
- Ignoring safety standards: Companies that want to save money or hurry a project may skimp on adhering to safety standards.
- Inadequate training: Before allowing workers up on scaffolding, contractors and employers are required to train those workers on proper safety standards. Scaffold builders must also be trained to be sure they are keeping safety in mind when building the scaffolding.
- Weak planking: Weakened or inadequate scaffolding supports can increase the risk of falls.
- Poor construction: This is often the cause of worker injuries. Examples of poor construction include failing to install bracing or guardrails.
- Poor maintenance: It’s not just about building the scaffold—it must also be regularly inspected and maintained throughout the project.
What Are the Scaffolding Safety Requirements?
OSHA has official requirements for scaffolds and scaffold construction. These are detailed and extensive and include fall protection and falling object protection requirements.
- Employers must provide fall protection for each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level.
- Employers must include guardrail systems and personal fall arrest systems like harnesses.
- Employees and passersby must be protected from falling hand tools, debris, and other small objects. Employers must install screens, guardrail systems, debris nets, catch platforms, canopy structures, or barricades, and require workers to wear hard hats.
- The footing must be sound and rigid and capable of supporting at least four times the intended load.
- Scaffolds must be built, moved, and dismantled by properly trained workers under competent supervision.
- Any damaged or weakened component must be repaired or replaced immediately.
- A ladder, stairwell, or other safe means of access to the scaffold must be provided.
- The scaffolding must always rest at least 10 feet away from electrical power lines.
When to Hire a New York City Scaffolding Accident Lawyer
Employees who fall from scaffolding and are injured are eligible for benefits through their employer’s workers’ compensation plans. This insurance typically covers medical costs and lost wages for work-related injuries.
These insurance plans have limits, however. If you were severely injured, they may not be enough to cover your medical expenses. If you are a contractor or subcontractor, you may not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance unless you bought it yourself. If you were injured because of someone’s negligence, you may also be eligible for a third-party claim.
At Chaffin Luhana, we will investigate the incident to make sure the responsible party is held accountable. Below are seven reasons you may want to consult with a New York City scaffolding accident lawyer.
You’re Severely Injured
Construction scaffolding accidents can cause severe injuries including the following:
- Spinal injury
- Neck injury
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Loss of hearing and/or site
- Burns and disfigurement
These injuries can significantly impact your ability to work, maintain relationships, or go about your regular daily activities. Getting help from an experienced New York City scaffolding accident attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement Isn’t Enough
If you were an employee at the time of the accident, you would file a claim with your workers’ compensation insurance. The insurance company may then offer you a settlement. If that settlement will not cover your medical expenses or long-term care expenses, a NYC scaffolding accident attorney can help.
Most workers’ compensation policies come with limits—they can pay out only so much. This may not be a problem if your injury is minor or if the settlement will cover your medical expenses. But if you suffer a serious injury—such as one of those listed above—that limit may not go far enough to allow you to recover.
You’re Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Independent contractors may not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Since contractors do not work for an employer, they are not automatically covered unless they buy coverage themselves. That can leave an independent contractor or sole proprietor struggling after an accident. If someone was negligent in the scaffolding accident, pursuing a legal claim against that party can open up an avenue for recovery.
Someone Acted Negligently
A construction site often brings many different companies together to complete the job. One contractor may be responsible for building the scaffolding, whereas other contractors and workers will then use that scaffolding in the course of their jobs.
If the company or individuals in charge of that scaffolding didn’t adhere to appropriate safety standards when building it, and then someone was hurt, that person would likely have a negligence claim. The law can be complex, but a NYC scaffolding accident lawyer can help you navigate the process.
You Want to Avoid Costly Mistakes
After an injury, it’s difficult to manage medical appointments, therapies, surgeries (if necessary), and recovery. Trying to negotiate with an insurance company or file a legal claim at the same time is likely to be extremely challenging.
Hiring a New York City scaffolding accident lawyer solves this problem. You can focus on recovering and taking care of your family while your lawyer handles all the paperwork and accident investigation. This way, you avoid making costly mistakes and increase your odds of securing the compensation you need to try to put your life back together.
You Lost a Loved One to a Scaffolding Accident
Families are faced with the hardship of losing a member to a scaffolding accident way too often. This can create chaos in the home as members try to deal with their grief at the loss of their loved one while also scrambling to make up for the lost income.
Companies and contractors that fail to take the appropriate steps to keep workers safe may be found liable for wrongful death. A NYC lawyer can help uncover any negligence on the part of the construction company to help your family recover, at least materially, from the accident.
Choosing the Right New York City Scaffolding Accident Lawyer
An experienced scaffolding accident attorney will understand what you’re going through in the aftermath of getting hurt on a job site. Choosing the right one to represent you, though, can be challenging. Start with these tips.
A local scaffolding attorney with experience in New York law will be best suited to help you present a strong case. Someone familiar with city construction sites will have a better understanding of the unique dynamics involved than someone who is out of state. For these reasons and more, it’s best to limit your search to in-state or even in-city attorneys.
Check for Top Scaffolding Accident Attorneys Online
You can ask friends and family for recommendations, but it may be that no one in your inner circle knows an attorney who specializes in construction site accidents. Search for something like, “New York scaffolding accident attorney.” You can also use online directories like Justia.com, the New York State court system, and FindLaw.
As you’re reviewing various attorneys, check their individual websites, examining their biographies and services. Then look at other related sites to examine testimonials and reviews.
Laws designed to protect workers are complex and vary from state to state. Look for a lawyer with experience handling your type of case.
Trial Experience Is Important
Many scaffolding site accident cases and lawsuits are settled outside of court. That’s usually best for all parties involved, as it saves time and money. A side effect, however, is that a good percentage of lawyers have no court experience. That’s not good for you.
It’s best to choose someone who can take your case all the way to a judge and jury if necessary. An insurance company will respect an attorney willing to fight for their client’s rights and will often be more willing to negotiate in settlement talks. In cases of extreme injury, the parties are more open to negotiation if they know the attorney is ready and willing to advocate for you in court.
Schedule Initial Consultations with a Handful of Law Firms
Scaffolding accident attorneys typically work on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t charge you unless they help you win your case. Most also offer a free initial consultation in which you can meet with the lawyer to go over your case.
You can use these meetings to find out more about the law firm and to help you decide which one you want to hire. Feel free to set up more than one meeting—you can go to an initial consultation with three, five, or more attorneys and then compare to see which one you feel is best.
During these meetings, ask the lawyer about their verdicts and settlements. What sort of resources do they have to help you present a strong case? Who will be working on your case? How will the lawyer approach your case, specifically? How does the firm prefer to communicate (phone, text, email, etc.)? Take notes throughout the meeting.
Ask About Fees and Payments
As noted above, most scaffolding accident attorneys work on a contingency basis. Some may charge other fees, however, to cover things like expert witnesses, travel, and court filing costs. Ask about these upfront so you know what to expect.
Make Your Decision
After you’ve attended all your meetings, review your notes and make your decision. Then work with your attorney so that together, you can achieve your best outcome.
Why Choose Our New York Personal Injury Lawyers
Chaffin Luhana is a plaintiffs-only law firm. For over 13 years, we’ve focused solely on representing injured victims. During that time, our hard-working team has recovered over $1 billion for our clients.
Our Experience and Expertise
At Chaffin Luhana, we have an entire team of law professionals working for you. That includes highly experienced personal injury lawyers, an on-staff social worker, mass-tort managing experts, medical records specialists and nurse paralegals, former state and federal judicial law clerks, court-appointed leaders in the National Plaintiffs’ Bar, and more.
Our founders—Eric Chaffin and Roopal Luhana—have both achieved multimillion-dollar recoveries for our clients. Both have held leadership positions in large, multi-district litigation and have litigated several significant nationwide class actions.
With our combined expertise, we have achieved extraordinary results for our clients in pharmaceutical and medical device litigation, personal injury litigation, product liability litigation, and more in state and federal courts across the country.
Several of our lawyers, including both of our founders, have also been repeatedly named to the esteemed “Super Lawyers” list. This is a prestigious listing of outstanding attorneys selected each year by the Super Lawyers research staff. Through a multi-phase rating process, they select those attorneys best able to assist consumers.
Our mission at Chaffin Luhana is “Doing Good by Doing Right.” As part of that mission, we created the Chaffin Luhana Foundation, funded with a portion of the profits from the firm. To date, the foundation has donated to dozens of charities, advanced scientific research, worked to combat distracted driving, and awarded scholarships to promising youth.
Testimonials and Success Stories
Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:
$4 Million Recovery
“I was very pleased with the representation that I received for my case. I had a positive experience with this firm and I would recommend your firm to my family and friends.”
– Judy R. Product Liability Injury Client
Auto Personal Injury Recovery
“It’s a shame that the insurance companies put you through this…I’m glad there are people like you out there because the insurance companies would walk all over victims otherwise.”
– Mark S., Personal Injury Client
Automobile Accident Victim
“I didn’t know what to expect since I never needed an attorney before. You took care of everything and were there for me.”
– Vicky B., Personal Injury Client
Types of Scaffolding Accidents We Handle
Our experienced NYC lawyers handle all types of scaffolding accidents, including the following.
Falls, Slips, Trips
This is one of the most common reasons people get injured on scaffolds—they fall, slip, or trip. Falls remain the leading cause of work-related deaths in construction according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2019, they accounted for more than one-third of fatal accidents in the industry.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that in 2020, there were 351 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities. These deaths are preventable, according to the administration, which has worked to prevent fall-related deaths and injuries since 2012.
Employers and contractors must comply with safety standards to help prevent fall injuries on scaffolds. Using guardrails and personal arrest systems is part of that responsibility. Employers who take shortcuts in fall safety may be held liable for fall-related injuries and deaths.
This is another common cause of scaffold-related injuries. Someone working below a scaffold or on a lower level of the scaffold itself may be struck by an object falling from a level above, and suffer injuries.
Struck-by accidents caused 150 deaths and 14,000 nonfatal construction sector injuries in 2020, according to the CDC. A construction worker hoisting bricks in a bucket to the top of a building, for example, may lose control of that bucket. The bucket tilts, the bricks spill out, and one strikes a worker on the head. This can cause a serious head trauma injury that may even result in death.
Employers must protect workers from these hazards by making sure the appropriate control measures are in place.
Working on a scaffold can present electrocution hazards if the scaffold is not built correctly. OSHA requires that scaffolds be built at least 10 feet away from electrical power lines for this reason. Accidents can happen, though, if contractors don’t adhere to this requirement, or if workers are moving the scaffolding and come too close to electrical lines.
The CDC reports that between 2012 and 2016, 77 percent of contract worker electrocutions involved workers employed in the construction industry. They noted in an earlier report: “When scaffolds, conductive tools, and other materials contact overhead power lines, workers receive serious and often fatal injuries.”
There are two primary ways that working on scaffolding presents electrical safety hazards: a) workers on scaffolding making inadvertent electrical contact with overhead lines while holding conductive tools or materials, and b) workers who make accidental electrical contact while they erect or move scaffolding near overhead power lines.
If a company’s negligence led to your accident, you may be able to file a lawsuit to secure the compensation you need.
Flooring and Plank Collapses
In November 2017, ABC News reported that five people were hurt after scaffolding collapsed onto the street in lower Manhattan. Fire department officials noted that it was fortunate more people weren’t injured in the incident as it occurred in a busy neighborhood.
Scaffolding collapses can cause injuries from falls, objects falling or striking workers and nonworkers below, and crush-by incidents. Most scaffold collapses are entirely preventable if the scaffold is properly built and maintained.
New York law requires contractors and owners to take adequate safety measures to prevent scaffolding collapses and accidents that may cause injuries.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a NYC Scaffolding Site Accident?
Workers’ compensation typically covers medical expenses for construction employees who are hurt on the job. In some situations, however, third parties may be liable for damages. Potentially responsible parties include the following.
General Contractors and Construction Site Owners
Owners and general contractors are legally obligated to provide reasonable and adequate protection to all persons employed on the site. They must take the proper steps to ensure that the site is safe. That means if there are any potential dangers on the site, these entities must address those before allowing workers on the site.
Typically, a general contractor wins a bid to perform construction on a site. That contractor may then delegate some of the work to subcontractors. These subcontractors are responsible for making sure they provide a safe work environment.
Scaffold Builders or Supervisors
If the scaffold fails for some reason, it could be that the contractor or company that built it may be held liable. If they made a mistake, used defective materials, or failed to adhere to safety standards, an injured party may have a claim against them. A NYC scaffolding accident attorney will investigate the case thoroughly to determine if you may be eligible to file a lawsuit.
Types of Injuries Related to Scaffold Accidents
Workers who are hurt in scaffold-related accidents in New York City may suffer:
- Crush injuries
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Wrongful death
Frequently Asked Questions About New York City Scaffolding Accidents
What are the most common accidents on scaffolding?
When workers are injured because of scaffolding, it’s usually because the planking or support gave way, the worker slipped, there was no fall protection, or the worker was struck by a falling object. All of these incidents can be avoided if contractors and employers comply with OSHA standards.
What is the statute of limitations on scaffolding accidents in New York?
New York law allows three years from the date of a scaffolding accident to file a negligence claim. If the accident resulted in a fatality, related members of the family have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim.
Some exceptions apply. If a government agency or public entity was involved, a claim must be filed within 90 days and a lawsuit within one year and 90 days of the accident.
Can I recover compensation if I was partly at fault for the scaffolding accident?
New York’s comparative fault law says you can recover from a negligent defendant no matter how much of the accident was your fault. If you were 50 percent at fault, you can still recover 50 percent of your damages. If you were 80 percent at fault, you can still recover 20 percent.
What is the New York scaffolding law?
New York Labor Law Section 240 contains special provisions for workers injured while working on scaffolds, ladders, hoists, stays, slings, hangars, pulleys, irons, ropes, blocks, braces, or other similar devices. The law allows injured workers to sue a property owner or general contractor who violates this section. Employers must comply with all provisions of the law to avoid liability.
New York laws also allow workers to sue companies for their failure to provide reasonable and adequate protection on a construction site.
What types of compensation can I recover?
If you are filing a workers’ compensation claim, you are eligible for the following benefits:
- Coverage for medical expenses
- Coverage for physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Potential disability benefits if the injury left you disabled
- Death benefits for surviving family
When you file a lawsuit for a scaffolding accident injury, you may be able to recover any or all of the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages or loss of earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages (usually available only in extreme cases)
Can I still bring a claim if I’m receiving workers’ compensation?
If a third party was liable or shared liability in your accident injury, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against that party. Check with your NYC scaffolding accident lawyer for advice.
If I was injured at a scaffolding site but I’m not a worker, can I still file a lawsuit?
Yes. Even if you were not an employee or contracted worker on a construction site, you can still file a lawsuit if someone at the site was responsible for your accident. If you were walking by the construction site, for instance, and something fell from a scaffold and hit you in the head, causing an injury, you may be able to prove that the contractor on the site was liable for your injury.
How do I know who to sue for my scaffolding site injury?
Your NYC construction accident attorney can help you determine who may share in the liability for your scaffolding site accident. They will thoroughly investigate your case to see whether property owners, contractors, construction managers, equipment manufacturers, or others may have played a role in causing the accident. They will then work with you to gather evidence to support your assertions and help you obtain the compensation you need.
How does my NYC scaffolding accident site attorney investigate my case?
Once your lawyer takes on your case, the proper procedure for investigating that case includes the following steps:
- Obtaining the injured worker’s records including medical records, workers’ compensation files, union records, and employment records
- Obtain official reports such as OSHA investigations of the general contractor, police reports, contracts, and Department of Buildings records
- Inspecting job documents like safety memos, inspection records, work permits, daily logs, and equipment purchases and maintenance records
- Gathering witness statements
- Gathering and organizing photographs of the scene and any related video footage if available
- Insurance policies including all endorsements
An experienced New York attorney will leave no stone unturned when exploring avenues of recovery for you.
What Should I Do Immediately After a Scaffolding Accident in New York?
This depends on whether you are a worker or someone who was just passing by. Either way, call 911 if necessary. If you are able, inform your employer or supervisor of the injury. If you are covered by workers’ compensation, your employer will help you fill out the appropriate paperwork.
Next, even if you think you were not seriously injured, make sure you seek medical attention. Your employer may require you to see a certain physician that’s approved by the workers’ compensation insurance company. Either way, it’s important to get this medical report on your record in case your injuries get worse.
Finally, if you can, gather all the information you can at the site of the accident. Take pictures, get witness information, and make notes of what happened before you start to forget details. Then contact your NYC scaffolding accident attorney for advice.
How Long Will It Take to Settle My Case?
In New York, your scaffolding accident case may take anywhere from 4 months to five years to settle, depending on the type of accident, the complexity of the case, and the severity of your injuries.
Your Trusted NYC Scaffolding Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in a scaffolding site accident in New York City (or New York), contact us today for a free initial consultation. We would be happy to answer your questions and help you navigate the legal process so you can receive the compensation you deserve.
Call us today at (888) 480-1123.