New York City is known as the city that never sleeps. Although there’s no question as to how the city got its name, there is one other thing that it’s known for: Its buildings and famous skyline.
Since buildings are always going up and undergoing change, it’s not uncommon to find yourself walking beneath sidewalk shelters for scaffolds while you’re on your way to work.
Or maybe you work in construction, which means that you probably have found yourself using a scaffold more often than not.
No matter the reason, these platforms are an essential part of building in busy cities like New York City.
However, scaffold accidents are far too common. Although scaffolds are there to protect workers and bystanders during construction, accidents still happen. If you’ve been a victim of a scaffolding accident, then it’s time to take action right away, and this article can help you.
Scaffolding Accidents in New York City
Nearly 2.3 million construction workers use scaffolds every day. These temporary structures usually consist of wooden planks and metal poles that are used by workers while building, repairing, and cleaning. Scaffolds are an essential part of all construction projects as they provide a safe work platform for construction and maintenance workers.
Since scaffolding can be dangerous, all construction projects need to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). By OSHA standards, scaffolds and their shelters must meet specific requirements to be considered safe and legitimate for work.
An appropriately-built sidewalk shelter for scaffolding, which are commonly found throughout New York City
Some examples include:
- Fall protection or fall arrest systems 1926.451(g)(1): Each employee more than 10 feet above a lower level shall be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system, except those on single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds. 1926.451(g)(1)
- Inspections 1926.451 (f)(3): Before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity, a competent person must inspect the scaffold components for visible defects.
- Requirements for work on platforms cluttered with debris 1926.451 (f)(13): The standard prohibits work on platforms cluttered with debris.
- Footing and foundation requirements for supporting scaffolds 1926.451(c)(2)(i) and (ii): Supported scaffolds’ poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights must bear on base plates and mud sills, or other adequate firm foundation.
- Training 1926.454: Employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold on the hazards and the procedures to control the hazards.
What Are the Main Causes of Scaffolding Accidents?
Each year, scaffold accidents cause around 4,500 injuries, and nearly 72% of them can be attributed to one of these three causes:
- Planking or support giving way
- Accidental slips or trips
- Being struck by a falling object
More often than not, these accidents occur because the scaffolds were not constructed properly, the staff isn’t adequately trained, or simply by chance. But regardless how it happened, dealing with the aftermath of a major injury is challenging and remains an ongoing issue for workers and civilians all throughout New York City. Just in 2019, there were 2.8 non-fatal work-related injuries (per 100 workers) in the construction industry, which is a significant jump from the year before.
Types of Injuries Caused by Scaffold Accidents
Non-fatal work-related injuries happen every day, but they are especially prevalent in the construction industry. Scaffolds are built along buildings at varying heights, and without the proper protection, it can be easy for workers to slip and fall or drop an object from several hundred feet in the air.
Some of the most common injuries caused by scaffold accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Emotional trauma
These accidents will typically require missing more than one day of work, which can be detrimental to your medical bills and overall income. Learn more about what to do if you’re a victim of a scaffolding accident.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of a Scaffolding Accident
If you’ve been in a scaffold accident, then the first thing you should know is that you shouldn’t take this incident lightly. Here are your next steps immediately following the incident, whether you’re a civilian or an employee.
Step #1: Seek Medical Help Immediately
After you’ve been injured, one of the first things you should do is seek medical attention right away by your own physician. Even if you feel okay, there might be underlying conditions that you won’t notice for several weeks. Plus, if you wait too long, then your case loses its credibility and your injuries may worsen.
Waiting too long to go see your doctor is one of the biggest mistakes you can make for your case. Be sure that you keep all documentation like medical records, bills, prescriptions, insurance documents, and any notes from your doctor.
Seeing your own doctor is key. Many contractors have medical personnel on their payrolls on construction sites who will examine you after getting hurt. These “employees” will simply clear you to go back to work without providing the appropriate medical care. It is important you insist on seeing your own doctors after getting hurt in a scaffolding accident on a construction site.
Step #2: Document the Scene
After a personal injury incident like a scaffold accident, the first thing you should do is seek medical treatment. However, if possible, try to document the scene while you’re waiting to go to the hospital. If you can’t, then that’s okay, too. The police will survey the scene, interview witnesses, take photos, and make an official report so that your lawyer can use it to prove your injury.
Documenting the scene to some degree is essential because it proves that you were there on that given day and time, contacted the authorities, and ultimately provides a stable foundation if your case ever goes to trial.
Step #3: Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Although hiring a construction injury attorney may be the last thing on your mind as you recoup from your injury, there are many good reasons that you should take the time to do so.
If you’re an employee who was injured in a scaffolding accident, then your company likely already has experienced lawyers who are prepared for personal injury cases like this. Company lawyers don’t want to spend money, so they will do anything to belittle your injury and make it seem like it isn’t as bad as you claim. When you work with a lawyer, they are prepared to battle back and represent your case so that you get the best outcome possible, including adequate workers’ comp.
If you’re a civilian bystander and were injured while walking near a scaffolding structure, then you absolutely need a lawyer in your corner. Although many companies will settle so the case doesn’t get too severe, they’ll offer to settle low—often too low for what your injuries are worth. A good lawyer will advocate for your justice so that you get the compensation you deserve.
Step #4: File a Lawsuit
Work-related construction injuries like scaffolding accidents are a lot like personal injury cases. When your lawyer reviews your case, they will begin an investigation to learn more about your claim, medical records, bills, and any witness stories about what happened.
After an investigation has begun, yours and the company’s lawyer may begin negotiation. In this setting, negotiation is a type of discussion where two parties attempt to reach an agreement or settle a dispute. If an outcome can’t be agreed upon, then the case will be filed further.
In a lawsuit, your lawyer will work tirelessly to represent your injury as detailed as possible. The key here is to prove that you were physically and emotionally injured so that the company’s lawyer won’t lowball a settlement. This is an especially important tactic if a judge is present because the judge will decide the settlement amount based on the representation of your case.
Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
If you are an employee and were involved in a scaffolding accident, then the first thing you might wonder is: Am I eligible for workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a type of company insurance that provides wage replacement to injured employees if they were injured on the job. So, if you were injured at work in a scaffolding accident, you should be eligible to receive workers’ compensation as long as you meet the guidelines for determining impairment.
Although New York’s laws work in favor of the employee, it’s essential that you file the claim on time, receive medical treatment right away, and work with an experienced personal injury lawyer so that your employer can’t successfully dispute the claim.
Understanding New York’s Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a maximum amount of time for when you can file a claim for an injury. This time table varies in every state and depends on the type of injury endured.
For example, in New York, if you had a slip and fall accident, you have three years from the accident date to file a claim. This time limitation is even shorter if you are are bringing a claim against a municipality. If you are advocating for a loved one who experienced wrongful death caused by a scaffolding accident, you have two years from their death to file a claim.
If you don’t file within the correct time limits, then the court will discard your case, and you won’t be eligible for workers’ compensation. You can learn more about your case’s specific statute of limitations, but a personal injury lawyer can help you too.
Construction Injury Attorneys in New York City
In the city that never sleeps, construction accidents are becoming more and more common. However, with new buildings raised every day, scaffolds remain an integral part of any construction process.
The good news is that the experts at Schwartzapfel Lawyers have more than 35 years of experience and specialize in all-things personal injury law. If you’ve been involved in a scaffolding accident and need the best representation for your case, then contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today for a free quote.