FAQ – Construction Accidents
What if my doctor finds that I may return to work, but not in the construction field?
This occurs often. Following an appropriate course of treatment, your doctor may indicate you are able to return to some form of employment, but not the type of job you did at the time of the accident. In those situations, you may be eligible for job retraining through several private and state-run programs. We can assist you in that regard. In addition, we will incorporate into your case an analysis of your loss of income due to the fact that you will have to find a new type of career. This is often referred to as a wage differential claim. We retain the appropriate experts who will calculate the amount of wages and benefits you would have earned had you not been injured, and then compare those to what you could be expected to earn in a new type of position. The difference in those earning projections will be presented to the judge and/or jury.
How does Social Security Disability affect my case?
Social Security Disability is a program administered through the federal government. If your treating physicians find that you are totally and permanently disabled from engaging in gainful employment, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability. Also, you may be eligible for short-term disability if you were completely unable to engage in any form of employment for a short period. We have attorneys that handle Social Security Disability case and can assist you in your application. If you are a recipient of Social Security Disability benefits, you will not be required to reimburse Social Security Disability out of the proceeds of your lawsuit. However, the amount you have received from Social Security Disability in the past and the amount you are likely to receive in the future will be an offset from your damage award if your case proceeds to trial and a jury renders a verdict in your favor.
How does OSHA figure into my lawsuit?
Evidence of an OSHA violation will be very helpful to proving liability in your lawsuit. Many state work-site safety statutes are modeled on the OSHA code. For example, § 241(6) of the New York State Labor Law has many provisions similar to the OSHA standards that can form a basis for finding an owner or contractor responsible for the your injuries.
Who decides if I win my case?
A local jury of your peers will determine who prevails in your work-site safety statute lawsuit. With a Workers’ Compensation claim, you have no right to a jury trial and must abide by the decision of an Administrative Law Judge before the Workers’ Compensation Board. In your lawsuit, however, you have the right to have a jury determine whether there has been a violation of the work-site safety statutes and also have the jury determine what is the fair and appropriate amount of the damages you are entitled to as a result of the injuries you sustained.
Are there any time limits?
Yes. Each state has legislated its own time limits. These time limits are often referred to as “statutes of limitations.” Your individual state law will have to be reviewed for the correct statute of limitations. In New York, the statute of limitations is generally three years. That means that you have three years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit under §§ 200, 240(1) or 241(6) of the New York State Labor Law. If a claim is not brought within the applicable statute of limitations, it will be forever barred. It is important to realize that under certain circumstances the statute of limitations will be much shorter. For example, again in New York, where a municipality is the proper defendant, you might have as little as 90-days from the happening of the accident to file a claim. This often occurs in construction projects owned by town, county, city or state government. The lesson is that you should contact an attorney as soon as possible following your accident.
What type of damages may I recover in a lawsuit?
You are able to recover far more in a work-site safety lawsuit than in workers’ compensation. Remember, Workers’ Compensation generally will pay you your medical benefits and claim a portion of your past lost wages. The damages recoverable in a lawsuit are much broader. For example, we are able to recover for your past and future pain and suffering, past and future loss of enjoyment of life, past and future mental and emotional suffering, past and future medical expenses, and the full amount of your past and future lost wages.
Can I have both a Workers’ Compensation claim and a lawsuit?
Yes. In fact, that is usually the way it is done. Workers’ Compensation benefits will assist you while we prosecute your work-site safety lawsuit. The suit will generally take more time because we must prove that the owner or general contractor violated the statute that resulted in your injuries. This is a more in depth proceeding than a workers’ compensation claim, which generally automatically pays you with a minimal level of proof of being hurt on the job. In other words, in Workers’ Compensation you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent or violated any rule or regulation. In a lawsuit, however, you may not recover without such a finding.
How is this different from Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ Compensation statutes were enacted to provide a minimum level of protection for injured workers. All Workers’ Compensation statutes are based upon the same premise: A worker may not sue his employer, but he will automatically be entitled to payment of his medical bills and a portion of his lost wages. Remember, this ban on bringing a lawsuit against your employer applies no matter how negligent the employer ¾ or co-employee ¾ was in bringing about the injury. A claim under one of the above-referenced work-site safety statutes is separate and distinct from a workers’ compensation claim. The idea behind a claim under a work-site safety statute is that the injured worker may bring a claim against a responsible owner or contractor that has violated one of the provisions of the statute.
If I am injured at work, am I limited to a Workers’ Compensation claim?
Not always. In many instances your state law provides special protection for workers injured on construction sites. These are referred to as work-site safety statutes. Each state is different, but the general framework of these statutes allows for the injured worker to commence a lawsuit against a responsible party in an effort to obtain damages for the injuries sustained in the accident. For example, in New York, §§ 200, 240(1) and 241(6) of the New York State Labor Law provide special protection for construction workers injured on the job. Once we have a full understanding of the manner in which your injury occurred, we are then able to determine whether you can bring a claim under one of these statutes.