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New York’s Scaffold Law Gains Media Attention Again

By Dansker & Aspromonte

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July 20, 2024

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Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State, is blaming the Scaffold Law for driving insurers away from New York and forcing them to keep insurance rates at the highest level in the country. He believes that under the law it’s too expensive to fix the aging roads, tunnels, bridges and pipelines which are in dire need of repairing.

The Scaffold Law and construction workers in New York

Under the Scaffold Law, courts make contractors and property owners, including public entities such as the Port Authority and the MTA, liable for claims that are filed by accident victims for injuries they have received in a gravity-related construction accident.  Elmendorf seems to believe that workers’ compensation is sufficient to cover the financial hardship of any worker who is injured in a scaffold-related workplace accident.

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The Scaffold Law has kept New York City construction accidents lower than in other states

Every year throughout the country according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics, almost 200 workers are killed in falls at construction sites. These statistics don’t include the number of life-changing injuries. A lot of construction work takes place high up in the air, particularly in New York City, where space is at a premium and expanding means going up not outwards. The New York Scaffold Law was enacted in 1885 and has helped to keep New York construction accidents to a minimum when compared to other states by demanding that workers be given the right protective gear depending on the work task they are engaged, in whether it’s erecting, repairing, altering or painting on a high rise building. Despite this sort of protection, falling from ladders or scaffolding is still one of the commonest causes for a construction site accident.

What causes accidents on scaffolding?

Often scaffolding is not erected properly, which causes it to collapse and a worker or workers fall from a great height leading to death or serious injury. Sometimes, there are defects in the scaffolding material which subsequently fails causes unexpected falls to take place. Unfortunately, construction companies aren’t always as careful as they should be in protecting their workers. Safety harnesses in good, workable condition should be made available and even safety nets to break a worker’s fall from a height.

Any equipment that is used has to be inspected every day for dangerous defects. Any failure to follow the protocols laid down in the New York Scaffold Law which leads to a worker being injured the blame may be led fairly and squarely on the employer or contractor’s shoulders.

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Construction companies attack Scaffold Law

In spite of the obvious safety benefits that the Scaffold Law has created for construction sites throughout New York the bigger construction companies and contractors over the years have made a number of attempts to overturn it. The reasons given are that it is no longer required and that construction works who undertake work related jobs hundreds of feet above the ground should take responsibility for their own safety and workers’ compensation covers workers’ injuries.

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Workers’ compensation versus a personal injury claim

If you are injured in a construction site accident whether it was your fault or not as long as your employer has workers’ compensation insurance you should be entitled to this financial safety net to cover for loss of earnings and medical treatment while you recover. However, if your injuries are serious disallowing you to return to work or normal life the amount provided under workers’ compensation is rarely sufficient to cover this unexpected hardship. If you know that your employer was negligent and did not fulfill safety guidelines as determined by the Scaffold Law you may be entitled to file a personal injury damages claim. If successful, this will enable you to have a far better quality of life that workers’ compensation could ever provide. The sorts of things that can be included in a claim are the cost of medical treatment, an amount for pain and suffering and punitive damages if the person or entity that caused your accident was grossly negligent.

If you sustained serious injuries on a construction site but are already receiving workers’ compensation, you may be asked to repay a percentage of these benefits before seeking a personal injury settlement. Our construction accident lawyers in Manhattan can review your case and determine which type of compensation makes the most sense for your situation.

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