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Construction Accidents

The law firm of Maxwell Murphy follows a long tradition of representing construction workers and supporting the union building trades.

Construction work traditionally is a dangerous occupation due to the frequent presence of unsafe working conditions, practices and procedures.  In order to maintain a safe work environment, report any unsafe working conditions, practices or procedures to your superiors and safety steward.  Unfortunately, even when you work in a safe manner, others may not, and construction accidents will occasionally occur.  The following outlines and explains the rights and remedies available to the injured construction worker.

New York State Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation is provided for disability or death as a result of a work-related injury or disease, without regard to who may be at fault.

Rights and Responsibilities Under the Workers’ Compensation Act

Medical Care

You have the right to reasonable and proper medical care to cure or relieve the effects of rehabilitative injuries or diseases.  This includes medical, surgical, nursing and hospital services.  Also, you are entitled to be reimbursed for any reasonable transportation costs incurred in obtaining medical treatment.

Wage Loss Benefits

You have a right to weekly compensation benefits, which may be claimed as long as a disability and wage loss continue.  These compensation benefits may be paid at a total or partial disability rate depending upon the extent of your disability.

Prompt Payment

Prompt payment of benefits is required by law.  In cases not in dispute in which lost time from employment exceeds seven (7) days, the first payment is due within eighteen (18) days after disability begins or within ten (10) days after the employer receives notice of the injury, whichever is greater.

Prompt Reporting

Details of a work-related accident or disease must be reported as soon as possible to your union steward and union hall and to your employers, supervisors or other persons in charge.

Right to Hearing

If you feel that you are being denied rights provided by law, you are entitled to a hearing before an administrative law judge and you have a right to be represented by legal counsel at all hearings.

Vocational Rehabilitation

If you are unable to perform work for which you had previous training or experience, you are entitled to vocational rehabilitation including counseling, guidance, specialized job placement and short-term retraining.

Legal Protection

The law protects an injured worker who seeks to claim compensation for disability resulting from an on-the-job injury.  It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker who has a claim or aids another worker in a claim for compensation.

What to Do in the Event of an On-the-Job Injury

Step 1:  Medical Care

Obtain first aid or other necessary medical treatment as soon as possible.  You have a right to choose your own physician, podiatrist or chiropractor to treat you, provided that he or she is authorized by the Workers’ Compensation Board to treat the type of injury incurred.  Necessary treatment will be paid for directly by your employer, or your employer’s insurance company if the case is not disputed.  If the case is disputed, hearings will be held to determine, among other things, the responsibility for medical bills.

Step 2:  Union Representative

Contact your union steward and union hall as soon as possible.  They will be sure to protect your rights, as well as assist you in obtaining medical help, sickness and health benefits and legal advice.

Step 3:  Accident Report

After conferring with your union representative, you must notify your supervisor or foreman of the injury as soon as possible.  If you fail to inform your employer, in writing, within thirty (30) days after the date of the accident or within ninety (90) days after your disablement from an occupational disease or after you learn that such a disease may be due to the nature of your work, you may lose your right to Workers’ Compensation benefits.  Be careful in filing an accident report.  This report should clearly state how the accident happened and what unsafe conditions existed.  Also, this report should list each and every part of your body that was injured, even if you believe the injury to be slight.

Step 4:  Statements

You are required to complete a claim for Workers’ Compensation on Form C-3.  This Form C-3 should be provided to your employer and mailed to the nearest office of the Workers’ Compensation Board.  If this is not done within two (2) years from the date of the accident causing the injury, or from the date of disablement from an occupational disease, you may lose your right to benefits.  (If Form C-3 is not available from your union hall or employer, it may be obtained by writing to or calling the nearest office of the Workers’ Compensation Board, or by clicking on this link http://www.wcb.state.ny.us/content/main/forms/Forms_CLAIMANT.jsp.)  You are not required to and should not give a statement to any person representing an employer, contractor or their insurance representatives without first obtaining legal advice.  The simplest advice is:  never give a statement.  In the event that you choose to do so, it should only be done in the presence of your union representative or your attorney.  Once tape-recorded or signed, that statement can be used against you at a later date.  Therefore, a statement should not be given except after consultation with your union representative or attorney.

Step 5:  Keep Records

It is important that an injured worker keep accurate records of any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of an injury.  Also, dates and times of medical treatment or hospitalization, transportation costs and mileage, names of witnesses and a general outline of the ongoing disability, pain and suffering and change in lifestyle that have resulted from the injury are important to record.  This handbook and daily log can prove effective in meeting these needs.

Third-Party Legal Action:  An Additional Right

In 1885, the Legislature of the State of New York first saw fit to enact legislation to protect construction workers from bodily harm and to eradicate dangerous conditions from the worksite.  Through the efforts of organized labor, the first “construction site” laws were enacted in 1885 and have been continually amended and strengthened.  These laws now require construction site owners and general contractors to provide all workers on a site with a safe place in which to work.  A worker who is injured on a construction site may now institute a civil lawsuit against the site owner and general contractor and be entitled to recover full monetary damages from the site owner and general contractor in addition to the receipt of Workers’ Compensation coverage.  These civil damages are not limited or restricted in amount (as are Workers’ Compensation benefits) and may include monetary awards for pain and suffering, permanent injury, full loss of earnings and fringe benefits and any resulting changes in lifestyle due to disability.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Once an injury has occurred and after receiving medical attention and contacting your union representative, the question always arises:  “Do I need an attorney?”  You should always seek the advice of your union representative and/or an experienced labor law attorney before answering this question.  As outlined above, you need not settle for the limited benefits provided by the Workers’ Compensation system.  The Legislature of the State of New York has provided you with an additional comprehensive civil remedy under the New York State Labor Law to recover full damages for worksite injury.

Other Sources of Income

Disability

If your compensation claim is contested by the insurance carrier or if you are disabled by an off-the-job injury or illness, you may be eligible for disability benefits.  This system provides less money for more limited periods than the Workers’ Compensation system.

Social Security Disability Insurance

This is part of the Federal Social Security system.  You must have made payments through your job.  It is intended for people with long-term total disability or permanent disability.  To be eligible, if you are thirty-one (31) or older, you must have contributed to Social Security for at least ten (10) years.  The necessary time in this system is reduced for workers under thirty-one (31).  The disability requirements are very stringent.  You must be able to document that you are unable to work.  Benefits are based on your average earnings over a period of time.  If you then receive Workers’ Compensation benefits, your federal disability payments may be reduced.

Medicaid

Workers’ Compensation includes medical care costs, but the disability system does not.  If your bills are very high and your family income very low, you might be eligible for Medicaid, a state program for people unable to pay doctor bills.  Even if you are receiving medical care through the compensation system, your drop in earnings might make other members of your family eligible for Medicaid.  Check with your city or county Department of Social Services.

Food Stamps

If you and your family are trying to live on only your cash benefits, your income might be low enough to qualify you for food stamps.  This federal program is administered by local social services departments.

Union Benefits

Check with your local union to see if you are entitled to any union-related sickness and health and welfare benefits. 

If you or a loved one was injured in a fall down accident, don’t hesitate to contact the law firm of Maxwell Murphy at (716) 885-1300 or toll-free at (877)870.0997.  Of course, you can also call or text Dan Lukasik any time, day or night, on my cell phone at (716) 913-6309.