Falls from a height and falling objects number among the more common types of construction accidents. They also bear the risk of very serious injury and even death.
New York State’s scaffolding laws, codified in Labor Law Section 240, aim to set up safeguards to protect construction workers from dangerous conditions that might lead to falls.
Violation may lead to liability in injury cases
The laws set forth requirements for fall protection procedure and equipment, weight-bearing capacity for scaffolds, placement of safety rails and openings and other specific instructions designed to make working on scaffolding safer. However, what makes New York’s protection unique is that the law imposes strict liability on a defendant who violated its provisions. Strict liability means that, unlike in most personal injury cases, a worker who gets injured under the purview of this law does not have to prove negligence.
Typically, an injured person pursuing a lawsuit must prove the defendant acted negligently and thus caused the injury. A typical defense in such cases is that the injured person caused their own injury. In construction cases, the defendant may accuse the worker of failing to follow procedure or otherwise acting carelessly.
No need to prove negligence
In a strict liability case under the scaffold law, the legal approach differs. If the law covered the type of construction project in question, the owner failed to follow the law’s safety requirements and a worker was injured in the kind of accident the law was designed to prevent, the law says the owner is liable.
The law thus eliminates arguments about whether one or both parties were negligent and whose negligence actually caused the injury. This is important due to practical considerations. The truth is that, while defendants in construction cases can be quick to point an accusatory finger at a worker’s carelessness, they themselves are often to blame for a work environment that encourages shortcuts.
You may have a better case than you think
If you or a loved one sustained a workplace accident, speaking with an experienced attorney can tell you more about your options. Do not make the mistake of assuming you do not have a case because you fear you may have contributed to the accident in some way.