Being injured on a construction site can change your life in an instant, particularly given the risks inherent in work on such a site. One moment you are working and making the money you need to pay your bills. The next, you are out of work and facing unexpected medical expenses that you cannot afford to pay.
The aftermath of a construction accident can be extremely challenging. In order to ease the difficulties you are facing, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney about asserting your legal rights.
In many cases, injured construction workers will be entitled to recover financial compensation for the costs they incur as a result of their job-related injuries. If you were injured on the job, the compensation you can recover will depend on the type of claim (or types of claims) you can file, and can include workers’ compensation benefits and, potentially, a personal injury lawsuit.
Are Construction Workers Eligible for Workers’ Compensation in New York?
Many injured construction workers in New York are eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Construction companies, builders, subcontractors, and other employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance under New York law. This insurance provides coverage for employees who get hurt on the job.
While New York’s workers’ compensation system is complex, there are two key aspects of the law that construction workers should know.
1. Workers’ Comp Is a ‘No-Fault’ System
The first is that the law provides “no fault” compensation for construction site injuries. If you got hurt at work and you are covered under your employer’s workers’ compensation policy, then you are entitled to benefits regardless of who (if anyone) is to blame for your injury. There are a few exceptions (for example, if you were drinking on the job or you hurt yourself intentionally), but these do not apply in most cases.
2. Benefits Are Limited Under Workers’ Comp
Second, in exchange for providing “no fault” coverage, New York’s workers’ compensation law limits the benefits that are available to injured workers. Generally speaking, in New York, workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for the following costs:
- Two-thirds of an injured worker’s wages or salary (“cash benefits”); and,
- Necessary medical care directly related to the job-related injury (“medical benefits”).
Cash benefits are only paid to employees who are unable to work for seven days or longer. As explained by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board: “Cash benefits are not paid for the first seven days of the disability, unless it extends beyond fourteen days. In that case, the worker may receive cash benefits from the first work day off the job.” Medical benefits are available regardless of how long an employee is off of the job.
Can You File a Personal Injury Claim for a Construction Site Accident?
In some cases, construction workers may be able to file third-party personal injury claims to recover for their accident-related losses, in the event someone other than their employer is at fault for the accident. However, unlike workers’ compensation claims, personal injury claims require proof of liability, or fault, for the accident.
Proof of liability can take many different forms, including proof that the accident was caused by:
- Inadequate access to safety equipment
- Unsafe ladders or scaffolding
- Property-related hazards
- Defective tools, machinery, or materials
- Co-worker or subcontractor negligence
- Hiring inexperienced or unskilled workers
If you are eligible to file for workers’ compensation, then you are most likely ineligible to file a personal injury claim against your employer. But, you may still be able to file a claim against the property owner, a subcontractor or supplier, a product manufacturer, or any of a long list of other companies that could potentially be liable for your injury-related losses.
In personal injury cases, injured construction workers can recover full compensation for all of their injury-related losses. This includes:
- Full compensation for lost wages and lost future earning capacity
- Medical expenses and prescription costs
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional trauma
- All other financial and non-financial losses
The opportunity to recover full compensation is a critical distinction from workers’ compensation claims. As a result, it is imperative to speak with a lawyer before you file for workers’ compensation benefits.
Can You File for Social Security Benefits After a Construction Site Accident?
Eligible construction workers can also file claims with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Depending on your personal circumstances, you could be eligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSD), supplemental security income (SSI), or Social Security retirement benefits.
However, filing a Social Security claim can impact your right to workers’ compensation (and vice versa). Before filing for benefits, you will want to be sure to discuss all of your options with an experienced attorney.
Speak with a New York Construction Accident Attorney for Free
If you have questions about your legal rights after suffering a serious injury on a construction site in New York, we invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at Lever & Ecker, PLLC. To speak with one of our experienced New York construction accident attorneys in confidence, call (914) 288-9191 or complete the form on our website today.