Construction sites are inherently risky places to work, and sometimes accidents occur – in many cases as a result of an act of negligence. When that’s the case, and a worker is killed, the victim’s close surviving family members are entitled to seek compensation.
The vast majority of work-related injuries and deaths occur in private industry. Of fatal accidents in private industry, around 20 percent are in construction, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) figures.
In New York City, that proportion is even higher, at 30 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
OSHA has found that the most common causes of death on construction sites are what it calls the “fatal four.” These include falls, struck by object, electrocution and caught/in-between.
Together these four scenarios accounted for 57.7 percent of construction-site fatalities in a single recent year. Eliminating these “fatal four” would save approximately 478 lives a year, OSHA says.
OSHA already has workplace regulations in place to protect construction workers. These include requiring fall protection for workers, systems for communication of hazards, scaffolding, respiratory protection, safe ladders and more. However, employers may ignore these requirements, which can lead to a tragic wrongful death.
Even if there was no negligence, the family of the worker who was killed is most likely entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. While these benefits may be helpful, they are often not enough to account for the loss of a breadwinner.
However, in some cases there may be potential for additional compensation through a wrongful death claim. In New York, the “Scaffold Law” (Labor Law 240) requires employers on building sites to ensure the safety of workers who work above the ground, as on scaffolding.
If a worker is injured or killed as a result of unsafe conditions above ground, the employer may be held legally responsible.
In addition, a worker’s family may be able to sue a third party who was responsible for the loved one’s death, whether that’s the manufacturer of faulty equipment, a subcontractor working on the same site, or the owner of the property, for example.
Keep in mind, though, that insurance adjusters may try to “lowball” a worker’s family by settling quickly. An experienced lawyer can help families pursue the full benefits they are entitled to from insurance companies.
New York’s workers’ compensation laws set out who may be entitled to recover death benefits when a construction worker is killed on the job.
Recipients of these benefits typically include the surviving spouse and children, if any. Other close relatives may claim the benefits if the deceased worker was not married and had no children.
Only the personal representative of the estate of a deceased person can bring a wrongful death action in the state of New York. The law allows the personal representative the right to sue for pecuniary (monetary) loss on behalf of certain family members.
The personal representative must be appointed by Surrogate’s Court. If you are a survivor of someone who died while working on a construction site and believe you may have a wrongful death claim beyond workers’ compensation, it is important to begin the process of probate so that a personal representative can be appointed.
In New York, in the case of wrongful death on a construction site, the bulk of the damages may be claimed by the victim’s spouse, and by any surviving children. If there are no children but there are surviving parents, the parents have a claim to damages. If the victim had neither a spouse nor children, the parents may be entitled to the entirety of the damages. Siblings may also recover damages in some cases, and shares may also be set aside for grandchildren.
The aftermath of a wrongful death is an awful time for the victim’s family members. Not only have they lost a loved one, but very often they also have to deal with insurance adjusters, employers and third parties who may attempt to deny them the compensation they are entitled to.
If you have lost a loved one due to negligence on a construction site, we at the law office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, will fight on your behalf to get seek compensation you deserve.
You don’t have to accept a settlement that is too low. Call our Long Island law firm or contact us online now. Our wrongful death lawyers offer a free case evaluation, and we can come to you.