New York’s Scaffold Law provides construction workers with significant legal protections. Specifically, it places absolute liability on owners and general contractors who fail to comply with the legally mandated safety requirements — and holds them responsible for any gravity-related injuries that arise as a result. While construction workers are generally limited to Workers’ Compensation for recovery, the Scaffold Law provides a mechanism for workers injured in a height-related accident to bring a lawsuit directly against the owner or general contractor.
When Does the Scaffold Law Apply?
Found in Section 240 of New York’s Labor Law, the Scaffold Law requires owners and contractors to provide the proper safety protection to carry out job duties conducted at heights. Depending upon the work that must be performed, safety protection can include scaffolding, hoists, ladders, slings, pulleys, ropes, hangers, stays, and more. In addition to providing workers with adequate safety devices, they must be placed properly and in good working condition. Workers should also have the appropriate training to know how to operate them.
The Scaffold Law applies to a wide variety of construction activities, including the following:
- Erection of a building or structure
- Repairs and alterations
- Painting and cleaning of a building
- Demolition activities
Not only does the Scaffold Law protect workers from physical falls in connection with the above activities — but it applies to all dangers associated with gravity. Injuries caused by falling objects can also result in violation of the statute if the object fell due to the owner or contractor’s failure to provide an adequate elevation device.
There are many different types of workers on a jobsite who may qualify for the protection of the Scaffold Law, including bricklayers, window washers, electricians, and carpenters. The law may apply as long as the construction work was one of the activities specified in the statute and takes place on a structure legally defined as a building. Critically, construction activities in connection with boats, bridges, garages, subway tunnels, and water towers are also covered by the statute.
What Does Absolute Liability Mean?
Due to New York’s Workers’ Compensation laws, an injured worker cannot sue their employer. Recovery is limited to Workers’ Compensation, unless a worker can show that a third-party’s negligence was responsible for the accident that caused their injury. While Workers’ Compensation benefits will cover medical expenses and a certain amount of a worker’s lost earnings, it does not provide for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. It is also rarely enough to cover the full extent of a victim’s economic losses.
One of the crucial benefits provided by the Scaffold Law is that it imposes absolute liability on an owner or contractor in cases where a right to recovery might otherwise be difficult to assert. Owners and contractors have a non-delegable duty under the statute — and it is not necessary for a victim to prove a third-party’s negligence to prevail in a personal injury action. Rather, liability is assumed if the injury is the proximate cause of a violation of the labor law.
If it can be demonstrated that an employer failed to comply with the requirements of the Scaffold Law, the only issue that must be determined at trial is the amount of damages to be awarded. Accordingly, whether a case falls under the statute is usually a highly contested matter. It’s vital to have a personal injury attorney by your side who has a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances of the Scaffold Law to ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Contact an Experienced New York City Personal Injury Attorney
The injuries caused by a height-related accident on a construction site can be devastating and life-changing. It’s essential to have the representation of an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the process of filing a lawsuit and obtain the monetary recovery to which you’re entitled. Due to our commitment and dedication to every case, at The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown, LLP, we regularly secure verdicts and settlements in the millions for our clients.
The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of accident victims to ensure they secure the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Located in Manhattan, our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.