On November 22, 2016, a 6,500 pound I-beam became loose as it was hoisted into place at a construction site in Briarwood, Queens. The I-beam fell four stories, killing a crane operator and a flag man. A link with more information about the accident can be found here. New York City has many laws and safety regulations which protect workers and other individuals at and near construction sites.
Despite such laws, those in the construction industry, often working within tight time and financial constraints, push the limits of those laws and of safe construction. This can often result in tragedy.
When choosing a law firm to represent someone killed during construction, the surviving members of the family must consider all aspects of the firm’s background, experience, ability to take the case to trial as well and most importantly the firm’s reputations among the defense and insurance industry.
Under the NY Labor Law Section 240, a worker is to be given the proper protection from any height related risk; either falling from a height or an object falling upon the worker. Subsection 1 of the section provides that all Owners and General Contractors will be absolutely liable for any height related injury or death if the worker was not afforded adequate safety devices. There are only two defenses to this type of case. 1. That the worker killed was advised to use different equipment and he failed to do so; this is known as the recalcitrant worker defense. 2. That he was the sole proximate cause of the accident. These defenses are often the method the insurance company’s for the construction contractor or owner will try to use but we can diffuse that by speaking with other co-workers, understanding the project so as to defeat the above argument and being prepared to challenge their witnesses at depositions and trial
When a fatality occurs at a job site, it is imperative that an inspection of the job site and the factors leading to the accident are done. The City of New York and OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazard Association) will often be called down to investigate. From the families perspective they are often without the recourse or time to make sure the investigation is done properly. Retaining counsel who can communicate with the appropriate agencies is critical and will help to ensure that material, photos, video are all preserved.
Leav & Steinberg, LLP was retained in the aftermath of the E. 51st Street Crane Accident in 2008. More information about that case and the work that Leav & Steinberg, LLP did in connection with it can be found here.