Fatalities Caused by Construction Accidents
When construction projects begin there is a excitement, enthusiasm a feeling that something wonderful will be built and remain for years to come. The real estate industry of New York is building buildings faster than ever. Take a look at the NYC skyline and you see construction crane's lining the sky. Ride the subway and you see residential real estate offers on "soon to be" or "newly constructed" buildings going up all the time.
However, the desire to put profits over safety is an ongoing struggle that owners, general contractors and sub-contractors have to balance. Luckily New York has many laws that have been passed which protect workers from falling into such a trap.
Even with such laws, those in the construction industry are often pushing construction, design, and efficiency. When this occurs, tragedy and injury; often resulting in death can and does occur.
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
As construction in New York City often involves building skyscrapers or demolishing old buildings in place of new ones, the risk of height related accidents resulting in death are significant and all too common.
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. In this tragedy, a building was being erected. The crane being used to build the floors was inadequately maintained. Furthermore in an effort to quickly put the building up, the Crane was secured for into the ground on top of a Con Ed Power Box rather than into the earth. The crane arm snapped and flipped over the block crushing the building and other properties nearby. We were able to coordinate with City and Governmental officials to make sure that the components of the crane were preserved and stored at a Pier on the lower east side of Manhattan. This allowed our firm to investigate, test, inspect the equipment and determine with expert analysis that the crane appeared to be inadequately maintained and serviced in the months leading up to the tragedy.
But proving damages in a fatality have limits in New York as well. We had to coordinate with the medical examiner to make sure we were able to photograph the body of our client, preserve and test sample tissues so as to prove through scientific evidence that the individual victim had unfortunately suffered a period of conscious pain and suffering. But our job and determination didn't end there. Our client, a wonderful single young woman, an only child of parents who lived in Cuba had often sent them money to help support them. In order to prove this we had to speak with family members and friends in Miami (where she lived prior to coming up for the St. Patrick's Day weekend) and find out which western union offices or other means of sending funds had she used.
With effort, investigation and determination we were able to prove that the financial support had been something that the parents relied upon and had received. We even had testimony of friends who travelled there to bring the family cash when our client was not able to send it.
Lastly, the firm needed to be there for our client (the parents) as well as their extended family during this very difficult period. Explaining the laws that New York has in place is challenging but even more difficult when trying to balance that with helping a family cope with the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. We communicated daily with the family and was always available each step of the way. With all fatalities, it is important to be able to understand the decedent; what they enjoyed, how they spent their day; what support they provided for loved ones and family members.
The result of this hard work and dedication as with all our matters, was that during the litigation of this construction fatality the attorneys and support staff at Leav & Steinberg were able to obtain the financial justice within the bounds of the law.