| Read Time: 4 minutes | Personal Injury

Key Takeaway: In New York City, property owners and general contractors can be held liable for scaffolding accidents under the state’s strict scaffold law, even without proving negligence. Victims must act swiftly, with a three-year statute of limitations for lawsuits and two years for workers’ compensation claims, and seek experienced legal representation to navigate the complexities and maximize compensation.

Who Is at Fault in a New York City Scaffolding Accident?

New York City is known for tall buildings and an abundance of scaffolding attached to them while they are being built or maintained. With so much material hanging over pedestrian heads and so many people working multiple stories off the ground, there are bound to be accidents. But that does not mean you should be responsible for damages caused by scaffolding accidents. 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), scaffold-related accidents result in roughly 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries every year. Falls from scaffolds account for about 25% of fatal falls from all working surfaces. If you were injured in a New York City scaffolding accident, it is important to understand your rights and whether you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Reach out today or call (212-256-9255) to speak with a personal injury lawyer.

Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 52 fatal falls to lower levels from scaffolding in 2020. There are a number of ways that scaffolding accidents can occur. Injuries may be more or less severe depending on the height of the scaffolding, the density of the materials or surface underneath, and factors related to falling objects or people. 

The BLS also found that 72% of scaffolding accidents can be attributed to one of the three following causes

  • The impact from falling objects hitting a worker on the scaffold or people below,
  • Improper assembly of the scaffold or defective equipment causing scaffold support or planking to give way, and 
  • Workers on scaffolding slipping or tripping due to slippery surfaces or lack of guardrails. 

The remaining 28% of scaffolding accidents are generally caused by four major issues:

  • Environmental conditions such as inclement weather or the presence of hazardous substances on the scaffolding,
  • Electrocution due to equipment mistakenly placed in close proximity to live utility or power lines, 
  • Scaffolding that is overloaded with weight, and 
  • Inadequate fall protection for workers. 

There are other ways that scaffolding accidents may occur. These are just the most common causes. If your New York City scaffolding accident does not fit into any of these categories, you may still have a case. Contact us to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. 

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New York Scaffold Law

You are probably wondering who is legally responsible for a scaffolding accident in NYC. Because high-rise construction is so prevalent in New York City, both historically and in the current day, the state legislature passed a law in 1885 establishing rules for who can be held liable when a worker is injured in a scaffolding-related accident. 

According to Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor Law, if scaffolding fails to provide proper protection, the owner of the property and the general contractor of the construction project are liable for a worker’s injuries. The scaffold law establishes a number of provisions to protect workers, including the following:

  • Scaffolding situated 20 feet or more above the ground or floor must be equipped with a safety railing that is at least 34 inches high;
  • The safety rail must enclose the full length of the scaffold and both ends;
  • The railing must be securely fastened to the scaffold to prevent the scaffold from swaying; and 
  • The scaffolding must be capable of holding four times its maximum weight.

This type of claim is considered a third-party claim which can be filed in addition to a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. New York is the only state that applies strict liability to this type of case. Strict liability means you do not have to prove the defendant was negligent to recover compensation. 

The New York scaffold law applies to owners and contractors in all types of construction projects, with the exception of “owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work.” 

Other New York City Scaffolding Accident Liability

The scaffold law is intended to benefit workers who fall from scaffolding. Other cases, such as electrocution or injuries caused by falling objects, may require a workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit depending on the unique circumstances of your case. When someone is injured in a scaffolding accident, there are several potentially liable parties, including the contractor, scaffolding material provider, business owner, construction worker, or another party. An experienced attorney can investigate your accident to determine who might be liable for your injuries and explain your legal options. 

Determining Fault

An experienced New York personal injury attorney can help you determine who is legally responsible for a scaffolding accident in NYC and how much your case may be worth. Make sure to keep all documentation related to your injury. This includes any reports from law enforcement or medical doctors. Any photographic evidence and witness testimony may also help your attorney determine what caused the accident and who should be held responsible. If you don’t know how to get that information, don’t worry. An attorney can help you gather evidence and talk to witnesses to build your case. Get in touch with one today!

Statute of Limitations

Under New York law, you have three years from the date the accident occurred or injury was made known to file a lawsuit. You also have three years to assert a claim under the New York scaffold law. Workers’ compensation claims have a shorter window and must be filed within two years of the injury. 

Though this may seem like a significant amount of time, evidence will become more difficult to obtain as time goes on. You will also be responsible for paying any medical expenses out-of-pocket until you successfully recover compensation. Contacting an attorney immediately after an accident will help you meet filing deadlines and can help you receive the compensation you need sooner.

Choosing a New York City Scaffolding Accident Attorney

Scaffold law in New York is unlike that of other states. That’s why it’s important to choose an attorney who is familiar with the nuances of the New York legal system. At Glugeth & Pierguidi, P.C., we focus exclusively on personal injury cases like yours. We are experienced in construction law and workers’ compensation which means we understand your rights and know how to help you receive maximum compensation for your injuries. We have more than 30 years of combined experience and have recovered over $100 million in settlements and verdicts for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

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David Pierguidi and Jared Glugeth understand how hard it may be for you and your family following an accident resulting from someone’s negligent actions. Get the medical treatment you need right away and then call our law firm at any time of day for answers to your questions.

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