In Brooklyn, construction is currently underway repairing and replacing old sanitary sewers throughout Brooklyn Park. Soon construction will begin on the Kensico-City Tunnel, a water transportation route stretching from Westchester to the Bronx. And Governor Cuomo recently called for bold ideas to modernize New York City. One suggestion? Take over parts of the Bronx and expand La Guardia Airport.
After years of governmental hesitation, a period during which public construction spending plunged from over $2.2 billion in 2009 to just under $1.6 billion this year, public works projects seem to be ramping up again. New York’s leaders have expressed their commitment to improving our infrastructure, making it easier to travel, work, and live.
Injured On A Public Construction Project
Chances are, many of New York’s construction workers will soon be working for the government as federal contractors. You may be one of them. Your wages will be paid (indirectly through your employer) by the government and the benefits you receive, like insurance, may improve because you’re now working for the City or State of New York.
But public works projects are just as dangerous as private construction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3% of all fatal work injuries involve government contractors, most of them within the construction industry. Each year, many more are seriously injured, left facing costly medical procedures and lengthy periods of recovery.
So what happens to government contractors after they get injured? Are they limited to workers’ compensation claims or can you sue the government?
Is New York Subject To Sovereign Immunity?
Many states, cities and towns, along with the federal government, are protected by a doctrine called “sovereign immunity.” Sovereign immunity means that you can’t sue these governmental organizations for torts, claims of negligence that don’t necessarily involve any broken laws. Most construction accident cases fall within tort law, so you might think that New York City is safe from an injury lawsuit.
But it’s not. New York State has waived its sovereign immunity, which means injured construction workers have the right to hold a negligent governmental agency accountable. If you were injured due to hazardous conditions on government property, or the negligent actions of a governmental employee, you can sue.
What Do I Have To Do?
Private negligence lawsuits, those between two private individuals or companies, are governed by a three year statute of limitations. But claims against the City of New York must be filed within 90 days of your injury. In addition to that 90 day deadline, you’ll have to bring your case to court within 1 year and 90 days of your accident. Even one day late and you no longer have a case.
If you plan on filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the City or State of New York, the deadline is extended to two years after the fatal accident.
Contact An NYC Construction Accident Lawyer Immediately
Even though New York has waived sovereign immunity, it is still difficult for private citizens, even contractors, to file a lawsuit. We suggest contacting an experienced construction injury attorney as soon as possible.
Update – December 31, 2014
The Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects South Nyack and Tarrytown across the Hudson River, is finally being replaced. In the works since at least 1999, but continually stalled due to environmental concerns and governmental dysfunction, the massive project is now humming along, with a projected completion date in 2018. The new bridge was designed and is being built by Tappan Zee Constructors, a consortium of contractors who came in with the lowest bid of $3.9 billion.
On Tuesday, December 16th, 2014, the project hit a snag. Three floating silos, carrying raw materials for the production of concrete, collapsed during operation, placing numerous workers directly in harm’s way. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.
The project relies on two floating concrete plants, and while only one was directly involved in the accident, the other has been dry-docked to allow for thorough safety inspections. The investigation may be aided by the work of one contractor, West Nyack’s All Bright Electronic. The company was hired to install state-of-the-art surveillance cameras, which now stand watch over the bridge itself along with any staging areas where workers assemble parts. These precautions, while extremely expensive, should help monitor the site’s safety conditions and aid in any investigations should further accidents occur.