Whether you’re repairing, renovating, or simply performing routine maintenance in New York City, your construction industry job probably requires you to venture inside old buildings, structures that have been weathered by time, use, and the elements.
Many of these buildings are poorly-maintained; some were never built to code in the first place. And without necessary upkeep, the elements that make up a building lose their power to do what we wanted in the first place: protect us from harm.
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Every year, hundreds of tradesmen are severely injured when ceilings overhead suddenly collapse, raining down heavy debris with crushing force. Head trauma, along with serious back and neck injuries, is likely.
In June 2016, a Brooklyn subway ceiling began crumbling, endangering not only the workers who would be making repairs but thousands of commuters who would be in the path of falling concrete debris.
Were you injured in a ceiling collapse? You may be facing a long time away from work, rising medical costs, and psychological trauma, to say nothing of the burden your family will be forced to endure.
In New York State, injured workers are guaranteed minimal compensation after a workplace injury. And while workers comp benefits will provide money to cover your medical expenses and a fraction of lost wages, they are rarely enough.
After a serious accident, faced by debilitating injuries, workers are routinely failed by the workers' comp system.
The personal injury attorneys at Banville Law want to help. If your injuries were the result of another person’s negligence, you may be able to pursue truly adequate compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Without a thorough investigation, we can’t tell you whether or not you have a case, or how much your injuries may be worth in court. No good attorney can. But under any circumstances, a civil suit will allow you to seek far greater compensation than any insurance company will offer.
Beyond your total medical expenses, past and future, and all of the wages you have lost, personal injury lawsuits usually include damages like:
If you were totally or partially disabled in an accident, and can only work in a diminished capacity, the court may compensate you for the inability to earn as much as you used to.
Your workers' compensation insurance company will not consider the fact that you are in pain, that you may be suffering greatly or emotionally traumatized. But the courts will. Most successful civil lawsuits include significant damages meant to reimburse plaintiffs for their “pain and suffering.”
Beyond physical pain, your ability to enjoy life in the way you once did may be significantly diminished by a serious injury. If you’ve lost out on the hobbies and activities you used to love, a court may compensate you for that loss.
New York courts recognize that you are not the only person affected by a serious accident. Your spouse and dependents have been forced to brave significant hardships as well. In many cases, a victim’s family can be compensated for any loss of companionship, help around the house, even diminished sex life.
Meant to punish extremely negligent defendants, rather than compensate injured plaintiffs, punitive damages are awarded rarely but can reach extremely significant sums.
Whether or not you have a viable case depends on numerous factors. The severity of your injuries will be crucial, along with factors surrounding your accident. But the key to any personal injury lawsuit is negligence, a legal concept that involves the careless disregard for the safety of others that causes many accidents on the job.
Ceiling collapse is an example of “structural failure.” Ceilings give way because they have lost the ability to properly carry their load. While ceilings can collapse during construction, they most frequently fall in finished buildings. As a result, these accidents disproportionately affect the lives of repairmen, renovation teams, and maintenance people.
In some cases, a ceiling’s structural integrity has been weakened by environmental factors. Other causes include:
Property owners have a responsibility to both occupants and work crews: maintain your building properly, in a reasonably safe manner, to protect the lives of those inside. If they fail to do so, and others are injured, the victims have the right to pursue fair compensation in court.
If work is being completed in an apartment, the question of liability may become more complicated. Certain duties are the responsibility of a landlord or property owner, while others rest on a tenant’s shoulders.
In either case, the experienced construction accident lawyers at Banville Law will be able to untangle the facts from opinion and build a successful argument for compensation.
Ceiling collapses are more common in older structures, but most catastrophic accidents involve buildings still under construction. In these cases, it’s less likely (although not unheard of) that a property owner’s negligence caused the collapse. More likely, dangerous, careless actions are committed by workers themselves, along with parties who manage the job.
In most cases, architects are no longer the “masters” of a construction site. Decades ago, an architect would oversee every aspect of a building project, rejecting work they found unacceptable and stopping construction entirely when dissatisfied.
Within this framework, it was possible to hold architects accountable for a wide array of worker injuries, since they were “directing” the project. But that’s not really how it works anymore.
While every architect’s contract with a property owner will be unique, most contain language that releases the architect from any responsibility in relation to the techniques and methods used on the job site.
With that being said, New York State’s courts have routinely held architects and engineers to a rigorous “standard of care.”
In short, the people who design buildings are professionals, with advanced degrees, and should use every capability at their disposal to properly plan a construction project. This “standard” is established in court by asking what other, similarly-qualified professionals would have done in the same situation. How would the average architect have designed this building? Would they have specified the same materials, anticipated the same needs and stresses?
If an architect or engineer’s actions fell below the standard, and others were hurt due to that carelessness, the building’s designers may be held liable for injuries sustained in a ceiling collapse.
Between 1990 and 2008, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) investigated 96 incidents of structural failure that resulted in personal injury or death. In 20% of these tragic accidents, OSHA found design flaws to blame; structural engineers and architects were at the root of the problem.
But the remaining 80% were attributed to construction errors. In some of these cases, independent contractors had actively disregarded an architect’s instructions, purchasing inadequate materials to finish the job under budget.
Other accidents were caused by:
While New York State’s Workers Compensation law restricts your right to sue your employer, it says nothing about other teams on the job site. In a “third-party” construction accident lawsuit, you may be able to pursue a negligent contractor for fair and adequate compensation.
If you hope to secure fair and adequate compensation for your serious injuries, you’ll need an aggressive representative, a lawyer whose only goal is to see you succeed.
With decades of proven trial experience, the attorneys at Banville Law are committed to your full recovery. Many injury victims fear that retaining legal counsel will only add one more burden to a plate already filled with serious concerns. We don’t play that game. That’s why we work on a contingency-fee-basis: you owe us nothing until we win your case.
Ready to start considering your legal options? Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with the construction accident lawyers at Banville Law today. You’ll speak with an experienced attorney within 24 hours, and begin reviewing the best course of action for a prosperous future.
Check out our next article if you're interested in reading more about The Dangers Of Improper Ceiling Construction.