A construction worker in his twenties has received the largest ever settlement obtained by a single plaintiff in Queens, NY.
The victim filed a construction injury lawsuit after he fell 20 feet off of a roof while on the job in 2008. On the day of his accident, he was asked to move from installing metal siding to a different job on the roof. Although he was wearing a safety harness at the time, he was unable to find a place to tie it off.
He suffered grievous injuries from his fall including fractured ribs, a fractured scapula, spinal fractures, several herniated discs, a closed-head injury, a lacerated spleen, and a renal hematoma. Complications from his closed-head injury have resulted in the degeneration of his brain tissue leading to the deterioration of his motor skills, memory issues, and other impaired cognitive functions. His doctors consider him disabled and have indicated that there is no way he can return to work.
His medical bills have reached over $60,000, and based on his prognosis, that number is expected to grow steadily.
The victim sued both the building owner and the general contractor, alleging that they failed to provide the proper safety equipment. By failing to provide a place where he would have tied off his safety harness, he alleged that they violated New York’s “Scaffolding Law.”
The defendant’s legal team argued that a third party controlled the work environment which meant that they were not liable. Additionally, they claimed that the injuries were not extensive enough to label the victim “permanently disabled” or keep him from returning to the workforce.
The plaintiff’s legal team responded by providing evidence to show otherwise – presenting his CAT-scans and MRI’s which detailed the extent of his injury. Additionally, they managed to bring in twenty witnesses, who all stated that the construction company, Hutch Realty Partners LLC, did not provide him with any of the correct safety devices.
The “Scaffolding Law”
According to New York Labor Law Section 240, there is strict liability placed upon the property owners, general contractors, and subcontractors when an employee falls from a height. Despite its name, the law applies to all falls, not just those from scaffolding.
Strict liability means that if the victim of the fall chooses to take the matter to court, the defendant will be required to show that they were not negligent. This is the opposite of most personal injury cases, which require the plaintiff to prove how the defendant was negligent.
New York law is unique but very important to construction workers. Falls on the job are one of the leading causes of serious injury in the construction industry. Many believe that the company’s workers’ compensation insurance will take care of the injured, until they find out that more than 50% of all worker’s comp claims are denied.
When the injured finds that their workers’ comp claim has been denied, they discover very quickly that extensive injuries equal expensive medical bills.
How Can Injured Construction Workers Recover?
The best way to regain full compensation for all of your medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain and suffering, and in some cases even emotional trauma may be through a personal injury lawsuit.
A Victorious Verdict
Like so many others, this victim decided his best chance for a brighter future was to pursue legal action. His decision was a wise one.
At the end of his trial, a six-person jury awarded the plaintiff $62 million dollars in damages. Court records indicated that $20 million was for past pain and suffering and that $42 million was for future pain and suffering. While money can’t help him to forget the trauma of the accident, it will help him move forward and heal.