Manhattan, New York (NewYorkInjuryNews.com) — There are many helpful articles on this website addressing topics such as construction accidents and municipal liability. Here is an example of an actual lawsuit that crossed over into both areas. First, remember that if you are hurt and need to sue a public agency, typically, you must first file a “notice of claim” within 90 days of the accident.
Second, in the event of a construction accident, the compensation available to you may not always be limited to workers’ compensation benefits. In ordinary circumstances, if an accident is the fault of a co-worker, you cannot sue the employer, you are eligible only for workers’ compensation. However, New York State has special laws, known as Labor Laws, that allow a worker to sue contractors involved in a construction project, as well as the owner of the premises, even if the accident was, arguably, the fault of the worker’s employer. Responsibility to owners and general contractors is absolute in cases of height-related injuries.
“Johnny,” a 38 year-old construction laborer was performing demolition on a boiler in the basement of a New York City Housing Authority building, located in the Bronx. During his work, Johnny fell approximately 8 feet, landing directly on his coccyx and lumbar spine.
Johnny’s co-workers rushed him to Bronx Lebanon Hospital. Doctors determined that he suffered from hematuria (blood in his urine). Because he sustained no fractured bones, hospital personnel discharged Johnny from the emergency room. Five days later, Johnny still had severe pain in his lower back and spine. His hematuria continued. For these reasons, he returned to the hospital and sought additional treatment. Johnny then went to a physician who specialized in lower back injuries. This doctor diagnosed him with a permanent partial disability resulting from spine and nerve injuries. Johnny began physical therapy for the pain, strain, weakness, and sensory loss along the left side of his body.
As a result of the fall, Johnny was only capable of “light duty” or part time work a few days each week. It was very difficult for Johnny to get any work at all, since laborers who can only perform light duty work are not in high demand and the days that he did work were exhausting and often painful.
Johnny consulted with an attorney, and filed suit against the New York City Housing Authority, the owner of the property where he was injured, and the general contractor in charge of the demolition project. Because the Housing Authority is a public agency, Johnny’s lawyers were careful to file a Notice of Claim against it before bringing a lawsuit. Johnny did not sue his employer because he was prohibited from doing so under New York’s workers compensation laws.
At the trial, the defense attorneys contended that Johnny’s injuries were pre-existing, not of a permanent nature and that Johnny was a malinger who exaggerated his complaints of pain and level of disability. The trial attorney who represented Johnny presented expert medical testimony that demonstrated the severity of his injuries. Johnny’s lawyer argued that he deserved compensation for his on-the-job injuries, not senseless and insulting accusations. The jury agreed with Johnny, and, after a verdict came in, the defendants’ insurance companies decided to settle the case.
 Public agencies and governments typically have individualized rules and procedures for the filing of Notices of Claim, as well as pre-conditions for filing lawsuits against them. An attorney, who will review these rules and procedures, as well as decisions interpreting them, should always be consulted if you are considering suing a public agency or government.
Contributor – Nicholas Papain – New York Personal Injury Attorney and NYC Construction Accident Lawyer