New York Court Says a Worker Hurt While Cutting Down a Tree Was Permitted to Pursue His Construction Injury Case

When you are injured at your construction job, you may be concerned that you may not be permitted to use the legal system to seek compensation. Perhaps the job you were doing when you got hurt was not an actual construction task. Even if that is true, it is possible that the law will allow you to seek and obtain compensation, as some recent case rulings have shown. If you’ve been hurt at your construction job, regardless of the exact circumstances, reach out to a knowledgeable New York construction accident attorney who can help you assess your options.

One example of a worker who sued recently and succeeded was Miguel, an employee of a tree company. Miguel was hurt in 2012 in a workplace accident. During Hurricane Sandy, a tree had fallen onto some wires situated over a railroad line. Miguel’s job required him to use a power saw to cut the tree into pieces. While Miguel was cutting the tree trunk, the tension on the wires suddenly released, and that release threw the tree into the air. The tree broke in two and fell back to the ground, with one piece crashing into Miguel’s leg.

Miguel sued for his injuries. His lawsuit alleged that the railroad had violated Section 241(6) of the New York Labor Law. That statute provides that construction site owners and general contractors have a legal obligation “to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety” to all workers working in areas in which “construction, excavation or demolition work is being performed.”

The railroad attempted to avoid potential liability by making an argument that the worker could not win this type of lawsuit because the work that Miguel was doing was not “construction, excavation or demolition.” Essentially, the railroad’s argument was that cutting down a tree that had fallen across a line did not qualify, under the law, as construction work.

This argument did not succeed, and the courts instead allowed Miguel to proceed with his case. In New York, the range of activities that can qualify as “construction work” is a broad one. The state regulation that defines construction work says that it includes all work related to “construction, erection, alteration, repair, maintenance, painting or moving of buildings or other structures.” Miguel’s job – moving the fallen tree – was inherently related to the repair of the overhead wires. That meant that the law’s protections extended to the work he was doing, and he could proceed with his case.

Other workers have successfully achieved similar results when it comes to the classification of their workplace duties. In 2005, a different man named Miguel was injured while working on taking down a chain link fence when he was injured. His injury was a result of a fence pipe falling and striking him on the head. In that case, the court concluded in 2008 that Miguel was permitted to seek compensation because the taking down of an eight-foot-tall fence met the legal standard for the “demolition” of a “structure.”

These cases show that sometimes the range of injuries that can entitle you to compensation under the New York Labor Law may be broader than you might think. To find out the options you have regarding compensation for your construction injury, talk to the skilled New York City construction injury attorneys at Arcia & Associates. Our team has spent many years working to give injured workers effective representation and personalized attention.

Contact us at (718) 651-4363 to find out how we can help you.

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