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Determining Liability in Construction Site Accidents

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Determining Liability in Construction Site Accidents

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Whether on a small project for an individual homeowner or for a major commercial development, construction workers must face some of the most dangerous working conditions faced by employees in any industry. As a result, serious work-related injuries at construction sites occur with unfortunate frequency. Regulations, specification, inspection requirements, and job safety programs all seek to prevent construction site accidents and promote safety awareness on the part of all parties involved in a construction project. Despite these efforts to deal with the challenge of construction site safety, accidents still occur and will undoubtedly continue to occur, due to nature of the work and the variety of hazards faced by construction workers.

Types of Construction Site Hazards

Some of the hazards faced by construction workers include falls from scaffolds and other elevations, being struck by moving or falling machinery, electrocution, health hazards resulting from exposure to dangerous chemicals, injuries caused by defective or unsafe equipment, and lifting and repetitive motion injuries.

Depending on the size and sophistication of the construction project, there can be a wide variety of individuals involved at a construction site, including the site's landowner, design and engineering professionals, contractors, construction managers, and equipment and material suppliers. While many construction projects are based on general contract relationships where a general contractor retained by the site owner enters into agreements with sub-contractors as needs require, larger projects are increasingly being handled by what are called construction management organizations.

The type of system in place at a construction site where an injury occurs will be an important consideration in assessing the potential liability of the individuals involved in the project, especially at to the site's owner's liability. Larger construction projects typically involve a great deal of delegation of both work and legal responsibility: from site owner to general contractor and general contractor to sub-contractor.

Who is Liable?

To determine who may be liable for injuries resulting from a construction accident, it will help to take a close look at the duties and legal responsibilities of individuals who may be involved in the construction project at issue:

• Construction site owner: Depending on the amount of control of the premises that he gives over to an independent contractor, the landowner may not be considered the legal possessor of the land for the duration of the construction project.

• General/sub-contractors: Both the general and sub-contractors must provide workers a construction site that is reasonably safe, and they have a legal duty to warn of any defects or hazards at the site as well as hazards inherent in the work being performed.

• Prime contractors: Prime contractors share similarities with general and sub-contractors, depending on the specific construction project at issue. Unlike a general contractor, a prime contractor is responsible for only the work that is identified in his prime contact. A prime contractor is also responsible for any work the he chooses to delegate to sub-contractors and has exclusive responsibility over those sub-contractors.

• Architects/Engineers: These parties can be charged with differing amounts of responsibility for a construction project, and sometimes the best way to determine the extent of the responsibility is to look to the design professional's contract with the site owner.

• Manufacturers of Machinery and Equipment: Manufacturers of defective construction machinery or equipment can be held liable for the design and manufacturing of that equipment.

• Insurers: The insurance coverage of each party involved in a construction project and the extent of that coverage are important issues when assessing legal responsibility for a construction injury.

If you have been injured as a result of an construction site accident, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your legal rights including:

• Report the injury to your employer and/or construction site manager and note the name and position of the person you notified.

• Get the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the accident.

• If possible, try to preserve any evidence related to your injury by taking photographs of area where you were injured (and the injuries) and keep, if you can, the equipment or tool involved in your injury.

• Get medical attention for your injuries.

After all this, you should find an attorney with expertise in construction site accidents and the injuries associated with them.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a construction site accident in the New York area, please contact the experienced construction site accident attorneys at Silberstein, Awad & Miklos.

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