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If you're only thinking workers' comp, you may be missing out

New York law requires contractors to take responsibility for workers' injuries on the job site. The law says that employers must carry workers' compensation insurance so that employees can obtain compensation for harm they experience. In exchange, employers are protected from lawsuits for personal injuries (unless the employer intentionally injured the employee or broke the law).

Most employers tell their employees about their workers' compensation benefits. They tell them about the employer's protection from lawsuits. But what they don't tell them is this: It may still be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit, even if you received workers' compensation benefits.

The law allows injured construction workers to file something called a "third party claim," a lawsuit against someone else other than the employer when that person is responsible for the injury. A third party can be someone like another subcontractor, a visitor to the construction site or even the manufacturer of defective construction equipment.

Personal injury lawsuits are complicated. Reeling from their injuries, many workers think only about workers' compensation and their employer's role in the accident. They fail to investigate exactly why the accident occurred and who was responsible. For example, falling debris may have caused an accident. But why did it fall? Was it dropped by a defective machine? Was it placed inappropriately by a subcontractor? The only way to know for sure is to talk with an attorney. A lawyer can help investigate the scene, considering all the facts and laws that may affect your case.

There are, of course, certain limits. One of the most important is a time limit called the "statute of limitations," which bars claims that are filed too long after the injury occurred or the illness was detected. The statute of limitations makes it important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you sustain a construction injury. If you wait too long, you may be missing out.

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