Accident and Injury Frequently Asked Questions

Many accident victims are overwhelmed by their injuries, and the thought of a legal case can seem daunting. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, our legal team understands these feelings, and we’ve compiled our thoughts on many common worries here to help you get started finding the answers you need to protect yourself and your family. If you’ve been hurt in a construction, maritime, or railroad accident, browse our FAQs today.

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  • What is maximum medical improvement?

    While the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) provide wage loss and medical benefits to injured workers, these payments do not last Maximum Medical Improvement and Your Maritime Injury forever. In most cases, benefits are terminated when the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI), the point where the injury has stabilized and is no longer expected to improve regardless of further treatment.

    It is important to note that reaching maximum medical improvement does not necessarily mean that you have recovered from the accident. In fact, for many workers, there is a big difference between recovery and MMI. For example, a person may be considered to have reached MMI if he:

    • Is fully recovered and able to return to work
    • Is disabled
    • Will benefit from palliative treatment only (such as pain management or hospice care)

    How Maximum Medical Improvement Affects Your Maritime Injury Claim

    When a seaman or dockworker is declared to have reached a point of maximum medical improvement, the employer can terminate benefits, leaving the employee responsible for all future medical bills and daily living costs. For this reason, employers often try to establish MMI as quickly as possible after an employee is injured.

    If your maintenance and cure benefits were suspended due to MMI, you may be able to get additional injury compensation through:

    • Punitive damages. Federal maritime laws recognize how important is it for injured employers to receive the maintenance and cure benefits they are due. If your employer unfairly denied or terminated your benefits, you may be owed any unpaid maintenance and cure as well as punitive damages for the inconvenience.
    • Jones Act negligence. If your injury was caused by an act of negligence by your employer, you may receive compensation by filing a negligence lawsuit. If successful, you may collect payment for your pain and suffering, lost wages, and lost earning capacity.
    • An unseaworthiness claim. If you were injured due to faulty equipment or a defect in your vessel, you may be eligible to make an unseaworthiness claim against the owner of the vessel. While your past medical bills may have been paid by maintenance and cure, an unseaworthiness claim may pay for medical costs incurred since your benefits were terminated and any treatment you may need in the future.

    If you are struggling after an injury at sea or while working on the harbor, we can investigate your claim and get you the compensation you are owed under the law. Fill out our quick online contact form or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.

     

  • Compensation for Cold Stress Injuries on New York City Construction Sites

    Cold Weather Injuries and New York Construction SitesConstruction employees working on roofs, bridges, and high buildings may be painfully aware of the dangers of work at height. However, employees open to the elements are also at risk of an overlooked physical danger—cold. Hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold stress injuries may have temporary effects on construction workers or result in permanent damage, including death.

    Who Is at Fault When New York City Construction Workers Suffer Cold Injuries?

    Due to the changing nature of work environments required in construction, cold injuries are not just a danger in winter—and they do not just happen at height. Many are caused indoors in artificially refrigerated areas, during heavy rains in spring, or due to the handling of cold tools without gloves.

    You may have a construction accident injury claim if your employer did not execute adequate safety measures for working in the cold, such as:

    • Failing to provide proper protection. High winds and low temperatures can cause exposed layers of skin tissue to freeze, resulting in frostbite that could require amputation. Wearing insulated boots and insulated gloves can help prevent frostbite caused by exposure to cold or handling metal tools. Employers should also require head coverings (such as hoods and caps) under hard hats to increase body temperature.
    • Requiring break periods. Workers can suffer cold injuries even at moderate temperatures if they work in them for long periods of time. Employers should consider both the temperature and the length of time spent in the environment, and ensure that workers to take breaks indoors or in heated shelters to warm up between tasks.
    • Accounting for all factors. The temperature is only one factor in determining the risk of hypothermia. High winds can cause a person’s body to lose heat more quickly, and exposure to water (from rain or snow) or damp clothing places a worker at even higher risk.
    • Failing to train employees. Employees should be properly trained on how to work in the cold, how to recognize the signs of hypothermia and frostbite in coworkers, and what actions to take if a worker begins shivering, slurs his speech, or loses coordination.

    If you have suffered an injury on the job, our New York construction accident lawyers can explain your legal options at no cost to you. Simply fill out our convenient contact form or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free initial consultation.

     

  • Is my employer required to provide personal protective equipment if I work on a New York City construction site?

    Personal Protective Equipment and New York Construction WorkersBoth New York state laws and federal regulations require construction employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize their exposure to workplace hazards. Common PPE items include work gloves, hard hats, respirators, safety glasses, earplugs or muffs, and high-visibility vests. Unfortunately, many cases of blindness, occupational disease, and chemical burn injuries from construction have resulted from an employer’s failure to ensure that an employee was protected by proper personal protective equipment.

    Employers Have a Duty to Provide Personal Protective Equipment to Construction Workers

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has clear regulations regarding PPE in the construction industry, as well as the employer’s duty to provide PPE to its workers. OSHA requires that all PPE provided by the employer should be of safe design and construction, should be in a clean and working condition, and should be used for any activity that has an identified risk of injury. In addition, employers are required to train each worker on the use of all PPE—including identifying when each item is necessary, how to properly wear the equipment, and how to maintain and dispose of the equipment. Finally, the employer must pay for required PPE and pay to replace PPE that has been damaged or no longer meets safety standards.

    The only PPE items an employer is not required to pay for include:

    • Normal work boots, safety-toe protective footwear, rubber boots, or street shoes suitable for the job site
    • Everyday clothing that provides required injury protection (such as long-sleeved shirts or long pants)
    • Prescription safety glasses or sunglasses
    • Skin creams, standard sunglasses, sunscreen, or other items used solely for protection from sun damage
    • Everyday weather protection such as winter coats, jackets, parkas, non-work gloves, raincoats, or hats

    It is worth noting that even if an employer is not required to provide certain personal PPE items, the employer is still responsible for assessing the adequacy of each item. For example, an employee who is wearing work boots that fail to protect his toes from a crush injury may be able to hold the employer liable for failing to check the quality of the boots.

    Workers who are hurt on the job due to improper PPE may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. If you have questions about your accident, the experienced New York City construction accident lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can help. Please contact us online or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free initial consultation.

     

  • How do I report a safety violation on a New York City construction site?

    Unsafe Conditions on NYC Construction SitesThe City of New York allows both employees and members of the public to report safety violations on construction sites. The Department of Buildings responds to issues ranging from excessive noise complaints to failure to install netting to prevent construction fall injuries, while federal agencies may be asked to respond to safety allegations made by construction employees.

    Reporting Unsafe Conditions on New York City Construction Sites

    If you are considering making a complaint, you should know that your decision to do so is protected under the law. Not only can your intervention make the workplace safer, but there are laws in place to prevent an employer from discriminating against you for making a safety complaint.

    If you know of a safety violation on a construction site, you may make a report to the:

    • NYC Department of Buildings online. Workers and members of the public can report NYC building construction problems online if they witness construction projects involving excessive debris, buildings being constructed against approved plans, work without a permit, or construction performed on weekends or on weekdays before 7 AM or after 6 PM.
       
    • NYC Department of Buildings hotline. People are urged to call 311 for immediate reporting of building or construction problems involving unsafe conditions for the construction workers, lack of fencing or netting to protect neighboring properties from the effects of construction, or debris that has fallen or is in danger of falling.
       
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employees have the right to notify the federal government of any safety violations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Workers can file a complaint online or by mail to request an OSHA inspection of their workplace, or if the condition poses an immediate emergency, workers should call 1-800-321-6742. Since OSHA can only issue citations for violations that occurred in the past six months, employees are encouraged to make complaints as soon as possible. If you include your name on the complaint, OSHA will keep your information confidential from your employer.

    If you are facing retaliation after reporting an unsafe condition, the experienced New York City construction injury lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can help. Please contact us online or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free initial consultation.

     

  • When should I go back to work after a maritime injury?

    Workers who suffered a maritime injury must be extremely cautious when it comes to returning to work after an injury. Not only can returning to work too early worsen your injuries, it can also be used as evidence against you and give an employer leverage to deny your rightful compensation in a maritime injury claim. You should go back to work when you are fully healed, and only after you are certain that you can resume all work duties at full capacity.

    Why Returning to Work Too Early Can Affect Injury Compensation

    If your doctor has not cleared you or has placed restrictions on the amount of manual labor you can do, you should not return to work. By returning to work, you are essentially telling yourReturning to Work After a Maritime Injury employer that you are at full working and earning capacity. If you suffer aggravation of your injury (or suffer a new one), an employer can greatly devalue your claim since you returned to work in a “fully-healed” state.

    The parties in your case may have differing opinions about your ability to go back to work, including:

    • Employers. It is not uncommon for employers to bully, threaten, or pressure workers to return to work before they have healed. If employers and their insurers are successful in getting you to come back, they can save thousands of dollars in future medical costs and lost income, as well as avoid paying you for your lost earning capacity. Depending on the methods an employer uses, pressuring you to come back to work can be an unethical or even illegal maneuver.
    • Medical providers. Employers are required to get a medical release from a physician before returning to work after an injury. Doctors supplied by employers are obviously biased to get you back to work as quickly as possible, even if you are not ready. Even if the doctor truly believes you are ready, doctors are still human beings and can make mistakes about the success of their own treatment.
    • You. Many workers are afraid to give their doctors the full list of their symptoms, fearing that they will be blacklisted from future maritime employment. Unfortunately, underreporting your injuries denies you the treatment you need and leads employers to believe you are able to work.

    Maritime employers have teams of lawyers and insurance companies that all understand the limits of maritime law. If you have any doubts about your claim or your ability to work, you should speak with the experienced maritime injury lawyers at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 1-800-362-9329 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • Can I be fired for being a whistleblower?

    Whistleblowers in New York ConstructionIf your construction site has any safety concerns that could cause serious or fatal construction injuries, it is your duty to report these conditions immediately. All workers are given the right to a safe workplace by federal law—and this law also protects workers who report unsafe conditions from retaliation.

    Construction Workers Are Protected When Reporting Safety Violations

    Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act states that employers are forbidden from taking any adverse action against any employee who reports a safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Workers also cannot be discriminated against if they request an OSHA inspection, testify in an OSHA proceeding involving the employer, or even for reporting the conditions to their employers.

    Adverse actions do not just include the firing of an employee, but other forms of retaliation such as:

    • Reducing a worker’s pay
    • Giving a worker fewer hours
    • Laying off workers
    • Reassigning a worker to a different site or location
    • Blacklisting an employee
    • Demoting a worker with no other cause
    • Failing to pay overtime
    • Denying an earned promotion
    • Taking disciplinary action
    • Denying rightful benefits
    • Failure to hire or rehire a worker who reported a violation
    • Threatening, intimidating, or otherwise harassing an employee

    Free Info: Maximize Your Recovery After A Construction Accident

    If an employee has been terminated, laid off, or otherwise retaliated against as a result of reporting safety concerns, there are protocols in place for compensation. Firstly, the employee must file a complaint with OSHA describing the adverse action within 30 days of the action. Then, the Department of Labor will perform an investigation into the complaint. If there is a violation, the employer may be charged with labor violations in U.S. district court. Finally, the employer may be ordered to redress the action, including reinstating the employee to full employment with back pay.

    It is important to speak up if you notice safety violations at work, and you should be confident in doing so. If you’ve been hurt on a New York City construction site, the experienced construction injury lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can help you hold the negligent party responsible for your lost income, medical care, permanent disability, and pain and suffering. Please contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free initial consultation.

  • Can I be fired or blacklisted for pursuing a recovery for a maritime injury?

    Your Maritime Injury Claim and Fear of BlacklistingMany workers shy away from filing legitimate maritime injury claims when they are hurt because they are afraid that nobody in the industry will hire them again. This practice is often called “blacklisting” or “blackballing,” and it is an illegal practice. It is against the law for any employer or prospective employer to take negative action against an employee for filing an injury claim.

    Don’t Let Fear Stand in The Way of Your Maritime Injury Claim

    The maritime industry relies on the fear of a blacklist in order to prevent workers from filing claims. The fewer the claims, the less the company pays in benefits—and the greater the likelihood that the employee will be forced to continue working. The truth is that as long as your claim is legitimate, you should file it with impunity and with the expectation that you will recover the damages that you need and deserve.

    By filing a claim, you and your attorney may secure:

    • Fair payment. You have a right to be paid for your medical costs, income losses, and any out-of-pocket expenses related to your accident. You may even be entitled to punitive damages in a maritime case if your employer withheld your rightful payments.
    • Future compensation. Many injured employees will carry lifelong physical limitations that will prevent them from earning a living in the future. An injury claim not only provides benefits for past losses—it can also provide compensation that allows you and your family to survive if you are unable to return to work.
    • Improved conditions. Negligence in the workplace is likely to continue as long as an employer can get away with it. By holding an employer accountable for unsafe conditions, faulty equipment, or improper training, you can help ensure that your injury does not happen to someone else.

    If you think that your employer is retaliating against you or you have questions about your right to compensation, please contact us online as soon as possible. Our New York and New Jersey maritime accident lawyers will give you an honest opinion about whether your maritime injury claim will hurt your chances of working again. Call us today at 1-800-362-9329 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • Can people under the age of 18 work on New York City construction sites?

    Construction Site Laws and Minors in New YorkNew York has strict rules concerning what workers under the age of 18 may do on construction sites. For instance, minors are prohibited from working or assisting in operations that involve roofing, demolition, excavating, sawing, shearing, and power-driven woodworking and metalworking. They also cannot clean, oil, or adjust belts on construction machinery, be exposed to dust from the manufacture of brick or tile, or perform painting and cleaning on an elevated surface. However, there may be some exceptions to these rules for certain kinds of underage employees in order to help prevent construction accidents.

    Exceptions to NY Construction Site Laws Regarding Minors

    If certain conditions are met, some underage workers may perform the above tasks. For example, these rules may not apply to 16 or 17-year-olds who are:

    • Apprentices. Apprenticeship allows workers to learn a skill or trade through on-the-job training. In order for an underage apprentice to perform any of the usually-prohibited activities, he or she must be in an approved program through the New York State Department of Labor (DOL), have a written contract with the employer, and be under the supervision of an experienced journey worker.

    • Students. Many students opt to learn construction trades through vocational training programs. Students who are completing an educational degree program may perform restricted maneuvers as part of their on-the-job training.

    • Trainees. Workers who have completed courses in an approved on-the-job training program through a public school or a non-profit institution and are at least 16 years old may perform some of the work normally prohibited as long as they have also received DOL-approved safety instruction.

    Even if underage workers can legally perform dangerous work, safety standards must be met at all times to reduce the risk of injury. If you were under 18 years old when you were hurt on construction site you need to speak with an experienced work injury attorney as soon as possible. the New York and New Jersey injury lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can advise you of your rights. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free consultation. 

     

  • How long do I have to file a construction accident case in New York City?

    New York Construction Accident CasesInjured workers have a limited amount of time in which to get payment for an on-the-job injury. The time limits in these cases, known as the statute of limitations, varies depending on who is at fault and how the victim is seeking compensation. If the victim does not file a claim within the timeframe, he can be barred from collecting payment.

    Time Limits on Filing a Construction Accident Case in New York City

    Each state has its own statute of limitations for construction accident lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims. Many different factors play a role in how long you have to file a claim for injury compensation. For example, the time limit for filing a claim in New York is different for:

    • Personal injury cases. If you are filing a construction site injury lawsuit against the owner of the property, the general contractor, a subcontractor, or another party, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a negligence claim.
    • Death claims. Construction accident lawsuits involving the death of an employee have a smaller window of time than injury claims. Family members must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the accident or the date of death to collect compensation.
    • Workers’ compensation. In order to get workers’ compensation, injured employees must report a construction accident injury within 30 days of the accident. Workers who have suffered an occupational illness must notify an employer within two years of the date of diagnosis or the date on which you learned that the disease could be work-related.
    • Cases involving the city or state. If you are filing a case against a state agency, public authority, or other government entity in New York, you must notify the agency of your intentions within 90 days of the accident and file the lawsuit within 1 year and 90 days of the accident.

    Even if you have a year or more to file your claim, it is best to file as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more evidence could be lost or destroyed—weakening your case and lengthening the amount of time you will wait for compensation. You owe it to yourself to speak with the experienced New York and New Jersey injury lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. We can examine the details of your claim and send letters to ensure that the evidence in your case is preserved. Please contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free consultation. 

     

  • Am I Considered a Seaman?

    Are You Considered a Seaman Under the Jones Act?Many injured maritime workers are unsure whether they qualify for “seaman” status under the Jones Act. This is an important issue, since only seamen are qualified to receive benefits under the Jones Act, including maintenance and cure benefits after an injury. While the definition of seaman varies somewhat, there are many factors a court will consider in determining seaman status.

    Am I Considered a Seaman Under the Jones Act?

    Generally speaking, a person who spends the majority of his or her time as a crew member aboard a vessel that floats on navigable waters is considered a seaman. However, each of these requirements should be examined closely to discover whether or not the Jones Act applies. For instance, benefits may or may not be awarded depending on:

    • You. A seaman must spend a significant amount of his or her employment contributing to the mission of his or her vessel. In most cases, this will mean spending at least 30 percent of work time aboard the vessel (or on several vessels in a fleet) and the rest of the work time helping to complete the vessel’s mission.

    • Your vessel. While nearly any kind of ship or boat can be considered a vessel under the Jones Act, the vessel must be afloat, capable of moving, and in operation to qualify an employee for benefits. It is important to recognize that a vessel does not actually have to be at sea or even moving for a crew member to be a seaman, but it must be capable of moving under its own power. For example, a ship in a drydock is not capable of moving and is therefore not covered under the Jones Act. Similarly, a newly-constructed vessel that is not yet in commercial operation does not meet the "in navigation" requirement, and is exempt from Jones Act coverage.

    • Your location. The Jones Act only covers employees on vessels that travel on navigable waters. “Navigable” waters are those that are used for interstate or foreign commerce, such as oceans, rivers, and lakes that act as a means of travel between states or countries.

    If you work on the water but not on a vessel in navigation, you may still qualify for compensation under maritime laws. The New York and New Jersey maritime lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can help determine how much you could be owed in benefits. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free consultation.