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.
- Page 6
Who is liable for a maritime accident caused by inadequate training?
Many maritime injuries that are labeled “accidents” are actually caused by human error. A lack of training can place a worker in danger of injuring himself, cause one worker to accidentally injure another, or cause the deaths of several employees at once. Since even one untrained person in a maritime work environment places the entire crew at risk, employers who do not train their workers properly can be held liable for negligence.
Maritime Laws Allow Workers to File Injury Lawsuits for Insufficient Training
Many different laws allow employees to take legal action when inadequate training causes an injury. Depending on your employment conditions, the Jones Act, general maritime law, Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), or New York state labor laws can all provide avenues of compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
Different parties may be liable if the injury occurred while you were working:
- On a vessel. Under the Jones Act doctrine of seaworthiness, the employer and shipowner have a duty of care to make the ship as safe as possible for workers. This includes hiring competent crew members, providing sufficient occupational task and safety training, and drilling crew members on emergency procedures. A maritime company that fails to properly train and test its crew can be held liable in a negligence or unseaworthiness claim.
- On a dock. The LHWCA extends the maritime employer’s duty of care to shipyard and dock workers. Lack of training can include anything from the improper use of tools or poor lifting technique to failing to educate workers on repetitive strain injury prevention.
- On a bridge or tunnel. New York construction laws allow workers who are injured while performing maritime construction work to file a lawsuit against the contractor or owner of the job site. In addition, these workers have the right to collect state workers’ compensation benefits from an employer.
These kinds of cases are extremely complex, and the laws that apply will depend on your employment status, work location, and the circumstances of your injury. Our attorneys can explain your options and gather evidence of a maritime company's negligence, helping you get the compensation you deserve. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
How does NY Labor Law 200 apply to my construction injury case?
New York has many different labor laws to protect construction workers from severe injury and death. Under Labor Law 200, property owners and contractors are required to provide employees with a reasonably safe workplace. If the owner is in violation of the section, the state may impose fines and the injured employee could have grounds to file an injury lawsuit.
Provisions of NY Labor Law 200 for Construction Employees
Labor Law 200 requires that all areas of a worksite be “constructed, equipped, arranged, operated and conducted” in a way that will make the worksite as safe as possible for employees and visitors. The law has specific instructions regarding:
All machinery must be placed in a way that minimizes injury to workers, operated according to safe practices, and equipped with adequate safety guards. If the building commissioner posts a notice identifying a problem with a piece of machinery, the machinery may not be used until the dangerous condition is corrected. The owner must contact the commissioner for re-inspection and re-inspection must be completed before the notice may be removed.
Work areas must have adequate lighting in order to prevent trips or falls, and machinery must be lighted to allow workers to see active parts of the equipment.
Sanitation and Health
Contractors and owners should provide the employees with safe restroom facilities and access to first aid on site.
Owners should follow construction regulations to ensure that all elevators and escalators have been installed and are operating correctly.
Radiation and Fire Response
Sites should have adequate fire suppression systems, as well as radiation detection, to protect workers from industrial radiation.
Every worksite should have at least the minimum number of exits required to evacuate the worksite quickly.
If your construction injury was caused by a violation of this section or another unsafe condition on a construction site, we can help. Our attorneys will investigate who may be at fault for the accident, allowing you to get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a construction injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
What if my Jones Act insurer will pay my medical bills, but nothing else?
Although injured workers are owed maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act, employers often use a number of tactics to reduce the amount of money they pay out in claims. One common method is to reduce or stop payments for necessary medical services or living expenses, paying for only a portion of what the employee is owed under the law.
Jones Act Insurers Could Pay Medical Costs, But No Wages
Maritime laws permits every seaman who becomes ill or injured during employment to collect a daily living stipend, all necessary medical payments related to the injury, and all past outstanding wages earned. The daily living allowance begins once the worker is off the vessel where the injury occurred, and these payments can be suspended for any time the employee is in a hospital (since room and board in these instances is already provided).
However, employers may dispute the amount of wages issued to seamen based on the misinterpretation of maritime wage laws. For example, seamen may suffer lower wage payments due to:
- Early discharge. Seamen who are discharged through no fault of their own before one month’s wages are earned are entitled to receive one full month’s wages as compensation from the employer. If the seaman is not aware of this rule, the employer may get away with denying fair payment.
- Presence on board. A seaman’s entitlement to wages begins on the date specified in his employment agreement or on the date the seaman begins work, whichever is earlier. If an injury occurs on the vessel before the contract begins, the employer may attempt to deny wages or benefits.
- Failure to perform work. Under Title 46 of the U.S. Labor Code, a seaman is not entitled to wages for any time in which he failed to work when required. Employers may claim that a seaman did not report for duty or refused to work in order to deny wages.
If you have been injured on a ship or as a harbor worker, we can examine the facts of your case and get you the all that you are owed under the Jones Act. Contact us online or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with an experienced Jones Act lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
Are there OSHA regulations to protect construction workers from chemical burns?
Millions of construction employees are at risk of severe or fatal injuries every day across the U.S., including the potential for dangerous exposure to chemicals. Working with paints, primers, adhesives, grouts, waterproofing agents, patching and leveling materials, coatings and sealants, lubricants, and cleaning formulas all place workers at risk of injury, including:
- Chemical burns. A caustic agent on a worker’s skin can cause a burn that requires grafting and results in permanent scarring.
- Blindness. Industrial agents can cause temporary or lifelong blindness if they enter a worker’s eye.
- Respiratory problems. In enclosed areas without proper ventilation, chemicals can push out breathable air and cause asphyxia or lung damage.
- Fires and explosions. Both the fumes and liquid forms of many industrial solvents are highly flammable, posing a risk of thermal burns or explosion.
OSHA Regulations Protect Construction Workers From Chemical Burns
In an effort to control the risks of chemical exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all chemical manufacturers and distributors provide Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical used on job sites. The SDS must be accessible to all employees, and all employees should be trained on how to use them.
Information required in Safety Data Sheets include:
- The properties of each chemical
- Manufacturer's instructions for the safe handling of the material
- All physical, health, and environmental hazards of the material
- Proper protective measures for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical
OSHA also requires employers to train employees about the risks of each hazardous chemical, have a written spill control plan and provide spill clean-up kits in storage areas, train employees on proper clean-up and disposal of chemical materials, and provide and enforce the use of proper personal protective equipment.
If you were injured at your construction site by a chemical, there is a good chance your employer could have done more to prevent it. The New York construction accident attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can examine the facts of your case and get you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for your medical treatment and the lost ability to earn a living. Contact us online or call us directly at (800) 362-9329 today to schedule your free initial consultation.
What are the benefits of using an attorney experienced in maritime law?
Technically speaking, any lawyer who has been admitted to the state bar or federal court where you are filing your case could potentially represent you in your case. However, there is a big difference between hiring an attorney and hiring the right attorney. If the attorney who drafted your will is concentrated in estate planning law, he or she may not know the intricacies of maritime injuries and the laws that apply to them—even if he or she is willing to take the case.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer Experienced in Maritime Law
Maritime lawyers are aware of all the laws applying to both workers and employers, and that knowledge gives them bargaining power to get you the best possible outcome for your case. Think of it this way: would you have chosen your past attorney if he or she had no experience in that area? Would you hire an injury lawyer to draft your will, or a tax attorney to handle your car accident case? The question has even more weight for those who have suffered injuries on or near the water, as this is a specific area of law that rarely overlaps with other kinds of injury cases. As a result, few attorneys are fully versed in maritime law.
A maritime injury attorney will be able to explain your options and what you may be owed based on:
- Your classification as a worker. Your worker status depends on who may be held liable for your injury compensation. Federal workers’ compensation programs include the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) and the Jones Act, but NY workers’ compensation statutes could also apply to your claim. Identifying all forms of available compensation can significantly affect the value of your claim.
- The extent of your injuries. Injuries to maritime employees are often severe and can cause a complete change in the employee’s future abilities. A maritime lawyer can calculate the full extent of your losses, including reduced capacity for employment and the pain and suffering you have endured.
- Causation and liability laws. Maritime cases are usually filed at the federal level and involve a variety of laws that can affect the value of a claim. For example, maritime law has its own set of standards for proving fault for an injury, while the Limitation of Liability Act allows an employer to severely limit the amount owed to victims after a disaster.
- Negligence and unseaworthiness. In addition to providing compensation for your medical bills and lost income, federal laws allow employees to sue maritime employers for negligence and unsafe conditions that lead to injuries.
One of the most pressing reasons to consult with a maritime attorney is that your employer’s lawyers will definitely know every defense they can use under maritime law. Our firm can even the playing field, getting you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for your medical treatment and lost ability to earn a living. Contact us online or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
I’m a maritime worker and I’ve suffered a shoulder injury at work. What should I do?
Shoulder injuries are unfortunately common in maritime work. In addition to back and neck injuries, pain and problems moving the shoulder joint account for a large portion of lifting and repetitive motion injuries. If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, there are a few steps you should take to protect your right to injury compensation and ensure that you get the proper care.
Common Causes of Maritime Shoulder Injuries
There are two ways a shoulder injury can happen while an employee is working on a dock or vessel. The first way involves a sudden accident, such as a barrel falling onto a worker’s back or a trapped arm pulling the shoulder out of socket. The second form of trauma is repetitive strain, or the daily lifting, pulling, and carrying required in a maritime environment.
Some of the most common causes of maritime shoulder injuries include:
- Repetitive overhead motions (such as reaching, pulling, or stacking)
- Winch or line accidents that forcefully “pull” the arm at high speed
- Hyperextension of the shoulder or arm due to cramped or awkward spaces
- Repetitive or improper lifting due to inadequate training
- Slipping and falling on wet or uneven surfaces
- Lack of proper safeguards to prevent injuries
Compensation Available for Maritime Workers Suffering From Shoulder Injuries
While some shoulder injuries heal with rest and non-invasive treatments, many require surgical intervention, physical therapy, and permanent weight lifting and motion restrictions. Workers are often unable to do the work they once performed, forcing them to seek other employment or collect disability payments to supplement their income.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be owed payment for your:
- Medical expenses. Under federal laws, maritime workers are owed payment for medical bills and lost wages after a work injury. Harbor, dock, and shipyard workers can get payment for treatment and future costs through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), while sailors on ships, oil rigs, barges, and other vessels are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act.
- Past wages. Harbor workers and seaman may be unable to work for an extended period during their recoveries, and their compensation should include wage replacement.
- Disability. After the arm is fully healed, the worker may be left with permanent damage or an inability to use the arm to its full extent. Short- or long-term disability payments can help make up for a reduced capacity to work and future lost wages.
- Vocational retraining. If a person is able to do other kinds of work after the shoulder has healed, maritime injury laws may provide compensation for job retraining.
- Pain and suffering. If the injury was caused by negligence or by unseaworthy conditions on a vessel, an employee can file a lawsuit to recover the costs of physical and mental anguish in addition to economic losses.
If you have been injured on a ship or as a harbor worker, we can examine which laws apply to your case and get you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for your medical treatment and lost ability to earn a living. Fill out our quick online contact form or call 212.465.8840 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
Which workers’ compensation program pays for a maritime construction injury?
Many people who are hurt on a New York City construction site file claims for state workers’ compensation benefits. While this program does pay for wage losses and medical treatment, it also imposes limits on the amount and length of payments a worker can receive. For this reason, it is worth exploring whether federal compensation laws apply to your case—especially if you were working on or near the water.
Federal Programs That Compensate Injured Maritime Workers
Construction employees who work on docks, aboard ships, or other maritime environments may be entitled to much more than state workers’ comp benefits. Depending on the nature of your work, you may be entitled to benefits under multiple compensation laws, some of which could offer higher payments that continue indefinitely.
The type of law and compensation that applies to your case depends on many different factors, including:
- Where the work took place. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) protects employees who are working by or over the water. Some common maritime construction activities include dock building, bridge and tunnel work, stevedoring, pier renovation, or demolition of maritime structures.
- The status of the worker. The Jones Act is another maritime law, but it applies to people who are members of the crew on a vessel in navigation. In order to apply, the person must have seaman status, meaning he or she spends a third of total work hours on a ship, barge, or other vessel. Fishermen are covered under the Jones Act, but it may also be applied to ferry operators, cruise ship workers, and tour boat employees. Under the Jones Act, an employee is entitled to maintenance and cure benefits if they are struck by materials, slip on wet surfaces, or suffer other injuries in the course of their duties. They also have the right to sue an employer or vessel owner for negligence or unseaworthiness—something that is prohibited under state workers’ compensation.
- Whether the accident resulted in a death. If a construction accident on navigable waters caused the death of a worker (such as falling overboard), family members may recover for financial losses under the Death on High Seas Act. This Act is often applied in conjunction with the Jones Act, which pays for the pain and suffering the worker experienced before death.
NY State and City Laws Can Affect Your Maritime Construction Claim
New York has its own state and local statutes that can apply in a construction accident injury claim. Under New York state labor laws, construction workers have a protected right to work with adequate equipment, be trained in safe procedures, and have reasonable work restrictions and environments that prevent injury.
A New York injury attorney should examine whether the following laws apply to your claim:
- Labor Law 200. This statute allows workers to sue employers if a dangerous condition was responsible for causing injury or death on a work site.
- Labor Law 240. Section 240, commonly known as the New York Scaffold Law, gives construction workers who are injured in work at height to bring a lawsuit against contractors, project managers, and building owners. The Scaffold Law covers both injuries caused by falls from an elevated level and injuries caused when a worker is struck by a falling object.
- Labor Law 241. This section outlines the safety precautions that must be taken in various types of construction throughout the state. Regulations are given for a wide range of construction activities, including excavation, demolition, welding, crane operations, walking on slippery surfaces, and even drinking clean water.
If you have been injured on a construction site, we can examine which laws apply to your case and get you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for your medical treatment and lost ability to earn a living. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
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 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
Construction 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?
Both 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.