NYC construction lawyersTrenches are some of the deadliest places to work on a New York City construction site. All of the normal hazards of the job are combined with the threat of a sudden collapse, injuring or burying workers in the hole below. Due to the extreme risks of this kind of work, New York state labor laws allow construction workers to sue negligent parties for injuries during tunneling, trenching, and other forms of underground construction work.

Third-Party Claims for a Trench Accident in New York City

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employees who work in excavated parts of a job site are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal construction accident than workers in other areas of the site. While state workers’ compensation laws prevent employees from suing an employer after a trenching accident, workers and their families may be able to seek damages from other parties whose actions contributed to the injury.

For example, you may be able to file a third-party injury lawsuit if your accident involved a negligent:

  • Inspector. Although the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a competent person to check trenches at least once a day, many trenches continue to violate building codes and New York City construction safety ordinances. A recent inspection of over five thousand inspections of excavation sites by the Department of Buildings discovered that over half were in violation of a code, regulation, or law—and one out of every five of these violations were severe enough to warrant a stop-work order.
  • Contractor. In addition to providing proper cave-in protections for trenches, general contractors have a duty to ensure proper ventilation of the space to prevent asphyxiation, and stop work immediately if there are any changes in soil conditions (such as excessive rain or sudden sinking).
  • Engineer. Many prevention methods can help reduce the likelihood of trench collapse. An engineer should determine whether the trench should be shored or shielded, and calculate the proper degree of slope in the trench walls to prevent cave-ins. Engineers should also take into account the effect that vibration from construction machinery will have on the stability of the trench.
  • Excavation crew. If an excavation team strikes an underground utility line or pipe, they must stop work and report to the proper utility company immediately. Failure to do so can put workers in the trench at risk of sudden floods from broken pipes, electrocution from exposed wiring, or explosions from damaged gas lines.
  • Worker from another company. Repair or restoration jobs often require demolition crews to overlap with construction teams, bringing multiple contractors, subcontractors, and employees onto a single site. Any one of these could share liability in an accident, particularly if they ignored warning signs or acted contrary to safety regulations. If a crack or bulge in a trench wall was reported to a contractor days before the accident, the contractor could be liable for allowing work to continue.
  • Manufacturer. The shielding and shoring supports used to prevent cave-ins must have the capacity to resist all loads reasonably expected on the site. If a defective shield wall, support beam, or protective equipment was to blame for the injury, the manufacturer or distributor may be named in your injury lawsuit.

Contact Top NYC Attorneys After Your Construction Accident

If you are suffering after a trench accident, it is vital that you contact our construction injury lawyers as soon as possible. We can investigate your claim and work to get you the compensation you are owed—and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or learn more about your rights in our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.


Timothy F. Schweitzer
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Personal injury lawyer specializing in maritime, construction and railroad injury claims.