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Construction Accidents – Holding Contractors Financially Accountable

An interview with attorney Jacob Oresky of Jacob Oresky & Associates, PLLC

March 21, 2014

Recently, Getlegal.com had an opportunity to discuss construction accidents with personal injury attorney Jacob Oresky. Mr. Oresky has represented numerous construction accident victims in and around New York City, recovering over one hundred million dollars for accident victims and their families. Mr. Oresky’s experience in construction accident cases has provided him with an extensive knowledge of the applicable state and federal laws that govern safety, code, and equipment violations that are often involved in construction accidents.

Get Legal: Good afternoon Mr. Oresky. To start things off, I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about construction accidents and how you help construction accident victims.

Mr. Oresky: Good afternoon, thank you. Perhaps the most important thing one has to keep in mind is the serious nature of most construction accidents. Many cases involve workers falling off of elevated worksite such as scaffolds and ladders.

Construction accidents are very serious. When a construction worker falls from a height, the resulting impact on the body often causes serious injuries. In cases involving falls, many of our clients suffer from head trauma, neck and back injuries, broken bones, and often require multiple surgeries. Our clients face hundreds of thousands of dollars in total medical expenses and lost wages. In the event that a worker is permanently disabled, the damages could be in the millions of dollars.

We help the accident victims from the moment we are retained. To begin we investigate the accident, obtain photos and measurements, take statements from witnesses, we make certain that the client has filed for Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Compensation, provides for lost wages and medical expenses related to the accident. Even though the worker may be in the hospital, his family still needs to pay rent for their apartment and put food on the table. Medical expenses, and pharmacy bills must also be paid. In this way while the case is being started, we attempt to minimize the initial financial damages as much as possible.

Get Legal: So, if I understand you correctly, you try to help your clients from the very beginning?

Mr. Oresky: Yes, you are correct. Our job as a law firm is to assist our client immediately. This is especially important given that many of our clients may not be in the best of financial circumstances and in many cases are immigrants. Some of them may be undocumented. Nonetheless, they are still working at construction job sites as a painter, carpenter, roofer, earning money to support their families. It is important to understand that under New York law, an illegal alien as well as a citizen has a right to recover damages in a personal injury claim involving a construction accident. In this regard, it is important to our clients and to us that we get them the help they need because in many cases, no one is willing to help them at all.

Get Legal: What are some of the issues involved in construction accident cases?

Mr. Oresky: To start with it is integral to ascertain the identities of the owner of the job site, the general contractor, subcontractors and the victim’s employer. There is generally more than one party who can be held legally responsible when a construction accident occurs. This extensive liability comes in part from the Labor Law of the State of New York which provides vast protections for construction workers. For example, New York Labor Law section 240 enumerates a number of requirements that govern safety on construction job sites that are applicable to many of our cases.

Get Legal: What sorts of violations do you see under New York Labor Law 240?

Mr. Oresky: New York Labor Law 240 is meant to protect workers from, as they say, “gravity related risk” at a job site. As such, it governs what sorts of safety devices should be used in cases involving scaffolding, ladders and other make shift elevated worksites. New York Labor Law 240 covers a wide variety of things when performing work requires a person to work up high up above the ground. Section 240 puts the burden on owners and contractors to provide proper protection to the workers including, harnesses, lifelines, and other equipment meant to ensure the safety of the worker. The failure to do so is generally considered proof that the responsible parties were negligent.

Get Legal: So, construction companies sometimes simply ignore Labor Law 240?

Mr. Oresky: In some cases, yes. For example, under New York Labor Law 240, if you are working at an elevated height on scaffolding you are required to use a safety harness connected to a lifeline. The lifeline must be solid and secure, attached to a bulkhead or other safe part of the building that will not give way. If the scaffolding collapses, the lifeline must be secure enough to prevent the worker from falling with the scaffolding itself. Unfortunately, not all construction companies or contractors exercise due diligence in making sure safety harnesses are properly in place when work on scaffolding is necessary.

Get Legal: You’ve actually seen cases where an employer simply ignores these safety requirements?

Mr. Oresky: Yes, and I will provide you with an example to illustrate my point. I represented a client who fell six stories because the contractor had an inexperienced day laborer responsible for securing the scaffolding. When my client mounted the scaffold, the day laborer let go of the rope holding the scaffold. My client suffered serious fractures that required multiple surgeries, including a spinal fusion.

Given the requirements of New York Labor Law 240, you might wonder why my client was not wearing a safety harness connected to a lifeline. Interestingly enough, the employer claimed my client was offered a safety harness, and testified that there were lifelines in place. Through investigation we were able to obtain photos of the accident scene that proved there were no safety lines present to secure a safety harness to. We were able to interview an inspector that arrived at the accident scene shortly afterwards and provided us with several photographs that verified my client’s version of the facts. Needless to say my clients version of the facts won out, and we were able to resolve the case in his favor, and to his great satisfaction.

Get Legal: Interesting – so how were you able to get photos to prove your client’s side of the story?

Mr. Oresky: It was not easy. To uncover that inspector and obtain the photographs it took many hours of hard work. Many calls were made, and different sources contacted before we found out that an investigator took photographs. Once the photographs were discovered we then had to go through different channels to obtain copies and authenticate them. When considered from a legal perspective, perhaps one of the most important matter of business we perform is the deployment of an investigative team to an accident site immediately after we are retained. In this way, we dedicate a large number of resources in the initial stages of a case in order to collect evidence, interview eyewitnesses, and gather important information from employers before they have time to tamper with an accident site. What we have found in our experience is that while employers may try to discard or destroy evidence, they inevitably fail to think of every possibility. As a result, eventually contradictory testimony or evidence emerges which undermines the employer’s original story.

Get Legal: How are you able to act so fast?

Mr. Oresky: We are experienced in construction accident litigation. Over the years I have represented countless construction accident victims from the very beginning until the conclusion of their cases. I’ve navigated through many twists and turns in construction accident cases, and know how to direct my team to investigate and litigate a case. I am always personally involved in all of our cases, and know how to design an effective strategy for each case. Our paralegals and investigators have worked with construction accident cases for over 20 years. We know how to prepare a case the right way so that the client is provided with the best chances for a successful outcome. Injured construction workers can call us at anytime of the day or night, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. If you are injured and cannot travel to meet us, we are available to visit you in the hospital or in your home. Additionally, we will drive you to the scene of your accident in order to let you explain to us what happened and help you identify the exact location where your accident took place.

Get Legal: What about Workers’ Compensation? Aren’t your clients eligible for workers’ comp?

Mr. Oresky: Yes they are entitled to obtain Workers’ Compensation benefits. We make it easier for our clients to apply for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Our firm has made arrangements with an independent Workers’ Compensation law firm to come to our office weekly. Our clients are able to meet with our firm and their Workers’ Compensation lawyer at the same location. This allows everything to be discussed at the same time. This has proven very helpful to our clients.

It is important to remember that, even if you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation, you can still recover additional damages from a negligent third party owner or contractor responsible for your injuries. Workers’ Compensation does not provide compensation for pain and suffering caused by a negligent third party.

Get Legal: Is there anything you’d like a prospective client to do if he or she has questions for you related to a construction accident injury?

Mr. Oresky: Absolutely – call our office to discuss your case with one of our attorneys immediately. If you’ve been injured in a construction accident, the sooner you contact us the sooner we will be able to dispatch a team of investigators to the job site and begin the process of gathering evidence. In this way, we can collect testimony before people forget or choose not to return to a job site.

Get Legal: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.

Mr. Oresky: Not at all, thank you.

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