“It took firefighters an hour to free Mr. Huerta, 48, who was pronounced dead at the building on East 208th Street in Norwood, fire officials said.” (nytimes.com, 2019)
Segundo Huerta was a seasoned construction worker and has spent nearly two decades on job sites in and around Manhattan, it is safe to say Huerta was intimately familiar with the dangers of construction work. However, shortly before the accident that tragically took Segundo Huerta’s life, Huerta told his wife he was especially concerned about the conditions of his current job site in the Bronx, where his then-employer, Pioneer General, had been approved to build a four-story residential building. Unfortunately, these concerns were substantiated when the 3rd floor of the building collapsed inwards and trapped Huerta under an immovable amount of rubble.
The 2019 accident which tragically took Segundo Huerta’s life reflects the alarming rise in deaths at New York construction sites in recent years and while legislation has been passed at the local and state levels in response, it has largely been insufficient in keeping workers safe.
Construction Accident Statistics
Accounting for roughly 20% of all worker fatalities in the U.S, construction work has repeatedly earned the title of being the most dangerous profession in the country; however, it should be noted that not all construction sites share the same amount of risk. Specifically, construction sites in New York City have become more dangerous than any other metropolitan center in the country over the past decade and the city’s rates of fatal NYC construction accidents have only risen in recent years with 2018 accounting for 73 deaths alone. While the reason for the spike in accidents is likely a product of several contributing factors, the rising number of construction permits issued by the city has played a significant role in the prioritization of efficiency over safety.
Why Do Construction Accidents Occur?
According to OSHA, the majority of fatalities (58.6%) are caused by four deadly types of accidents referred to in the construction industry as the ‘Fatal Four’; falls, struck by object accidents (e.g. debris), electrocutions, and caught-in/between accidents. Other common types of accidents on construction sites include machinery-related accidents (e.g. bulldozers, jackhammers, cranes)/equipment failure, injuries as the result of overexertion (e.g. heat stroke, fainting, dehydration, sleepiness), uncontrolled/unintended fires, and explosions resulting in burns and fatalities, and diseases stemming from exposure to harmful chemicals, toxins, or pathogens (e.g. mesothelioma, malignant primary cardiac tumors – heart cancer, lung cancer).
Who is Liable for Construction Accidents In NYC?
In civil lawsuits filed in New York, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff and the evidentiary standard is defined as the preponderance of the evidence. In other words, for actions at a worksite to be considered negligent, the plaintiff must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Duty of Care: The defendant’s legal obligation to act cautiously in dangerous situations and adhere to industry-specific safety regulations.
- Breach of Duty: Breach of duty refers to any situation where the defendant fails to meet the required standard of care (i.e. negligent oversight or intentional disregard for the plaintiff’s safety).
- Causation: Causation refers to the connection between the employer’s mistake and the injuries suffered by the worker as a result. A plaintiff’s injuries must be connected to the defendant’s fault, otherwise, it will be very difficult to recover damages.
- Damages: To receive a settlement in any personal injury lawsuit, there must be damages to justify monetary compensation. While damages can include all sorts of harm (physical, emotional, etc.), some of the most common types which yield compensation are:
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Past and future medical expenses and rehabilitation costs
- Past and future lost income
- Loss of the injured party’s services claimed by their husband or wife
- Loss of parental guidance claimed by the injured party’s children
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a construction accident, it is crucial you seek representation from an experienced and trustworthy legal team. At Halperin & Halperin P.C., we have over 40 years of experience protecting victims of NYC construction accidents, and our attorneys have successfully litigated even the most challenging of cases. We take pride in treating every prospective client like family, and if we cannot help you directly, we will find someone who can. Call or email us today for a free consultation.