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Not always. There are times when a third-party is liable for your injuries, and filing a workers’ compensation claim will not prevent you from also filing a lawsuit under third-party liability. The employer may also be liable in the case of grave injuries or if it was not carrying workers’ compensation insurance.
You may have a products liability claim against a manufacturer of a defective power tool which jams, fails to shut off, or blows apart under stress, or the maker of a faulty ladder or scaffolding which leads to a fall. You may also have a products liability claim against the maker of a product which emits toxic vapors and fumes, where the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings about the danger and instructions for its safe use, such as wearing protective clothing or only using the product in a well-ventilated area.
You may also have a premises liability claim against the property owner if your accident was caused by an unsafe condition on the property that the owner failed to remedy or provide notice about. Also, third parties such as vendors and suppliers may drive onto the site and cause an automobile or pedestrian accident. Architects, engineers, contractors and subcontractors not directly related to your employer may all be liable if their negligence caused your injury.
In general, you have two years to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board and three years to file a civil lawsuit in court. While this may seem like a long time, it goes by very quickly when you have been debilitated by a personal injury. While you are focused on your own rehabilitation and recovery, dealing with insurance company paperwork and doctor and hospital bills, and struggling to regain normalcy in your home and personal life, the clock is ticking on these statutes of limitations. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to so that you will start receiving benefits or a recovery sooner, and so that you do not accidentally miss deadlines that could be devastating to your claims.
There is another important reason to contact a lawyer right away. Due to the nature of construction projects, the evidence of your accident is not likely to stay around for very long. Witnesses to the accident may belong to a different work crew, and finding them after the project has completed may be more difficult if their contact information is not immediately obtained. Your attorney will want to view the scene or send out an investigator to thoroughly document the site, take photographs, and collect evidence and statements regarding how the accident occurred and who was to blame, before the project is finished and not trace of the accident remains.
According to the New York Department of Buildings, in 2010 there were four construction-related fatalities and 165 injuries. These numbers vary from year to year and have been as high in recent years as 19 deaths in 2008 and 241 injuries in 2009. Worker falls, such as from ladders or scaffolds, accounted for the majority of accidents in 2010.