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Labor Law May Fill The Workers Compensation Wage Gap

Although far from perfect, New York State Workers Compensation Law provides a partial safety net for individuals who are injured during the course of their job by providing wages based on the level of disability, and the payment of related medical bills.  These benefits may help the injured worker stave off bill collectors and mortgage foreclosures, until they recover sufficiently to return to their usual employment.  The law requires that the employer provide this protection.  In turn, the injured worker is not allowed to make any additional claims against the employer for the injury, even if the injury resulted from the employer’s failure to provide a safe work place or conditions.

However, a finding of “partial disability” by the Workers Compensation Board will result in a substantial reduction in wage benefits, well below those usually earned, even if the injured worker is still not physically able to return to his or her job.   This can be devastating to their financial circumstance, especially in the arena of construction, renovation or demolition accidents, where the injuries tend to be more serious and longstanding due to the nature of the work.  The resulting Workers Compensation “wage gap” may leave the injured worker desperate to maintain payments on his or her home, vehicle, and other longstanding financial obligations.

Fortunately, New York State Labor law may provide an avenue for additional financial compensation when a worker involved in construction, renovation or demolition work is injured.  For example, in circumstances where a specific New York State Industrial Code provision is violated on the job-site, and injury results, the general contractor and owner may be held responsible for the violation even if they are not actively supervising the site, and did not cause the violation.  The law holds them accountable regardless, because they are in the best position to have enforced safety standards, and stand in the position to gain the most from the completed project.

Similarly, if a worker involved in construction, renovation or demolition is injured as a result of a fall from a height due to the failure to have adequate safeguards such as railings or guards on upper floors under construction, the general contractor and owner may be held “strictly Liable” for this injury.  This means that the injured worker’s actions prior to and at the time of the fall cannot be used against him or her to reduce a damage award, as long as the worker was generally engaged in the assigned work.  The Labor Law was designed this way, recognizing that workers are human, and may fumble at times.  Therefore, if a fall from a height could have been prevented by the expected and customary safeguards that were not in place, the general contractor and owner will be held accountable.

When it comes to construction, demolition or renovation accidents, Workers Compensation issues must be addressed first, so that initial wage benefits, and medical treatment and evaluation can be provided for.  In the case of serious injury, the other avenue of recovery, The New York State Labor Law, must be addressed to determine whether other entities involved with the job site may be held liable for your injury.  This can make the difference between   “just hanging on” financially, or continuing to provide for yourself and your family in the way in which you are accustomed.

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