A New York Construction Accident Lawyer Who Represents Injured Workers Tracking Developments in Construction Accident Law.

The New York Daily News just ran a very good, albeit heartbreaking story about a 30-year old construction worker who was killed in a crane accident at a subway extension project for the No. 7 train when the boom suddenly fell causing debris to crush him.

Typically, I don’t like to re-post articles about construction accidents on this blog. I am not a reporter and so I leave that news function where I think it belongs, which is to the newspapers. I’m here to comment about the legal system and how it treats injured workers. There is also a morbidity to that type of blog posting that leaves me a little uneasy, like I’m using someone’s misfortune and tragedy to bolster my own internet presence.

However, I make an exception here. The story is newsworthy for this blog because there were numerous warning signs that this accident could occur and there was a failure to inspect the crane. In other words, even with strong laws on the books, accidents like this one still occur, and therefore, the last thing that government should do is weaken those laws.

Click this link to read an article (in which I was quoted) that explains how legislative efforts were being made in that direction. Having failed at efforts to completely do away with these laws — codified as Labor Law 200, 240(1), and 241(6) — business interests are now trying a death by a thousand cuts approach, slowly taking away their protections bit-by-bit until there is nothing left.

It’s so unfair, they protest, that owners and general contractors could be held liable for construction accidents.

But look at the accident that took the life of Michael Simermeyer: according to the article, the crane was making noises in the weeks before the accident that worried workers. Mr. Simermeyer had actually told a friend that he was scared at the work site. Further, the crane wire wasn’t spooling properly and sources opined that the crane operator knew of it and either did not report it or was ordered to keep working by his superiors. The operator had also previously been involved in two other accidents. And the City had not performed a scheduled inspection of the crane.

This incident is a prime example of why strong construction accident laws are needed in New York. Safety comes from the top-down, and if those on top are not legally responsible for safety, then unsafe practices will fluorish. The top dogs will have little incentive to strongly enforce good safety practices at the work site — especially when the incentive is usually to get the work finished quickly. And workers cannot simply count on government agencies for protection, as is evidenced by this story. Rather, strong liability laws are essential.

A worker such as Mr. Simermeyer should not have been scared to go to work each day, and certainly should not have died.

 

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