New York is always growing, evolving. Manhattan continues its vertical creep with the assistance of scaffolds, those omnipresent overhangs seen scattered across the city’s facades. A common enough sight for city folk, the body of rules governing the erection and liability of said scaffolding has been giving legislators nightmares.
The issue at hand involves the degree of liability placed upon the contractors of the building using the scaffolding. As it stands, contractors assume “absolute liability” for all elevation-related accidents concerning scaffolding. That means if any worker falls off of a scaffolding, or anything falls off a scaffolding and hits a pedestrian, 100% of the blame is placed squarely on the contractor. In the parlance of the law, they are held responsible for all “gravity-related” injuries.
Contractors, obviously, feel unduly laden with responsibility, and are striving to replace current laws with a more even-handed policy that’d invoke “comparative negligence.” Under this new guideline, fault could be determined on a case-by-case basis by a judge, who could determine if negligence caused the accident. A judge could then evaluate the degree of negligence, and mete out punishment accordingly. In this way, a more fair assessment would be made. Contractors city-wide argue that only scaffold law deals in such strict absolutes.
What does this mean for the citizens of New York?
“Absolute liability” essentially guarantees a settlement being paid out in the event of an accident. Litigation processes are not only expensive for contractors, the abundance of them have led to higher insurance costs for job sites. This in turn could lead to the downsizing of construction crews, and an increase in the time it takes to finish building projects.
Which, for New Yorkers, means more time looking at scaffolding.
The Scaffold Law also costs taxpayers nearly $800 million annually.
In Albany, the wheels are already turning, trying to update what many contractors feel is an antiquated law. Now that a budget has passed, those involved are optimistic about reaching an accord. Lawmakers insist that renovating the law will in no way diminish the safety regulations in place that strive to keep both workers and walkers out of harm’s way.
If you have been injured in a scaffold-related accident, it’s important to contact someone to further clarify your rights. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, the consultations are free and easy. We can clear up any remaining questions you may have, and we’ll help guide you through the process of seeking the compensation you deserve.