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Looking at the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule, P.1

A construction worker who was employed in the construction of a Brooklyn hotel died earlier this week in an accident on the work site. The New York City Department of Buildings, which filed a report on the accident, said the worker had been drilling piles when a crane shackle broke, fell down and hit him in the head. As of earlier this week, the exact cause of death is still being investigated.

Construction accidents like this are not uncommon, particularly given the current construction boom in New York City. Whenever an accident like this occurs, it should put construction companies on notice of the need to maintain safe work sites and properly train workers to operate equipment. Sometimes, of course, construction accidents just happen, regardless of the precautions taken by the employer. In some cases, though, employers deliberately choose to not take precautions for their workers’ safety. 

Ordinarily, workers’ compensation is the sole remedy available to injured workers and their surviving family members. This is because of the nature of the agreement that forms the basis of the workers’ compensation system. This agreement does guarantee workers compensation, regardless of fault, when they are injured on the job, but it also limits employees’ right to sue their employer in court for a workplace injury.

Normally, the exclusive remedy doctrine is a complete defense to an injured workers’ attempt to sue, but there are certain exceptions. New York’s workers’ compensation statute lists one of them: failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance.

In our next post, we’ll look at another exception to the rule: intentional injury.

Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Brooklyn: Worker dies in tragic accident at hotel construction site,” Mary Frost, Oct. 11, 2016. 

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