A common sight in New York are window washers scraping the New York area’s grime from the windows of its many tall buildings. The job appears to be intolerably risky from the point of view of a lay person. On a few tragic occasions, this supposition appears to be the truth.
A window washer working in Brooklyn died in a fall from the 19th floor of a high rise. According to police, the fall appears to have been caused by a faulty safety harness. No other information about the accident was released. The man was declared dead immediately upon the arrival of medical personnel.
Judging by information made available thus far, the man’s death will trigger workers’ compensation benefits for the decedent’s family. Once the claim process is completed, the man’s family will receive the benefits prescribed by law. However, the possibility of a defective safety harness may trigger what is called a “third party” case. Workers’ compensation benefits are paid to the employee on behalf of the employer, and the employee cannot bring a separate action against his employer. In this case, where the death may have been caused by a defective safety harness, the man’s family (or the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer) may seek compensation from the maker or seller of the harness. The difference is important, as noted, the workers’ compensation are prescribed by statute, and the family’s recovery is limited by the statutory formula. If a party other than the employer is liable for damages, as may be the case with the manufacturer of the harness, the damages are not limited by a statutory formula, and the damages will be whatever the jury finds them to be. Most lawyers with experience in workers’ compensation law believe that the damages against a third party will greatly exceed the workers’ compensation benefits for the same injury.
Anyone who has suffered an injury or lost a loved one in an accident in which workers’ compensation benefits laws may limit the workers’ compensation recovery may wish to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for an evaluation of the evidence and the likelihood of recovering damages from a third party.