Construction work often involves the use of scaffolding, allowing workers to work on the outsides of buildings at great heights.
Scaffolding work can be very dangerous. All too often, workers fall from scaffolding and are injured or killed, especially if employers or contractors do not follow state scaffolding codes and guidelines.
The recent passage of Carlos’ Law means that employers can face increased criminal liability for scaffolding deaths. Still, does this affect these employer’s civil liability?
The danger of scaffolding work
As of December of 2022, there were over 13,000 active scaffolding permits in use in New York City. Scaffolding is a common sight across the city and the use of scaffolding is heavily regulated.
However, in 2022 alone, nine workers lost their lives at construction sites in New York City. Five of these deaths were scaffolding falls. Sometimes, these falls are attributed to contractors who were more focused on the project and cutting costs than worker safety.
To combat these deaths and enhance accountability, an act referred to as Carlos’ law was passed and signed into law in January of 2023.
Carlos’ law raises the fine for criminal corporate liability for the death of a worker from $10,000 to $300,000 for misdemeanors and $500,000 for felonies.
However, what does this mean for civil liability? After all, criminal fines do not necessarily put money in the pockets of injured victims. Just because a company is found criminally liable does not automatically mean they are also civilly liable, although a finding of criminal liability might be helpful to a subsequent lawsuit.
Generally, if you are injured at work, you pursue workers’ compensation benefits. However, you might also be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit under the right circumstances. If a third party was responsible for your injuries, you might be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against them based on negligence. The third party could be a general contractor, property owner, supplier or someone other than your direct employer.
Workplace safety at construction sites is the responsibility of all those in charge of the various aspects of the project. Oversights in safety can lead to civil liability if a third party’s negligence causes a worker to suffer a serious injury or fatality.