Can a Subcontractor Sue for a Construction Injury in Westchester County, NY?

Construction injuries can leave victims with substantial medical bills and lost time at work.  If you are a contractor or subcontractor, you could miss out on multiple jobs in the time it takes you to recover.  This often drives injured workers to file for Workers’ Compensation or file lawsuits for their injuries, but can you actually sue as an injured subcontractor?

New York’s laws allow injury victims to sue for a work injury in Westchester County only under limited circumstances.  These rules apply to all “employees,” but the law also includes most contractors and subcontractors under these rules.  However, lawsuits are still possible; there is simply a question as to who you are entitled to sue under these rules – and your lead contractor might be excluded under certain situations.

For a free review of your injury case, call the Westchester County construction accident and injury lawyers at The Martello Law Firm today at (914) 685-6950.

Workers’ Compensation Restrictions on Lawsuits for Subcontractors and Independent Contractors in Westchester County, NY

The law on who can and cannot sue after a work-related injury is a bit complex.  In general, all “employers” in New York are required to cover their “employees” with Workers’ Compensation insurance.  Covered employees are not allowed to sue their employer except under certain circumstances where safety rules were violated, where the employer intentionally injured the employee, or where the employer didn’t have the required insurance.

Contractors and subcontractors might look at this rule and think that it does not apply to them, but our Yonkers, NY construction accident lawyers find that these rules do in fact apply to many subcontractors.  Being an independent contractor instead of an “employee” has many benefits, but avoiding these restrictions on lawsuits is not typically one of them.  Instead, the definitions of “employer” and “employee” under these laws are broad and often include many contractors and subcontractors anyway, subjecting them to these lawsuit restrictions as well.

Lawsuits against a coworker are also generally barred, too.

Classifying Independent Contractors and Subcontractors vs. Employees for Work Injury Lawsuits in Westchester County, NY

If a subcontractor is properly classified as an independent contractor, then their boss does not have to provide them with Workers’ Compensation insurance, and the worker doesn’t face restrictions on their right to sue.  However, if the worker qualifies as an employee for purposes of Workers’ Compensation benefits, then these restrictions do apply, and the worker might have to file through Workers’ Compensation instead of suing their boss for injuries.

There are complex lists of features and attributes that apply to employees versus independent contractors.  Generally, the issue does not come down to how they are paid; whether the worker is a 1099 worker or a W-2 worker is only a factor.  Instead, the relationship generally comes down to whether the “employer” controls the workers’ time, place, and manner of their work.  You also have to look at whether the purported contractor works as a separate business entity, whether they perform a different trade or profession, and whether they can work for a competitor.

L.A.B. Law § 595 even goes so far as to block explicit agreements from defining the worker as an employer or a contractor.  Instead, everyone has to look at the circumstances of their employment rather than what the paperwork or contracts call the worker.

Ultimately, many subcontractors will be treated as employees for these purposes.  That means that the general contractor that hired them will be considered their “employer.”  That general contractor will then have to provide them with Workers’ Compensation benefits and other required benefits, and they cannot be sued for the subcontractor’s injuries.

Exceptions that Allow Injured Subcontractors to Sue in Westchester County, NY

Even though you might be blocked from suing the general contractor that hired you, that doesn’t mean you cannot sue at all.  Even with traditional employees, there are exceptions to the restrictions on a worker’s right to sue that can help them get compensation by simply suing a different at-fault party.  These exceptions also apply to subcontractors.

If the contractor who hired you is the only person liable for your injuries, then you might be blocked from suing them.  However, if your injuries were caused by another contractor, a property owner/client, an equipment manufacturer, a driver, or some other third party, then the law places no restrictions on your right to sue them.  For example, if you were injured from inhaling fumes because the respirator you were using suffered from a manufacturing defect, you cannot sue your general contractor, but you should be able to sue the manufacturer who produced the defective respirator.

As mentioned above, you can also sue your contractor directly if they failed to actually carry the required insurance or if they intentionally injured you.  You can also sue your “employer” for negligence that occurs alongside various safety violations that often apply to construction and contracting work.  There are specific laws that list various safety rules that, when violated, can be grounds for a lawsuit – even against an “employer.”

Damages You Can Sue for as an Injured Subcontractor in Westchester County, NY

If you are limited to filing your case as a Workers’ Compensation claim, you could be entitled to coverage for the medical expenses related to your injuries as well as a portion of your lost wages.  However, as a contractor, you could be missing out on other jobs, and an injury could impact you and your business in many ways.  You could also be left with substantial pain and suffering that insurance does not cover.

When you file a lawsuit instead, the rest of those damages should be open to you in your claim.  If you have substantial pain and suffering or you faced a permanent injury, you might not get enough compensation through an insurance claim.  You should instead talk to a lawyer about your options to maximize damages through a lawsuit.

Call Our Westchester County Construction Accident Lawyers Today

If you were hurt in a construction accident, call The Martello Law Firm at (914) 685-6950 for a free case analysis with our Clarkstown, NY construction accident and injury attorneys.

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