NY Labor Law 240: The Scaffold Law
History credits Sir Isaac Newton with formulating the law of gravity after an apple fell on his head while he rested under a tree. The New York State legislature probably realized that it could not repeal Newton’s law, but it did enact the “Scaffold Law” (New York State Labor Law §240) to protect workers against the dangers of gravity while they are on the job. The workers compensation attorneys at Aronova & Associates have the right knowledge and expertise to apply this and other laws to get their clients the highest compensation available when they are injured in inherently dangerous workplace environments.
New York is unique in that none of the other 49 states have enacted a law like Labor Law 240. If you are injured at a job site within the geographical boundaries of New York State, whether from a fall from an elevated worksite such as a scaffold or from an object that falls on you from an elevated location, then with very few exceptions Labor Law 240 imposes strict liability on an employer to pay for your injuries.
For the past several years, the New York State legislature has considered amending the Scaffold Law to change the standard from strict to comparative liability, where an injured worker’s reimbursements would be limited in accordance with the worker’s own relative fault for the accident. This effort has been stalled in committees, and strict liability is still part of the Scaffold Law.
Why Strict Liability is a Critical Part of Labor Law 240
Without strict liability, an injured worker would have the much higher burden of proving that an employer’s negligence caused his or her injuries. New York Labor Law 240 does not guarantee a monetary award every time a worker falls from a ladder or scaffold or is hit by a falling object, but it does limit an owner’s or contractor’s defenses when that happens. In view of this, at least one workers compensation insurance carrier has estimated that injured workers win more than 90% of Labor Law 240 cases.
Consider how the Scaffold Law’s strict liability standard affects some of the more common elements of a workplace injury:
- Workers should always be careful while doing their jobs, but in New York State, the compensation due to a worker for his or her injury will not be reduced or eliminated as a function of the worker’s own negligence.
- With strict liability, an injured worker only needs to prove that an injury was caused by gravity, e. the worker fell, or something fell on him. An employer’s only defenses are that the worker’s negligence or obstinate attitude (the “recalcitrant” defense) was the sole cause of the accident and injury. These are very difficult defenses to prove and verify.
- An employer’s attempts to reduce the risks of falls or falling objects are not relevant. Employers can and will provide safety training and equipment, but they will still be liable to compensate workers for injuries.
- The New York State courts generally apply Labor Law 240 as broadly as is possible to favor injured employees.
How New York Labor Law 240 Supplements Workers Compensation
Workers compensation pays hospital and medical bills, provides an injured worker with disability benefits to replace lost income, and reimburses rehabilitation and retraining costs. New York Labor Law 240 provides payments that are above and beyond workers compensation benefits, including compensation for both past and future pain and suffering. Neither is a replacement for the other, but they work together to ensure that a worker who is injured in New York State receives full recompense for a job-related injury that results from a fall or a falling object.
The interplay between Labor Law 240 and workers compensation is illustrated by a jury verdict for a Queens, New York employee who was injured when he fell 20 feet off a roof where he had been installing siding. Workers compensation provided some immediate reimbursement for his medical expenses, but the Queens jury subsequently found that his employer violated the Scaffold Law, and awarded the injured worker more than $60 million to compensate for past and future pain that accompanied his long-term disability. Workers compensation would likely not have provided that large of an award.
Attorneys Who Understand Labor Law 240 Will Best Protect Your Rights
As Sir Isaac Newton discovered, gravity is a constant at every worksite. If you are injured as a result of a gravity-induced fall or falling object while you are on the job, your best chance to recover the largest amount of compensation that is owed to you under New York State law will come when you retain an attorney who knows both workers compensation and New York Labor Law 240. Contact Aronova & Associates at your convenience to speak with one of our workers compensation and Labor Law 240 attorneys, who will guide you through the process of making a claim and recovering damages from the responsible parties.
Additional New York Labor Law 240 Resources:
- Labor Law 240 – Reform Efforts http://www.albanylawreview.org/Articles/Vol78_1/78.1.167%20Greagan_FINAL%20APPROVED.pdf
- Labor Law 240 – Insurance Coverage https://corporatesolutions.swissre.com/insights/knowledge/newyork_law_coverage.html
- Labor Law 240 – Workers Compensation https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/workers-compensation-benefits-faq.html
- Labor Law 240 – Jury Verdict http://www.durabilityanddesign.com/news/?fuseaction=view&id=12481