Category: Personal Injury

Update on Sidewalk Safety & Injury Liability in New York

With the return of winter weather, the New York City Department of Buildings issued a reminder last week to all property owners, landlords and businesses to clear sidewalks adjacent to their property of snow and ice. NYC Administrative Code 16-123 requires that property owners and landlords who are in charge of any building or lot in the city next to a paved sidewalk remove snow, ice, dirt, fallen leaves, branches and any other debris from the sidewalk within four hours of its appearance. If removal is unsafe or will cause damage to the pavement, the owner is still expected to lay sand, sawdust or another appropriate material down and clean the sidewalk as soon as weather permits.

Unfortunately, each year throughout the five boroughs,
thousands of pedestrians are injured when they fall on slippery sidewalks, suffering from traumatic brain injuries, paralysis,
spinal injuries, broken bones, fractures and damage
to nerves and cartilage – especially in vulnerable joints
like knees, elbows, wrists and shoulders.

Unfortunately, each year throughout the five boroughs, thousands of pedestrians are injured when they fall on slippery sidewalks, suffering from traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, spinal injuries, broken bones, fractures and damage to nerves and cartilage – especially in vulnerable joints like knees, elbows, wrists and shoulders. While many of these instances can be attributed to a loss of balance or footing, they can also be caused by the failure of property owners or managers to take necessary safety measures. In addition to the temporary hazards caused by weather, pedestrians are also at risk of injury from an even more common cause of slip and fall accidents: sidewalk defects including cracks, uneven planes, patchwork repairs, missing sections, improper slopes and exposed tree roots as well as hardware defects like poorly installed grates. According to TRIP, a transportation research group based in Washington DC, New York City also has the 6th worst pothole problem of all cities in the United States.

“…In 2003 responsibility for sidewalk injury liability shifted
from the city to property owners. Property owners and landlords must now be able to demonstrate that sidewalks adjoining their premises as well as pedestrian ramps and parking lots are regularly inspected, well-maintained and free of defects.”

While accidents cannot always be prevented, The Department of Transportation has a list of specifications that must be followed by property owners in order to provide reasonably safe sidewalk conditions. Duties include removal of snow and ice, upkeep, fixing broken, uneven and cracked pavement and tending to raised grating that could cause a pedestrian to fall. Previously, the City of New York was responsible for maintaining sidewalks but in 2003 responsibility for sidewalk injury liability shifted from the city to property owners. Property owners and landlords must now be able to demonstrate that sidewalks adjoining their premises as well as pedestrian ramps and parking lots are regularly inspected, well-maintained and free of defects. They must “install, construct, repave, reconstruct or repair” sidewalks to New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications – at their own expense. This change has made it easier for injured individuals to seek compensation for medical costs and other expenses associated with a slip and fall injury when negligence is involved. While the DOT Sidewalk Repair Program replaces more than 2 million square feet of sidewalk each year, they now focus most of this work on city-owned property and only address about 1% of the city’s total sidewalk area each year. DOT relies on property owners to maintain the rest of the sidewalks.

Prior to 2003, in order to file a claim against the city, an individual was required to give actual notice of the defect: written proof that the property owner knew of the condition for a sufficient enough time to have fixed it.

Now only constructive notice is required: proof that the condition existed long enough for the property owner to be aware of it. Property owners are also now required to purchase insurance for personal injury and property damage resulting from improper sidewalk maintenance.

when injury could have been prevented by proper maintenance, the victim may receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with the incident.

Of course, not all slip and fall accidents are a result of property owner negligence, but when injury could have been prevented by proper maintenance, the victim may receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with the incident. Anyone who suffers a trip and fall due to poor maintenance by a property owner should get prompt medical assistance and report what caused the fall immediately. Waiting for too long often means there are no witnesses and no documentation of treatment sought at the time of the accident.

If you or someone you know has suffered from injuries due to unsafe conditions on sidewalks and parking lots, the experienced New York attorneys at Okun, Oddo & Babat can help you. Don’t hesitate to contact us or call us at 212.642.0950 to discuss your case.

Additional Resource: http://www.nyc.gov/html/law/html/home/home.shtml

Article by Shea Bergesen for Lavery Design Associates, Ltd. copyright 2013. This article may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

Construction Site Injuries, West Side, Manhattan

Four people, including three pedestrians and a firefighter, were injured recently when construction paneling collapsed from a West 40th Street building in Manhattan, sending debris on to the sidewalk below. Earlier that day, the New York City Department of Buildings issued a warning to all workers, contractors and property owners to secure project sites due to anticipated wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour.

Department of Building inspectors on the scene have since found that while strong winds were a factor in the incident, a construction fence meant to secure the materials was not installed properly, according to a CBS News source. Einstein Construction Group, the Texas-based contractor working on the building, received several violations and a stop-work order, though the company head insists they were not responsible.

In New York, site employees injured in construction accidents
can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits
through the Workers’ Compensation Board.
If the negligence of an individual or organization contributed to the accident, they may also file a third-party injury accident claim.

Filled with obvious and hidden safety hazards, construction sites are among the most dangerous work environments in the US, posing serious risks to both workers and non-workers in the area. Although site managers and employees are trained to maintain safe conditions, thousands of people are injured or killed on or near construction sites each year by falling debris, unstable platforms, large machinery and hazardous materials – including exposed wires and gas lines, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Those injured on construction sites are typically workers, with OSHA reporting that US construction workers suffered almost 93,00 injuries on the job in 2009 and continue to incur the most fatal injuries of any occupation.  In New York City, the Bureau of Labor Statistics sites construction as the second-most dangerous industry, surpassed in fatalities only by the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

The recent construction accident illustrates how dangerous – and unpredictable — construction sites can be for non-workers as well. Many projects, including those in the populated five boroughs, take place in high traffic areas where pedestrians are walking through, around or below construction activity. Another incident in early October 2013 put pedestrians at significant risk when a crane malfunctioned at a midtown Manhattan high-rise, leaving 13,500 pounds of concrete hanging 30 stories above the street for several hours. Fortunately, workers were able to lower the load to the ground manually and no one was injured.

Both recent incidents in Midtown have been attributed by site managers to faulty equipment and dangerous weather conditions. However, as is often the case, they may have been prevented or alleviated by following standard safety regulations including those mandated by the state and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Inspection requirements, job safety programs and federal and state laws all seek to prevent accidents on construction sites and promote safety awareness. While not always the case, injuries at or around sites can be caused by the negligence of a third party who has failed to follow regulations.

In New York, site employees injured in construction accidents can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits through the Workers’ Compensation Board. If the negligence of an individual or organization contributed to the accident, they may also file a third-party injury accident claim. However, when a non-worker is injured, their only option for compensation may be a personal injury lawsuit. Construction accidents involving bystanders are handled in much the same way as other personal injury cases. The injured party files a lawsuit against the responsible party – whether it is an individual worker or employer, contractor, site manager, property owner or the manufacturer of equipment — and must prove that their negligence caused the accident and resulting injuries.

If you or someone you know has suffered from injuries or loss of life involving a construction site accident in New York, the experienced New York attorneys at Okun, Oddo & Babat can help you. Don’t hesitate to contact us or call us at 212.642.0950 to discuss your case.

Article by Shea Bergesen for Lavery Design Associates, Ltd. copyright 2013. This article may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

Potential Dangers and Forms of Negligence on Commercial Properties

Shopping malls are designed to accommodate a large population of people moving incrowds through stores, hallways and up stairs and elevators. With all of this activity, occasional accidents are bound to occur.
There are a variety of possible hazards that can endanger mall visitors, especially if the staff and management are not fulfilling their duty to keep the premises safe. 15% of injuries in malls and shopping centers are caused by slip and fall accidents. While they can be attributed to the patron simply losing their balance, these incidents can also be caused by: Continue reading “Potential Dangers and Forms of Negligence on Commercial Properties”

Injuries Caused By Falling Objects and Construction Debris

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered aninvestigation into an accident at the World Trade Center site that led to the hospitalization of a 48-year-old carpenter. The man, employed by a large New York City construction company, was injured by a falling steel plate that broke his leg and caused multiple fractures to his body. Continue reading “Injuries Caused By Falling Objects and Construction Debris”

Pedestrians & Bicyclists Injured by East Village Driver

Manhattan’s East Village was the scene of an auto accident in front of a Bodega that caused severe personal injuries and the driver of the vehicle in police custody. According to a New York Times article eight people were injured, three of them with life-threatening injuries. The accident also caused property damage to the storefront  and street. Continue reading “Pedestrians & Bicyclists Injured by East Village Driver”