December 23, 2020
Contractual Indemnification Language: Does It Really Limit Liability in New York Construction Accident Cases?
By Jonathan Damashek
One of the most dangerous places to work or visit is a New York City construction site. Thousands of injuries occur every year, as do dozens of deaths, according to data from the NYC Buildings Department. Because of the inherent danger, some parties try to limit their liability by contract.
What does that mean for you if you’ve been hurt, or a family member killed, in a construction accident? Your claim is likely still valid but perhaps more legally complex. That’s why you need the experienced NYC construction accident attorneys at Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. to handle your case. We understand personal injury law and how it intersects with workers’ compensation and contract laws.
Owner and General Contractor Liability
Under New York Labor Law (NYLL), the property owner and general contractor (GC) are responsible for most injuries on a construction site. This is true no matter what status you have: worker, invitee, or in some instances, trespasser.
- Employees: If you’re hurt during your employment, and the company has workers’ comp insurance (as mandated by law in NY), likely some of your compensation will be from that resource. However, there may be circumstances in which other parties can be held liable for your injuries. This is important because workers’ comp doesn’t provide full compensation for all your damages.
Additionally, if an injury or fatality occurs when there has been a violation of Labor Law 240, which regulates the use of scaffolding and other gravity-related accidents, “strict liability” applies. That means that even if the victim was negligent in some manner, the property owner or contractor is still liable for the damages. That liability doesn’t have to be proven; the only question is how much will be paid in damages.
Can Owners and General Contractors Limit Their Liability?
When property owners and general contractors make a deal for a construction project, the contracts they sign include lots of legal provisions about their relationship. A common one provides that the general contractor, usually, will defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the property owner for injuries that occur during the work. It is a risk-shifting measure that protects the property owner and encourages the general contractor to maintain safety.
Understand, however, that these contractual provisions have nothing to do with you. If you aren’t a party to the contract, there is no limitation of liability that applies to your injuries.
But don’t be bullied by these kinds of strong-arm tactics. They are hoping you’ll give up your claim or make a quick settlement. Instead, you need our skilled personal injury attorneys to review your case, the viability of any limited liability defenses, and give you an honest assessment on collecting compensation.
Hurt on a Construction Site? Contact Us
Being injured on a construction site is a serious matter. You must deal with your physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial issues caused by the accident. On top of all that, you may have insurance adjusters, property owners, or general contractors, pressuring you to not bring a claim or to accept a low-ball settlement. They might even try to point to waivers or limited liability provisions to justify their arguments. Before making any decision affecting your possible claim, contact us. We can help sort through the legal arguments and assess your case.