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Suing for a Fall at Work in New York

Construction worker has an accident while working on new house

Many of us spend a lot of our time every week at our respective workplaces. Whether it is a part-time or a full-time job, we expect work to be safe while we are there. It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that their employees have the safest possible environment to come to each and every day, which includes warning employees of any hazards that may arise. So, if you’ve been injured by a fall at work, it’s a good idea to discuss your case with a New York personal injury attorney because you may be entitled to compensation.

What Is a ‘Slip and Fall’ Accident? 

A fall can be more complicated than it may seem. Usually, when someone encounters a dangerous situation and slips or trips and falls, there are injuries. Accidents like this could occur as a result of negligence by a company, contractors, weather conditions, or even one’s own inattentiveness. Although “slip” and “trip” may sound extremely similar, they have their own distinctions, as outlined by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) below: 

  1. you can slip when you lose your footing; 
  2. you can trip when you catch your foot on or in something; 
  3. and one or both of those can lead to a fall, which is when you come down to the floor suddenly and accidently.

To put this into perspective, people normally “trip” when their foot hits a hard object, such as a misplaced object on a driveway or an unevenly installed brick in a walkway. In contrast, people normally “slip” when they lose their footing on a surface that is wet, causing it to be slippery.

Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents in New York

The state of New York has a huge population, big cities, and lots of workplaces. All of these things combined create a recipe for unavoidable accidents on the job. Slips and falls can occur in any kind of workplace, at any time, and usually without any warning. Some common situations that could cause a slip and fall accident include:

  • Damaged and/or defective walkways
  • Construction site negligence
  • Unsecured cords or cables
  • Insufficient lighting on a walkway or stairway
  • No warning or caution signs
  • Lack of weather maintenance on a walkway or stairway
  • Failure to fix leaks
  • Lack of stairway or platform maintenance
  • Failure to repair damaged walls/ceilings
  • Falling debris
  • Missing or damaged handrails
  • Loose floor tiles

People normally only think these types of cases apply to customers at a store, or a landlord-tenant relationship, however another major category of personal injury cases is those accidents that occur in the workplace. 

Premises Liability Law

Generally, if you or someone you love has sustained an injury at work from a slip and fall accident, you have the right to pursue compensation. In New York, slip and fall injury cases fall under premises liability law. 

Premises liability law essentially considers whether a slip and fall accident was reasonably foreseeable. An accident would be reasonably foreseeable if an average person would have anticipated that an accident could occur based on the condition of the property. This also includes whether a responsible party made a reasonable effort to keep the property repaired, safe, and/or provided some form of warning if a dangerous condition was present but not yet fixed.

What Does a New York Workplace Slip and Fall  Settlement Cover?

Due to the inherent nature of slip and fall accidents, every accident is usually very unique. This presents challenges when you go to pursue compensation for your damages, as finding out what is covered, how much compensation you are entitled to, and who is liable can be a very difficult and lengthy process. Hiring an attorney will ensure you navigate this legal process correctly and get the best possible outcome.

Once your attorney helps you figure out whether your employer is responsible for your slip and fall accident, and what percentage of the liability will likely be attributed to them, you will need to figure out approximately how much compensation you can recover. Generally speaking, you can recover most if not all of the losses you suffered from the injury initially, and even future costs you may endure.

Here are examples of typical factors that could affect your compensation amounts:

  • Medical treatment costs (current and/or future)
  • Lost wages (current and/or future)
  • Emotional trauma 
  • Expenses of dependants
  • Pain and suffering

If you believe your injury was not due to your own negligence, you should not have to suffer the consequences of the accident on your own, especially when they can be so costly. Usually after a slip and fall accident, you will need some sort of medical attention, then you will likely have to miss work days if you physically or mentally cannot do your job. Many people may also have dependents, who rely on them for food, shelter, school supplies, and other expenses. You may be entitled to recovering all or some of these expenses. In addition, you may also be entitled to recover compensation for pain and suffering, including emotional distress, caused by your slip and fall accident. 

Keep in mind that your employer will likely not be responsible for a slip and fall injury that occurs outside of your work hours and/or off their premises. For example, in Rosario v. New York State Comptroller, a state park police officer (Rosario) filed an application for disability retirement benefits alleging that he was permanently injured on the job due to a slip and fall accident on the employer’s premises. The New York State Police, Local Police, and Fire Retirement System initially denied Rosario’s application because he failed to establish that he was permanently disabled from the slip and fall accident. It  was later discovered during Rosario’s own testimony, that the injury took place before his shift and not on the employer’s premises. The court ruled to dismiss the claim because Rosario was not “in service” at the time the injury occurred.

The Role of Workers’ Compensation

The purpose of workers’ compensation is to protect the rights of employees and employers by managing and delivering benefits as needed, and also promoting worker and employer compliance with the law. All businesses are required to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all employees and they in fact cannot receive business permits without it. This coverage can come from a private insurance carrier, the New York State Insurance Fund, or the rarest form, the employer’s own insurance, which is called “self-insurance.” 

Workers’ compensation is in place for the benefit of the employers and the employees, however it doesn’t always make perfect judgements either, as there is always a human factor in anything related to these cases including the courts. In Cohn v. Morningstar Nicol, Inc., an employee (Cohn) was going up the steps into her workplace when her foot slid out from under her as she was about to go up the steps. Cohn figured there must have been an ice build up because it had snowed heavily the week before. The Workers’ Compensation Board did not allow the employee to receive benefits initially, even though the incident occurred on the workplace premises during work hours. On appeal, however, the lower court’s ruling was reversed because it was determined that the employee was injured as a result of a risk that was exclusive to her workplace. Moreover, the lower court did not investigate and figure out whether there was ice or not, which is something that it should have investigated. 

As you can see in this case, if the employee had not pursued legal action, she may have never received compensation for her injury and damages. It is extremely difficult to navigate the legal side of a slip and fall accident at work, and the process may be lengthy. By consulting an expert personal injury attorney to do all the heavy lifting, you’ll have a better chance to get the compensation you deserve while you recover from your injuries.    

What Is the Difference Between Workers’ Comp and Social Security Disability Insurance?

Workers compensation essentially gives benefits to those workers who are injured on the job or suffer an illness due to their work. A victim of such injury may be entitled to medical treatment and lost wage payments for all work-related harm. These workers comp programs are made and run by the states. Normally state laws require employers to provide proof that they have insurance or financial means to handle the risk of their own workers. Workers comp is primarily paid for by employers, who oftentimes make employees indirectly fund a substantial portion of these funds.

Social security disability insurance is among the largest disability benefit programs in the United States. Social security disability benefits are strictly paid to workers who have long-term impairments, regardless of whether the injury resulted from work. These funds are paid by law to those who cannot perform work to provide for themselves. For example, a sprained ankle will not get you this form of disability benefit, however an amputated leg would likely get you these benefits especially if your career required intensive physical labor. The timeline used for eligibility of these benefits is whether a disability will last at least a year or result in your death. After a five-month waiting period, eligible people will begin to receive benefits.   

Workers’ comp and social security disability are not the same thing. One significant difference between the two is that a worker qualifies for workers comp the first day of official employment, whereas social disability benefits are awarded only to those who can prove substantial work history. To dive deeper into these forms of benefits, click here.   

New York’s Comparative Negligence Rule

In New York, if someone slips, falls, and gets injured, and they are found to have some fault for the accident, the award is adjusted downward to reflect this. This is otherwise known as “Comparative Negligence.” For example, if a person is texting while walking and slips and falls over a hazard, a court may well find that that person is partially to blame for their own accident and resulting injuries. When this happens on the job, your employer or owner of the property where you work may argue that you bear some responsibility for the accident that led to your injuries. 

An argument from the accused to blame the injured party for some role in an accident is a common defense to either get out of, or lower the amount of damages they would have to pay. In a slip and fall case at your workplace, you may see the following arguments made against you:

  • The dangerous condition that caused your slip and fall was open and obvious
  • You were distracted at the time of your slip and fall accident
  • The area in which the accident took place was marked with signage or an object to indicate that it was slippery or unsafe
  • You trespassed in an area that you were not allowed to go

One of the most difficult aspects to proving a slip and fall case against your workplace is that of proving that your workplace or property owner had notice of a dangerous condition prior to the accident. Foreign substances that may have caused your slip and fall are very hard to prove this with, whereas a defect on a property may be easier to prove if you can get an expert to testify explaining how the defect occurred and how long it was there without being fixed. For example, a great way you would be able to prove that your slip and fall accident was caused by a foreign substance and it was your work place’s fault, is to find workplace incident reports that show the condition was never remedied, or not remedied in a timely, reasonable manner. 

If the employer or property owner is successful in proving that your own actions contributed to the accident, it’s likely that your compensation will be reduced. That’s because New York adheres to the pure comparative fault rule. This rule states that however much of the fault is attributed to either of the parties, the total settlement amount shall be divided accordingly. For example, if your total damages come out to $200,000 and the court decides you are 50% liable for your own slip and fall injury, you would receive $100,000. This is because you are not eligible to receive the 50% amounting from your own negligence. 

The comparative negligence rule can be a big issue in your personal injury proceeding because your employer and their insurance will try to argue your negligence as much as they possibly can to ensure they pay you the least amount possible. This is precisely the reason you need to contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney like Rosenblum Law before you attempt to pursue compensation, so we can deal with insurance companies and the other party’s attorneys.

Statute of Limitations for a Slip, Trip, and Fall Accident in New York

Every state normally has a time limit on how long you have to file a lawsuit on a particular matter. This is called the “statute of limitations,” and can be specific to the type of lawsuit, or a general time limit for broader areas of the law. Generally speaking, if you do not file a lawsuit within the specific time limit given in the statute of limitations for your slip and fall injury, you may be barred from pursuing compensation forever. These are important, because the more time goes by, the more the details of a case could become inaccurate or unavailable for investigation.

In New York, anyone who is injured in a slip, trip, and fall accident has three years from the time the injury occurred to file a personal injury claim. This three-year limit also applies to those people who have suffered property damage in a slip and fall.

26% falls, slips, & trips are the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities in New York City.

Related Facts and Statistics

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board maintains 9 district offices in New York. There were over 140,000 non-fatal injuries at New York’s private industry workplaces in 2019. State and local government public sector workplaces in New York reported 66,100 injury and illness cases for the same year. Slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of claims for workers’ comp in the U.S., and the leading cause of occupational injuries for people who are age 55 and older. Falls are the leading cause of compensable injuries in the trucking industry as well, according to the American Trucking Association. Nationally, falls, slips, and trips contributed to 880 deaths in 2019, an increase of 11 percent over the prior year.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Could my workplace fire me or retaliate against me for suing for a slip and fall accident?

Pursuing workers’ compensation is a protected right for all legal workers. “Retaliation” is when an employer mistreats you as a way to punish you for your actions. If you suspect that you’re a victim of retaliation from your employer for engaging in a protected activity or right of yours, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Employers are prohibited from terminating their employees for filing for workers’ compensation in all 50 states. In New York and several other states, even a demotion, pay cut, change in job responsibilities, or any other unwarranted disciplinary action could be considered retaliation.  

How can I most accurately calculate a slip and fall settlement against my employer? 

If you want to accurately calculate your potential slip and fall settlement, and then pursue that compensation from your employer, give yourself the best chance of maximizing both by contacting a highly skilled attorney. They will be able to most accurately determine the amount you deserve, and then help you navigate the legal process to recover it. 

Could I receive a settlement if I lost a loved one due to a slip and fall accident at their workplace? 

If someone you love has lost their life due to their employer’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages to cover all expenses that stem from the incident, and to compensate those who have been affected by the death. You will have to prove that the slip and fall accident occurred because the employer was careless. Additionally, you will have to prove that the deceased person would have been able to recover damages if they had survived their injuries. You will want to contact an attorney to file a wrongful death suit to handle this while you’re in the grieving process. This lawsuit can recover costs associated with things like the funeral and burial, pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death, value of the income or services that the deceased would have provided, loss of companionship, and medical costs before death.

Who Should You Contact?

If you’ve fallen at work, you will need the support of the highly competent and determined legal team here at Rosenblum Law. We offer decades of experience and unrivaled attention to our clients’ cases to ensure the best possible outcomes. Don’t hesitate to take the crucial first step on the road to recovery. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 us for a free consultation.

Other Resources  

Basics of Handling a Workers’ Comp Case in New York

New York City Bar Association on Employer Retaliation

Slip and Fall Quick Facts

What Is Premises Liability?

Why You Should See a Doctor After a Fall

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