Is Workers Compensation the Exclusive Remedy for Construction Accidents?


If you are wondering, “Is Workers Compensation the exclusive remedy for constructions accidents,?” the answer is that sometimes there are additional ways to collect compensation.


  • Grave Injuries – Applies to catastrophic injuries sustained in an accident.  This provision has been interpreted very narrowly by the New York Courts, denying a lawsuit to a worker that lost part of all the fingers of one hand, ruling that it must be the “entire finger,” to qualify as an exception to exclusive remedy.
    • death;
    • permanent and total loss of use or amputation of an arm, leg, hand or foot;
    • loss of multiple fingers;
    • loss of multiple toes;
    • paraplegia or quadriplegia;
    • total and permanent blindness;
    • total and permanent deafness;
    • loss of nose;
    • loss of ear;
    • permanent and severe facial disfigurement;
    • loss of an index finger; or
    • an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force resulting in permanent total disability.
  • Intentional Conduct – The employer does something to intentionally harm the worker.  The New York courts have interpreted this exception narrowly as well.  The employer must have actually wanted the worker to be hurt and did something to hurt this particular worker.  No degree of recklessness would suffice.  There are provisions under the Labor Law that would apply to unsafe conditions.


  1. The Scaffold Law, limited to construction workers, allows lawsuits against employers when injured was caused by a defect in a safety device, “at an elevation.”  This doesn’t mean that you need to be 1,000 feet up in the air.  Courts have upheld the use of a ladder for meeting the requirement of “at an elevation,” but it must be a problem with the ladder that caused the fall.  It’s not enough just to be high up, the fall must be “caused by gravity.”  The right to sue was denied to a worker who hurt is back to due to the design of a harness used at the top of a skyscraper, because the injury was not from falling.  You could sue if you were hit by debris caused by malfunctioning devices “at an elevation, but not because your co-workers dropped their water bottle on you.
  2. Labor law will also allow some suits based on an unsafe work site


  1. If the injury was caused, at least in part, by the acts or omissions of somebody not employed by the company, such a delivery person, a lawsuit can commence against that person and/or entity.


  1. If the injury was caused, at least in part, by a defect in a product, a product liability claim would be allowable.

I doubt you’re still wondering, “Is Worker’s Compensation the Exclusive Remedy for Construction Accidents,” but you might have some follow-up questions.  Feel free to give us a call at 718-261-8114.

2019-01-22T20:15:40+00:00By |0 Comments

About the Author:

Alyce Wittenstein is a world class attorney, blogger and filmmaker. She began working at the firm in 1985 as a managing paralegal, learning all the practices and procedures of the firm from Mr. Wittenstein and the staff. From 1995-1998, she attended CUNY Law School where she made a mark as a teaching assistant for Civil Rights leader Haywood Burns. She founded a Human Rights Delegation to Haiti and studied Constitutional Law with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Working at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commision (EEOC), she learned a great deal about Employment Discrimination matters. She brought her knowledge of the Personal Injury practice and her passion for Civil Rights to the firm when she was admitted to the Bar in 1999. In 2000, she became a partner and the firm name was changed to Wittenstein & Wittenstein, Esqs. PC.

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