Construction is a big business in New York—from the Big Apple to Albany, new buildings are constantly going up and old ones are coming down.

While construction sites are filled with hazards, this is especially true when demolition is involved. Demolishing a building, even a structure with only a couple of stories, typically means using heavy equipment and even explosives.

If you suffer any injuries while on the job, seeking compensation for a demolition accident can be confusing. Do you turn to worker’s comp or file a personal injury claim against the construction company?

The answer typically depends on the factors leading up to the accident. If you work in demolition, here’s what you should know about filing an injury claim.

Filing a Workers Compensation Claim

Most construction workers, regardless of whether or not demolition is involved, will file a claim with workers’ compensation. Almost all employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance in New York.

There are a few exceptions but these don’t apply to construction companies. If you’re wondering about the exceptions. A small mom-and-pop style retail store may be able to legally skip offering worker’s compensation if they’re only employing around 5 staff members.

Since construction sites typically employ more than 5 individuals and are known to be hazardous, worker’s compensation is a legal requirement. Not carrying workers’ compensation insurance can result in hefty fines and possibly shutting the construction project down.

Workers’ compensation follows a no-fault insurance system. Workers injured on the job receive financial compensation to cover medical expenses, disability costs, and lost wages. If an employee is fatally injured on the job, workers’ compensation also pays out death benefits to the individual’s surviving dependents.

To be eligible for workers’ comp benefits, you must report the accident and your injuries to your employer within 30 days of the accident. Why do you have a grace period to report any injuries? The 30-day window is designed to give employees time to fully evaluate the extent of their injuries.

Some injuries can take a few days or weeks to start showing signs and symptoms. Soft tissue injuries are an example. An employee may also not realize their sustained injuries immediately after the accident. However, you don’t want to miss the 30-day filing deadline. If you miss the deadline there’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to file a claim.

If you experience an occupational disease, which is a disease you contract at work. Asbestos exposure is an example. Employees didn’t realize the immediate risks and any negative health effects didn’t immediately appear after being exposed to the harmful substance.

You have two years to file a worker’s comp claim if you suffer from an occupational disease. The deadline starts either at the time of the incident or when you receive the diagnosis.

What Happens if You’re At fault

Remember how workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system? This means you can file an injury claim even if you’re responsible for causing the accident. However, being the at-fault party can make the filing process a little more complicated.

Don’t be surprised if either your employer or the insurance adjuster tries to discourage you from filing a claim. This is an unfortunately common practice that may also violate federal and state labor laws.

Trying to dissuade an injured employee from filing a workers’ compensation claim may also violate OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. You have the right to file a claim with workers’ compensation regardless of who’s at fault for the accident.

Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Conditions

What happens if your demolition accident causes a flare-up in a pre-existing condition? Even if you’re not injured in an accident, you may still be able to file a claim with workers’ compensation.

If the work you’re doing on the demolition site is making a pre-existing condition worse, workers’ comp may cover some of your damages. However, filing a claim for a pre-existing condition can be a little tricky.

You will need to provide medical proof documenting your condition, along with how the job is acerbating your symptoms. Unlike filing a claim for injuries sustained in a workplace accident, you’ll only receive a percentage of your loss.

Your primary care physician can help you calculate your damages, but it’s also a good idea to work with an attorney familiar with workers’ compensation laws. The insurance adjuster will try to reduce your percentage amount but an attorney can help ensure you receive fair compensation.

Can You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Demolition Accident

Even though there aren’t any laws in New York preventing you from filing a personal injury lawsuit against a construction company, most employees stick with their workers’ compensation benefits. In fact, most of the time the legal system will refer you back to workers’ compensation but there are exceptions.

These exceptions include:

If the construction company violates state and/or federal labor laws, and this also applies to landowners, contractors and third-party vendors.
If a third-party vendor or contractor’s negligence contributed to the accident
You can also file a personal injury lawsuit if the construction company doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance.

To successfully file a personal injury claim in New York against a construction company, you must prove negligence. If you can’t prove negligence, your lawsuit will automatically be dismissed. You must prove the defendant owes you a duty of care.

In this instance, providing a safe work environment. You must also show the defendant knowingly or willfully breached their duty of care. This means the defendant is aware of workplace hazards and didn’t make any changes.

You must also prove that the defendant’s actions are directly responsible for the accident and your resulting damages. If you can prove negligence, then there’s a good chance you can move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.

Don’t Go Through the Insurance Process Alone

Regardless of whether you’re only filing a workers’ compensation claim or moving on to a personal injury lawsuit, you don’t want to handle the legalities by yourself.

Working with an experienced injury attorney can simplify the process and help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your damages. Having this type of support in place allows you to focus on your recovery while your attorney navigates the legal complexities on your behalf.