I Drive a Vehicle – What Are My Rights?

According to federal workplace injury data, being struck by a vehicle or other object is the second-leading cause of death in construction work. About 75 percent of these fatalities involve trucks, forklifts, cranes and other heavy equipment.

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A worker injured in a construction vehicle accident may have the right to go beyond workers' compensation benefits when seeking a recovery. New York Labor Law provides paths for pursuing damages.

Types of Construction Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents that could potentially cause injury or death at a construction site include:

  • Collisions

    Any kind of negligent or reckless driving of a work truck or vehicle can lead to a collision. Collisions can injure or kill the at-fault driver, other occupants of the vehicle, occupants of another vehicle or workers not in a vehicle. A defect on the work vehicle such as faulty brakes or a tire blowout can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash. A vehicle out of control for any reason can strike and damage or destroy structures at a construction site, such as scaffolding, and cause injuries.

  • Backovers

    This occurs when a vehicle that is going in reverse strikes a worker who is standing, walking or kneeling behind the vehicle. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 workers died from backover incidents in a recent year.

  • Rollovers

    Vehicles used on unstable ground at a construction site are at risk of rolling over. Movement of a vehicle's components such as the raising of a dump truck bed can cause the balance of a vehicle to shift and result in a rollover. Occupants of the vehicle may be ejected and crushed under the vehicle. People near the vehicle may be struck and/or crushed as it rolls over. Other structures may be struck and damaged as well.

  • Pinning

    Workers on a job site are at risk of being pinned between construction vehicles and walls or other structures. They may also be pinned by mobile parts of a vehicle such as the swinging arm of a crane, blade of an earth mover or lowered dump truck bed. Being pinned by a motor vehicle can cause crushing injuries, including fractures and damage to internal organs.

  • Cargo spills

    Improperly loaded or unsecured cargo is at risk of spilling from a vehicle as it makes a sharp turn, begins to climb a hill or stops suddenly. Cranes that are not rigged properly can drop materials. Workers may be directly struck and injured by spilled cargo. Certain types of spilled cargo can spread or roll and cause harm to workers.

Types of Construction Vehicle Accident Claims

If you are a construction worker or a person who was "lawfully frequenting" a construction, demolition or excavation site, you may seek compensation after a construction vehicle accident under Labor Law § 241(6) or Labor Law § 200.

  • Labor Law § 241(6)

    You must show that a specific, concrete Industrial Code Rule applied to your situation, and that a violation of this rule served as the proximate cause of your injury. Sections of the Industrial Code containing rules that may apply to your situation include:

    • § 23-8 – Mobile cranes, tower cranes and derricks
    • § 23-9 – Power equipment, including motor trucks (§ 23-9.7) and lift and fork trucks (§ 23-9.8).
      • For example, § 23-9.7 requires that the brakes of every motor truck be maintained so that the truck, with a full load, is securely held on any grade that is encountered "in normal use on the job." So, if you were injured because a truck's brakes were not maintained in compliance with this rule, you may be able to assert a claim for compensation under Labor Law § 241(6).
  • Labor Law § 200

    You must show that the construction site owner, contractor or agent had notice of a dangerous condition involving a vehicle at a construction site and had the power to supervise and control the work being done. You could rely on a violation of the above New York State Industrial Code rules to establish your claim. You could also turn to OSHA's extensive regulation of vehicles used at construction sites.