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Can You Sue a General Contractor for a Workplace Injury?

A common question workers ask is “can you sue a general contractor for a workplace injury”? Like many legal questions, the answer varies depending on the circumstances. If you are wondering if your accident qualifies, you should call a knowledgeable attorney.

What Laws Hold General Contractors Liable for Workplace Injuries

When figuring out “can you sue a general contractor for a workplace injury?” one of the deciding factors is whether the work qualified as protected work under New York’s Labor Law. The New York Labor Laws hold construction site owners and general contractors strictly liable for certain classes of accidents that occur on construction sites. These laws are very strong. They hold general contractors liable for a worker’s accident regardless of whether they control the work. Because of this, a general contractor will try to hide the fact that they are a general contractor to avoid being sued. One of the common things a general contractor will do is label themselves as something other than a general contractor. Frequently, general contractors will masquerade as “construction managers.”

Savvy construction accident lawyers caught on to this ploy and began challenging this distinction. In 2005, the Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) weighed in. It heard a case in which a major general contracting company was sued after it was hired by a school district. Specifically, the job involved performing capital improvements on a number of its school buildings. Hoping to avoid liability under the Labor Law, the company called itself the construction manager for the work. While working for at one of the schools, a worker fell approximately 12 feet and sustained injuries. He sued the “construction manager” alleging they were actually a general contractor and thus liable for his accident under the Labor Law.

The Factors That Decide Who is a General Contractor

The Court of Appeals agreed and came up with a list factors that help indicate whether a company acts as a general contractor at a workplace. The first factor is supervisory control. If a company supervises the workplace, they are likely a general contractor and can be sued. The second factor is specific contractual terms creating agency. Third is the absence of another general contractor on the workplace. Finally, the last factor is the authority to stop work. The Labor Law is a very powerful ally for workers in New York. It holds general contractors strictly liable for maintaining a safe worksite. If you sustain a workplace injury, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who will let you know if you can sue the general contractor.