For years, workers in New York City were subjected to oppressive, unfair tactics by unscrupulous employers eager to prioritize profits over workplace safety. Fortunately, after years of zealous advocacy and a steadfast dedication to workers’ rights, the workers’ compensation system developed to help injured laborers avoid the financial burdens of a work-related injury. The following details the storied history of the New York workers’ compensation system, including a glimpse into the basics of workers’ compensation laws as they stand today.
As always, if you are facing a difficult situation with a workers’ compensation issue, please do not hesitate to contact a New York City workers’ compensation lawyer with Hansen & Associates right away: 1-212-697-3701.
How it Started
The workers’ compensation system developed as an alternative to the civil personal injury process. In other words, injured workers were historically limited to the laws of negligence to collect much-needed compensation in the wake of a serious workplace accident or injury. In light of this, injured workers were consistently subjected to the well-settled defense of “assumption of the risk,” which asserts that the injured victim knew – or should have known – that the job was dangerous at the outset, and should be prevented from collecting in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit.
After facing constant difficulties within the personal injury system, workers and their advocates began to develop the notion of workers’ compensation. On March 25, 1911, a massive fire broke out at New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Described by many as one of the darkest days in American industrial, the fire resulted in the death of 145 factory workers – most of whom were non-English speaking immigrant women forced to work in deplorable conditions. As a result of the incident, nearly 80,000 people came out to support major a major overhaul of workplace regulations.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factor incident was the worst catastrophe in the history of New York City until the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Despite the severity of the situation, it led to the eventual development of the workers’ compensation laws we all have come to know today.
New York’s modern workers’ compensation laws are a preeminent keystone in the workers’ rights movement that began over a century ago. Today, anyone injured on-the-job is entitled to compensation for medical expenses directly and indirectly related to the incident. As well, workers who are unable to work due to their injuries may be eligible for partial or total disability payments – depending on the severity of the injuries. Since 2007, sweeping reforms to workers’ compensation regulation have led to increased benefits, decreased costs and targeted elimination of workers’ compensation fraud.
In sum, the no-fault system of workers’ compensation cases has lead to a significant increase in worker protections, which in turn prompts employers to invest in enhanced safety measures and improved worker protection.
Workers’ Compensation in Construction Cases
One question that we are often asked is whether a worker can bring a lawsuit against a party who is responsible for an accident or injury if the worker is also eligible and in fact receives workers’ compensation benefits. The answer to the oft asked question is yes: If a person or corporation other than the worker’s employer is responsible for the worker’s accident or injury, then the worker can bring a separate lawsuit for money damages against that responsible party.
This scenario —where a worker receives workers’ compensation benefits plus has the right to be a lawsuit — is often seen in the context of construction accident cases. A worker injured at a construction site often has the right to receive not only full workers’ compensation benefits, but also the additional right to sue for money damages.
Contact Hansen & Associates Today
To learn more about the workers’ compensation system in New York, please contact Hansen & Associates today: 1-212-697-3701.