Construction sites are dangerous places. Although workers can suffer serious and even fatal injuries in any number of on-the-job accidents, few events are more devastating than the complete or partial collapse of a structure.

Building collapses don’t happen often. When they do happen, they are often considered “freak accidents.” In reality, however, any number of factors can cause structural failure and collapse.

Construction site collapses can often be attributed to the negligence of one or more parties. If you or a loved one suffered injury or you lost a member of your family in a building collapse, the construction accident lawyers at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi can help.

Our attorneys have more than 100 years of combined legal experience representing construction workers who have been hurt on the job. We explore all avenues for pursuing fair compensation on your behalf, from workers’ comp to third-party personal injury and wrongful death claims and more.

Please call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (212) 543-1600 today for a free consultation with a New York construction collapse lawyer. Our law firm is based in New York City and we serve clients throughout the five boroughs and other areas of the state.

what causes a building to collapse?

How Can a Construction Accident Lawyer Help After a Building Collapse?

A building collapse can occur in any type of construction, renovation, or demolition project. Though these disasters can be unpredictable, this does not mean that the structural failure and collapse could not have been prevented.

If you were seriously injured or a member of your family died in a construction site collapse, a New York construction accident attorney can protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. Lawyers at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi will do the following:

  • Fully inspect the structural collapse. Our team will collect all of the available evidence (including photographs, eyewitness statements, accident reports, and more) to determine why the building collapse occurred and who may be responsible.
  • Consult the top experts. Experts in construction, engineering, and other disciplines can offer testimony on why the structure failed, as well as the liability of various parties.
  • Assess the seriousness of your injuries. We thoroughly review your medical records, communicate with your doctors, and enlist additional medical experts to evaluate how severe your injuries are and the degree to which they will affect your life going forward.
  • Make sure you get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. In the vast majority of cases, construction workers are entitled to benefits through workers’ comp. We make sure that you get the full benefits and support you need.
  • Identify liable third parties. One of the unique challenges of construction accident litigation is the number of parties involved in the construction process and, as a result, the number of parties that may be at fault for a construction accident. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi has the experience to assess third-party liability for a construction collapse and determine if you have additional legal claims.
  • Calculate the full extent of your damages. If you have a viable personal injury claim against one or more third parties, our attorneys will review the evidence and consult experts to figure out how much compensation you may be due.
  • Negotiate with the insurance companies. Whether it is your employer’s workers’ comp insurance carrier or one or more insurers for a property owner, contractor, subcontractor, etc., our construction collapse attorneys will communicate with all insurance companies on your behalf with the goal of achieving a fair settlement.
  • Take your case to trial (if necessary). Building collapse claims are complicated. They frequently involve issues of complex liability, serious injury and/or wrongful death, and significant damages. As a result, it is not always possible for the parties to reach a settlement. If this is the case, Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi will not hesitate to file a lawsuit and take your case to court if it means recovering the compensation you deserve.

Structural failures and collapses are not a simple matter for anyone. The lives of construction workers are often permanently altered by the injuries they sustain in these horrible accidents. What’s worse, many workers don’t survive, creating enormous financial and emotional hardships for their families.

At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, we know that every case is unique. We strive to understand the specifics of your situation, including the impact of a building collapse on your livelihood, your day-to-day life, and your loved ones. This focus enables us to stand in your shoes and fight for the best result for you.

Verdicts and Settlements

To widow and child of a deceased dock builder injured during a pile driving operation. Defendant Developer and General Contractor placed blame on employer of deceased worker who could not be sued because of the Worker Compensation Statute that says you can not sue your employer. We proved that even though the employer was negligence, the Developer and GC had to primary duty of safety on the…

Settlement in the case of a 62 year old electrician’s helper who died after falling from loose planking at a height of 22 feet in a boiler room at an apartment complex.

To an electrician who suffered flash burns when he plugged in a meter to read the electric usage of a shopping mall tenant.

What Causes Structural Failures and Collapses?

Building collapses typically stem from a host of different factors. Identifying the cause of the structural failure and collapse is crucial for understanding what legal options you might have.

Some of the most common causes of building collapses on construction sites include:

  • Damage to or deterioration of an existing structure
  • Errors during the design and planning of the building
  • Lack of safety equipment
  • Inadequate training and supervision of workers
  • Errors in the construction of the foundation
  • Demolition errors
  • Overloading the structure
  • Collapsing ceilings, floors, and walls
  • Violations of the NYC Construction Codes
  • Use of defective or inappropriate building materials
  • Deviations from the original building plan during construction
  • Fires and fire damage

Most of these issues are not obvious at first glance. Thorough inspection and expert testimony are crucial for determining how and why the building collapsed, as well as who may be at fault.

New York Construction workers have a number of legal protections in the event of an accident on the job site. To exercise your rights effectively, it is first necessary for your attorney to establish the underlying cause of the construction site collapse.

side of a collapsed house after structural failure

Who Is Liable for a Building Collapse?

Most structural failures and collapses occur due to a combination of factors. As a result, multiple parties may be liable for a construction site collapse.

Our attorneys will thoroughly investigate the building collapse to determine who is responsible. We take photos of the construction site, interview witnesses, review building permits and other documentation, and consult leading experts to identify (a) who is involved in construction and (b) what errors led to the collapse.

Potential liable parties in a construction collapse claim include:

  • The owner of the property
  • General contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Engineers and architects
  • Project manager and construction foremen
  • Companies that manufactured defective building materials, supplies, and equipment

Construction projects typically involve a number of different individuals and companies. These entities have different responsibilities based on their role, from designing the structure so it conforms with the building code to providing a safe working environment in accordance with New York labor law. When they fail in these duties, catastrophic accidents can happen.

Tragically, construction workers are the ones who typically have to suffer the consequences of these errors. It is crucial to identify any and all parties whose negligence may have contributed to the building collapse.

Common Injuries in Construction Site Collapses

Construction workers caught in a structural collapse are likely to suffer serious injuries. In many cases, workers are left permanently disabled and unable to provide for their families.

Some of the most common injuries sustained in construction site collapses include:

  • Crush injuries
  • Injuries to the face and head, including the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries, up to and including paralysis
  • Broken bones and orthopedic injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Amputation injuries
  • Burn injuries

Structural failures and collapses also have an extremely high rate of fatalities. From 2018 to 2022, OSHA recorded 22 incidents involving building collapse. Of those accidents, 19 involved at least one worker death. That’s a worker fatality rate of 86% in occupational building collapses.

Compensation Options If You Are Hurt in a Building Collapse

After any type of workplace accident, bringing a claim is probably one of the last things on your mind. You are likely focused on getting medical care, trying to recuperate from your injuries, and trying to figure out how you can make ends meet.

However, it is extremely important to start exploring your legal options as soon as possible after a construction site collapse. At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, our attorneys have the knowledge, resources, and experience to determine what types of claims you may be able to pursue after a building collapse.

Meet the Lawyers at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi

Potential sources of compensation after a New York City construction site collapse include:

Workers’ Compensation Claim

Workers’ comp is the most obvious place to start after an on-the-job injury or accident. In New York, workers’ compensation benefits cover the following losses:

  • Medical expenses for your work-related injuries
  • Replacement of lost wages (two-thirds of your average weekly wage multiplied by your level of disability)
  • Vocational rehabilitation (therapy to help you return to work and/or adjust to a disability)

If a worker is killed in a construction collapse or other workplace accident in New York, workers’ compensation will pay survivor benefits to dependent family members. Survivor benefits can help pay funeral and burial expenses, as well as weekly cash benefits intended to offset the family’s loss of income.

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that you are not required to prove that someone else is at fault for your injuries to qualify for benefits.

Unfortunately, workers’ comp benefits are limited to those established by statute. No provision is made for a worker’s losses outside of the benefits discussed above, meaning there is no option to recover compensation for additional damages such as the loss of future income, pain and suffering, etc.

one construction worker helping another after a construction site collapse

Third-Party Personal Injury Claim

As a rule, employers in New York cannot be sued by employees who sustain injuries on the job. However, other parties can be held liable if their negligence causes an accident in the workplace that injures a worker. This is known as a third-party claim.

Unlike with workers’ comp, you can pursue compensation for all of your losses in a personal injury claim against a third party. You may be entitled to recovery of the following damages after a construction site collapse:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • All of your lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Expenses for medical-related travel
  • The cost of assistive devices
  • Expenses for hiring professionals to provide household services and support
  • Home and vehicle modification costs
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of quality and enjoyment of life

Generally, construction workers must prove that the negligence of one or more third parties led to the building collapse that caused their injuries. This is the case in claims governed by New York Labor Law 200 (which establishes a “[g]eneral duty to protect health and safety of employees” as it pertains to the direction of work on a construction site as well as any “machinery, equipment, and devices” used on the job) and New York Labor Law 241 (which requires that all “areas in which construction, excavation or demolition work is being performed shall be so constructed, shored, equipped, guarded, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed”).

In certain situations, however, the rule of strict liability applies. For example, scaffolding collapses and other accidents involving scaffolding are governed by NY Labor Law 240.

Known as “the scaffold law,” Labor Law 240 establishes a strict liability standard for injuries sustained as a result of construction scaffolding accidents. As such, workers injured in a scaffold collapse do not need to prove that the owner, contractor, or subcontractor was negligent to recover compensation.

Read More: How to Make a Scaffolding Accident Claim in New York

Product Liability Claim

Product liability law entitles those who have been injured by a defective product to pursue compensation for damages. Companies that design, manufacture, and sell defective products may be liable.

Compensable damages in a defective product claim are the same as those that can be recovered in a personal injury claim (see above). Our construction collapse lawyers will hire experts to inspect the materials and testify as to how defects led to structural failure.

Wrongful Death Claim

If your loved one was killed in a building collapse during construction, demolition, or renovation, you and your family may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. As with cases of third-party personal injury, you must prove that the negligence of one or more parties (other than your loved one’s employer) led to the construction site collapse that took your relative’s life.

Damages that may be recovered for the wrongful death of a family member include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • The cost of burial or cremation
  • Loss of the decedent’s income and expected lifetime earnings
  • Loss of household support and services
  • Loss of companionship, affection, and consortium (awarded to surviving spouses)
  • Loss of parental guidance (awarded to minor children)
  • Medical expenses incurred prior to death
  • Conscious pain and suffering on your relative’s part prior to death

Building collapses are often deadly. As such, it is important to be aware of your rights if you lost a loved one in an accident on a New York City construction site. You and your family may be entitled to more compensation than you receive through workers’ compensation survivor benefits.

inspector with a tablet device surveying a collapsed structure

How Long Do I Have to Make a Construction Collapse Claim?

The statute of limitations sets the time limit for bringing various types of legal claims. After a building collapse, you need to be aware of the following:

  • Workers’ compensation: Workers have up to 30 days to notify an employer of a job-related injury or death (New York Workers’ Compensation (WKC) act § 18). Providing written notice establishes your right to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers have up to 2 years to file a workers’ comp claim in New York (WKC § 28).
  • Personal injury: A personal injury claim must be brought no later than 3 years after the date of injury (New York Civil Practice Law & Rules § 214(5)). Product liability claims in New York are bound by the same 3-year time limit.
  • Wrongful death: Wrongful death actions must be brought within 2 years (New York Estates, Powers & Trusts law § 5-4.1(1)). The clock starts ticking on the date of the decedent’s death (if different from when the fatal injury occurred).

You do not want to miss your opportunity to recover fair compensation for losses stemming from a construction site collapse. It is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible to assess what types of claims you may be able to bring and how long you have to take legal action.

Contact a New York Construction Collapse Lawyer Today

Building collapses capture headlines and turn communities upside down. Unfortunately, the impact on individual victims and their families often gets lost amid the tragedy of the event itself.

At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, our focus is you. We represent the person next door who has suffered injury due to factors beyond his or her control. Our attorneys and staff are committed to providing you with compassionate and knowledgeable support as well as determined representation.

We have achieved millions of dollars on behalf of clients who have been injured or lost loved ones through no fault of their own. One of our main areas of focus is construction accident litigation, including complex cases involving structural failure and collapse.

Please call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (212) 543-1600 today for a free consultation. Our New York City construction collapse lawyers serve clients throughout the state and other areas of New York, as well as neighboring New Jersey.