Workers seriously injured in construction site accidents may be entitled to recover damages for the losses they have suffered through the negligence of others. Every case is different, and compensation is based on specific facts and circumstances proven in the claim. The two types of damages it is possible to recover for construction site injuries are compensatory damages and punitive damages.
How Do Compensatory Damages Differ From Punitive Damages?
Compensatory damages are designed to “make the injured party whole,” or to compensate the plaintiff for the losses he or she has suffered. There are two categories of compensatory damages:
- Economic damages: These are objectively verifiable monetary losses. Examples of economic damages include past and future medical expenses, lost income, and loss of future earning potential.
- Non-economic damages: This term refers to compensation for non-monetary, subjective losses, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
On the other hand, punitive damages are not designed to compensate a personal injury victim. They are designed to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and to deter similar actions in the future. If the party responsible for your injuries has been particularly reckless, you may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages for the losses you have suffered. The amount of punitive damages awarded is determined by the judge or jury. In some cases, it may far exceed the amount awarded for compensatory damages.
When May Punitive Damages Be Awarded in Construction Site Injury Cases?
Not every construction worker injured through someone else’s negligence is entitled to collect punitive damages. Courts in New York typically only award punitive damages in cases involving remarkably reckless or malicious behavior. It is only possible to collect punitive damages if a case goes to trial – never if it is settled out of court. The plaintiff (injured party) must prove that the defendant’s conduct was deliberately and consciously negligent enough to qualify as willful and wanton.
What Types of Conduct May Warrant Punitive Damages in a Construction Site Injury Case?
Punitive damages for construction site injuries are rare and generally only awarded in cases involving extreme immoral conduct. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was actively and unnecessarily placing workers in dangerous situations and remaining willfully indifferent to the consequences. Examples of conduct by site owners, contractors, and other parties that may warrant punitive damages include:
- Habitually breaking federal and state labor laws
- Committing serious or violent criminal offenses
- Using fraud, bribery, or oppression to cover up the illegal actions that led to the injury
- Large scale company negligence or corruption that warrants punitive damages
- Other conduct similar to an existing precedent for awarding punitive damages or a statute that specifically authorizes punitive damages
What Are the Challenges of Pursuing Punitive Damages for Construction Site Injuries?
As punitive damages are rarely awarded, pursuing them in construction site injury cases can be challenging, with a high burden of proof. The plaintiff must provide clear evidence of wrongdoing, along with a history of similar misconduct by the defendant. If you have been hurt in a construction site accident you believe was caused by negligence, arrange for a consultation with our New York personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. We can tell you if you have a case and what damages you may be entitled to claim.
At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, we are known for our experience, compassion, and results. We have recovered more than $1 billion for our clients. Contact us at (212) 986-7353 after serious construction site injuries.