When people think of dangerous jobs, they might think of being a fireman, being a logger, or being a crab fisherman. And yet, construction workers are probably the most at-risk professionals in New York from day to day – including the painters who come in after much of the construction is complete. When a serious accident does occur, painters are covered by workers’ compensation just like other employees, although in some cases, a civil lawsuit for additional compensation might also be appropriate.
Common Hazards for NYC Painters
Painters face many of the same dangers as other construction workers, along with some unique dangers. These hazards include:
- Falls – Painters have to deal with tools, supplies, and building materials on the ground, more tripping hazards than many other workers face. Painting frequently requires working on ladders, scaffolds, and other elevated locations to cover all walls and ceilings. This creates the risk of a fall from a height, which can cause serious injuries or even death.
- Toxic exposure – Many of the chemicals painters work with, including paints, thinners, and brush cleaner, can be dangerous when inhaled. Exposure to these chemicals can cause chronic illnesses for painters after decades of work.
- Eye injuries – These same chemicals also pose a serious danger to painters’ eyes. Even brief contact can cause temporary or permanent blindness.
- Repetitive stress – Painters often perform the same movements throughout the day – picking up and putting down heavy materials, and reaching to paint areas. These repetitive motions can cause overuse injuries over time. In particular, the rotator cuffs and muscles of the shoulder and neck are often strained while a painter works. Long-term use can cause minor tears that can take weeks to recover, while a sudden fall can cause injuries that require surgery.
The injuries that painters often suffer include:
- Broken bones
- Sensory loss (blindness, etc.)
- Chronic illnesses
- Soft tissue injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck and shoulder injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
What About Workers’ Compensation?
When a painter suffers a serious injury at work, he can file a workers’ compensation claim. New York employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, with exceptions, so many painters have this coverage. Painters who are working freelance or as independent contractors might not have this coverage, which is why it is preferable for painters to find a business to work for to have this protection.
If a workers’ compensation claim is denied, a painter can appeal that denial. This is often a lengthy process that requires a lot of paperwork and expert testimony to prove the legitimacy of a claim. Having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can make a big difference during this process and relieve some stress from an injured painter and his family.
What About a Civil Lawsuit?
In some instances, a civil lawsuit may also be appropriate for a painter’s injuries. For example, consider a homeowner who fails to warn painters he has hired about rotten porch stairs. If a painter is injured by falling through a step, the homeowner might be liable for those injuries.
In this kind of case, it must be proven that the homeowner was negligent in how he acted. Following the above example, a reasonable person would have warned the painters about hazards on his property that he knows about, so failing to do this can be considered an act of negligence. A good test is if the injury was foreseeable based on what the homeowner either knew or should have known.
Liability, or legal responsibility for the victim’s bills, comes down to showing that the negligence directly contributed to the victim’s injury. In the previous example, the homeowner was aware of dangerous conditions on his property and failed to warn painters about them. This negligence led to the painter falling through the rotten steps and breaking his leg, so the negligence definitely contributed to the injury, and the homeowner would be held liable by a jury.
These third-party claims can become complicated, especially when it comes to homeowners who contract privately with painters. At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, our experienced legal team knows the laws of New York and can go over every detail of the situation to make sure you are compensated for your injuries and other losses. Call us today for a free consultation at (212) 986-7353.