19-year-old Fernando Vanegas died on Thursday in a construction accident according to the New York Times. Vanegas reportedly noticed an issue with the retaining wall a month prior to the accident. Additionally, there is evidence that the construction company did not take proper safety precautions when securing the retaining wall, leaving them potentially liable.
Mr. Vanegas died on Thursday when the wall fell and buried him and two other workers beneath a pile of cinderblocks; both other workers suffered non-fatal injuries. The accident came only a month after Mr. Vanegas told his mother that he had a close call with the same retaining wall. According to an anonymous city official, the accident may have been the result of the construction company’s failure to use proper preventative measures. The official stated that the proper precautions were not taken for excavation work, citing the company’s failure to provide adequate support for the wall which compromised the remaining structure. To make matters worse, City building records show that there were several structural vulnerabilities at the building where the accident occurred. In fact, the building’s owner was given a violation last August for failing to maintain the front facade; which was considered “immediately hazardous.” Due to the apparent negligence displayed by the construction company, Mr. Vanegas’ family may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit on his behalf.
Construction accident lawsuits differ from most types of personal injury cases. As a result, should the parents of Mr. Vanegas choose to file a lawsuit, it’s likely that they’ll hire a construction accident lawyer with experience handling cases in New York. In construction accident such as the one that killed Mr. Vanegas, Labor Law 240(1) would likely apply. Labor Law 240(1), also known as New York’s “Scaffold Law” places absolute liability on general contractors and property owners when a construction worker is injured in an elevation-related injury. “Absolute liability” means that the injured construction worker would be automatically entitled to compensation if their injury occurred from an elevation. Gravity-related injuries specified under Labor Law 240(1) refer to any injury that occurs when a worker falls from a height, or when an object falls from a height and strikes the worker. Mr. Vanegas’ death would apply because he was killed when the wall fell.
While absolute liability applies in all Labor Law 240(1) cases, it’s important to note that lawsuits are complex legal matters. While the gravity-related injury may seem obvious, the defendant’s may try to fight it or claim that it didn’t occur due to a fall. As a result, it’s important that injured construction workers and their families retain an attorney with experience handling these types of cases.