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What is the difference in injury compensation for construction workers who are union members and for those who are nonunion members in New York?

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Devon Reiff - Personal Injury - General - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Devon Reiff

Located in New York, NYDevon Reiff P.C.

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We trial lawyers know that the union construction workers who are injured on the job win the highest jury awards and settlements because these workers have high hourly wages and valuable benefits packages.

But nonunion workers have the exact same rights to compensation when they’re hurt on the job and can also win substantial jury awards and settlements.

So, it doesn’t matter if you are a union or nonunion construction worker. You are protected by the same New York state laws. These laws hold owners and general contractors responsible to fully compensate an injured worker for past and future lost earnings, past and future medical bills, and past and future pain and suffering.

Who can bring a claim?

Any construction worker who is injured on the job may bring a workers’ compensation claim. But it’s most often not the workers’ compensation award that is the greatest source of monetary compensation for the union or nonunion construction worker. It is the lawsuit you bring against the owners and general contractors. They are required to have adequate insurance protection for injuries occurring at their job sites.

How much are injured construction workers eligible to receive under workers’ compensation?

In New York state, an injured construction worker is eligible to receive $934.11 a week in lost earnings (going up as of July 1, 2020) and payment of their medical bills. The wage rate increases yearly in July and is based on 2/3rd of the New York state average weekly wage of all workers. Special laws in New York for construction workers allow you to not only collect these workers’ compensation benefits but also to sue for much more in a third-party lawsuit (a lawsuit against the owners and general contractors). Simply put, you can’t sue your employer, but you can sue the owners and general contractors.

Can I collect for pain and suffering?

Yes. Beyond workers’ compensation, you can also sue the owners and general contractors of the project for an additional monetary award for your pain and suffering. This is on top of all the other items of damages. 

Pain and suffering includes:

  • Compensation for your physical, mental and emotional injuries
  • Compensation for all that you cannot do anymore
  • Compensation for all the activities you must do differently because of your injuries — with your spouse or child (ren).
  • Simply put, it is your loss of enjoyment of life
  • Your spouse has an additional claim for what you cannot provide to them that you did before your injuries

The awards for these harms and losses (called damages) can be extremely high depending on your injuries and lost wages.

What does “lost wages” include for an injured construction worker?

If you are a union worker your lost earnings damages claim can include:

  • Payment for the totality of your very valuable annuity funds
  • Payment for family medical coverage
  • Payment for vacation pay
  • Your entire projected pension fund accumulation
  • 100 percent reimbursement for your present and future lost wages

If you are a nonunion worker you also get awarded for your present and future lost wages, your benefits plus your conscious pain and suffering. Your awards can also be very LARGE depending on the severity of your injuries.

Career-ending injuries lead to the highest awards. No one ever wants to get injured on the job. When it does happen, however, you can at least take comfort in knowing you may still provide support to your family by collecting workers’ compensation, and bringing an additional lawsuit. If you can no longer work you may also collect Social Security disability benefits, all together bringing some financial relief and security to your family.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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