New York City has had many serious and fatal accidents occur on construction sites. A lot of times, no one is held criminally responsible for them. This is despite the fact that employers can often prevent these construction accidents, if they thoroughly followed the NY Labor Code and OSHA's guidelines. Regardless, in most instances, the construction company supervisors are acquitted for criminal charges stemming from serious construction-related accidents.
Deutsche Bank Fire
In 2007, firefighters were called to the Deutsche Bank Building in New York to put out a fire. When they arrived at the bank, a 42-foot portion of standpipe had been removed from the basement. The firefighters were unable to quickly suppress the blaze with water because of the pipe's removal. Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, two of the firefighters trying to put out the fire, were killed.
The prosecutor tried three construction supervisors for their deaths. He said that they oversaw or knew that the pipe had been removed and did nothing. After lengthy trials and deliberation, all three were eventually acquitted. A subcontractor that had worked on the project was found guilty of reckless endangerment.
OSHA Investigates and Punishes
OSHA has guidelines that employers must implement and follow. Federal, state and city agencies are required to inspect construction sites to make sure that the guidelines are followed. When fatal workplace accidents do happen, OSHA investigates them to see what happened, why it happened, who was responsible and what safety corrections need to be made. Also, citations and fines can be levied against the party responsible for causing the work-related accident.
In the Deutsche Bank fire, 44 citations and $464,500 in fines were issued by OSHA. Five of them were classified as 'willful' and the rest as 'serious.'
Personal Injury Lawsuits and Wrongful Death Actions
Criminal charges are often filed against supervisors whose actions resulted in serious injury and/or death to a person on the jobsite. However, the burden of proof in such cases is high, making criminal convictions for construction accidents very rare. However, personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, which require a lower burden of proof, are often successful and can hold the wrongdoers financially responsible for their negligent acts or omissions.
Workers who were seriously injured or family members who lost loved ones should seek legal information on what their options are. Worker's compensation claims, personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits are the best ways to financially recover, but it is important to speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney. For more information, contact a reputable lawyer today.