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Workers' compensation and civil lawsuits are both legal protections put in place to help protect employees in the event they are injured on the job. However, the two function very differently. They work through different processes and often lead to different payouts. Additionally, most people are only eligible for one or the other. These distinctions are particularly important to construction workers because the types of construction accidents, along with their frequency that they experience on the job, can often make them eligible for one of these remedies. 

The Difference between Workers' Compensation and Civil Lawsuits

These two remedies, workers' compensation and civil lawsuits, function on different principles. Workers' compensation is basically an insurance system that employers pays into. Then, if one of their employees is harmed at work, the employee can file a claim. There may be a hearing to determine if the claim should be paid, but there is no attempt to assign fault for the injury. If the claim does qualify for payment, then the damages are computed based on a table of rates, usually multiplied by the worker's salary.

A civil lawsuit is a completely different setup. In this scenario, employees can bring a legal action against their employer for their injury on the job. Unlike workers' compensation, the entire point of the lawsuit is to assign fault for the employee's injury. If a worker can show that the employer or someone else was at fault for his or her injury, then the employee is entitled to recover damages from them. Unlike the workers' compensation payments, which are highly standardized, these damages will be specially calculated based on the employee's actual injuries.

Eligibility for Either

Under ordinary circumstances, most injuries on the job qualify for workers' compensation, which severely limits an employee's ability to file a civil lawsuit. However, there are circumstances that would still allow a worker to sue someone for an on-the-job injury. One such circumstance is if a third party causes the worker's injury. This may be an incident like a car accident that occurs while at work, or a products liability case, such as a faulty ladder that collapses. Another common scenario that allows for lawsuits related to on-the-job injuries is when an employer is "grossly negligent," which New York law defines as a deliberate act intended to cause harm to the employee.

Construction workers also have specific exceptions built into the workers' compensation rules. Injuries resulting from elevated work such as falls from ladders or scaffolding do not fall under workers' compensation. Similarly, injuries related to falling objects are also not covered under workers' compensation

If you have recently been injured in a construction site accident and would like to better understand your options, contact an NYC construction accident lawyer today. Our team of professionals stands ready to help you understand your legal rights.

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