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Fires at Construction Sites

Fires are common during construction, demolition, or renovation. Unfortunately, workers can become trapped by fire, suffering smoke inhalation and burns, among other serious injuries. A fire is a serious accident, and workers and their families should know their legal rights. Call Powers & Santola, LLP. You should receive compensation if you are injured while working a construction job, regardless of who is to blame. A New York construction accident lawyer explains more in this blog and is available for a free, confidential consultation.

How Common Are Fires?

Very common. One report from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) found that fire departments responded to 2,580 fires at renovated buildings and 3,840 fires at buildings under construction from 2013-2017. That works out to over 1,000 fires each year.

These are costly accidents as well. Fires for buildings under construction killed roughly 4 people each year and caused more than $300 million in property damage. Buildings undergoing renovation saw 8 people die each year, with dozens injured.

We do not have break-out information for New York specifically. But given the number of construction and renovation projects in the Empire States, hundreds of workers are probably injured in a jobsite fire.

What Causes Fire at Construction Sites?

Jobsite safety is critical, and both the state and federal governments have detailed safety regulations which contractors must follow. Fires should be less frequent than they are, unfortunately.

Many blazes are caused by:

  • Poor electrical wiring
  • Temporary power sources
  • Unanticipated power surges
  • Vandalism and arson from trespassers
  • Lack of fire protection systems, such as sprinklers
  • Heaters
  • Welding and soldering
  • Flammable materials
  • Smoking cigarettes or cigars

Sometimes, fires result from multiple causes. For example, welding might set flammable materials on fire initially, and the lack of sprinklers allows the fire to grow uncontrollably. Highly flammable materials then allow the fire to spread, trapping workers.

Injuries Suffered by Construction Workers

Some of the most serious injuries caused by fires include the following:

Fall Injuries

A worker might fall due to smoke inhalation or even jump out of a building if there is no safer means of exit. When the worker hits the ground, they can suffer serious bodily injuries, such as neck or back fractures, concussion, whiplash, and internal organ injuries.


Burns vary in severity. A small, shallow burn might leave no scar and heal on its own in a week or two. But more extensive burns leave permanent disabilities. Some of the considerations include:

  • Depth. The deeper the burn, the more body tissue affected. Third-degree burns can permanently damage nerves, muscle, tendons, and bones, leading to amputation. Even second-degree burns often require skin grafts to close a wound.
  • Size. A burn covering more of the body is far more dangerous than a burn which is limited in size. Larger burns are also more likely to be fatal.
  • Location. Burns which cover joints can lead to ongoing physical disability, requiring surgery and physical therapy so that you recover a range of motion. A burn on someone’s face might lead to intense depression and anxiety.
  • Infection. There is a risk of infection, which can weaken the immune system and also be fatal.

Smoke Inhalation

Construction workers might inhale a considerable amount of smoke before they get to safety. According to Healthline, about half of all fire deaths stem from smoke inhalation. Even those who survive can suffer from coughing and difficulty breathing, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning. Treatment often includes oxygen supplementation and medication to treat symptoms.

Your Right to Compensation for a Construction or Renovation Fire

Construction workers injured on the job have legal rights. As an initial matter, you probably qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. These no-fault benefits are a great help, entitling you to immediate medical care, free of charge. You should receive necessary and reasonable care to treat your injuries, including surgery, rehab, prescription medication, time in the hospital, and doctor visits. Your employer’s insurance company should cover the cost of treatment.

Workers’ compensation also provides wage loss benefits. Someone who suffers a spinal fracture after falling cannot safely return to work until their body heals. Rest and rehabilitation will take up most of your day. To help with income loss, workers’ compensation will pay temporary total disability benefits. Someone who is permanently disabled might qualify for permanent benefits. The amount is based on your average weekly wage before the accident.

Can You File a Lawsuit?

You might have a legal right to sue for additional compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits provide only partial wage replacement—roughly two-thirds of your average weekly wage. That’s better than nothing—but not great. And workers’ compensation does not provide any financial compensation for pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, or emotional anguish.

Filing a personal injury lawsuit is a good way to receive full compensation. We can seek all lost income, as well as a fair amount for intangible losses like pain and disfigurement.

We might end up suing:

  • The property owner for failure to reasonably maintain the property.
  • The manufacturer of a defective product which started the fire or contributed to it.
  • The manufacturer of defective personal protective equipment (PPE) which contributed to your injuries.

Generally, an employer is immune from lawsuit, but New York’s Labor Law does provide exceptions. You should consult an experienced construction accident lawyer to review ways to increase the amount of money you take home.

Call Us to Schedule an Appointment

Construction remains one of the most hazardous jobs in New York. Nonetheless, construction workers remain in high demand. Our firm recognizes the vital role the construction trades play in our economy, and we have spent decades in the trenches helping injured construction workers obtain compensation following an on-the-job accident. If you call our firm, we can schedule a meeting to review what you remember about the accident. If hired, we can begin compiling additional evidence, looking for ways to supplement any workers’ compensation benefits you qualify for.

Contact us to meet with a New York construction accident lawyer. You won’t owe us any money unless we win your case, and our consultations are free and without obligation.

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