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Worker’s Death Underscores Need to Drive Slow, Careful in Construction Zones

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has launched a powerful new campaign that is aimed at getting motorists to slow down and be cautious and alert when traveling through highway construction zones.

As a press release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office notes, construction zones in New York State can be dangerous for workers and motorists alike. Last year, 525 car crashes occurred in these zones, killing two people and injuring 149 others.

In an effort to reduce these accidents, the NYSDOT has produced a public service announcement that focuses on the story of Gary Farrell, an Oneida County man who was working as a flagger for the NYSDOT in 2009 when a driver in a pickup truck struck and killed him. He left behind a wife and three children.

In the PSA, Farrell’s wife, Michelle, reminds drivers to not only slow down when going through construction zones but to also pay close attention to their surroundings.

Above all, she reminds motorists to think of the workers, who are “just out there doing their jobs and want to come home to their families.”

Why Are Construction Zones Dangerous?

On a national level, there were 130 deaths at roadway construction sites in 2012, the latest year for which stats are available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Out of those deaths, 76 percent involved traffic accidents, with the majority involving a collision between a pedestrian and a vehicle, the CDC reports.

There are many reasons why highway construction zones can be dangerous, including:

  • Traffic may suddenly slow down
  • Lanes may shift and lack clear markings
  • Barriers, cones and other controls can narrow lanes
  • Smoke, dust and debris can be emitted and reduce visibility
  • Loud noises can be heard that are distracting
  • Heavy equipment may be moving throughout the zone
  • People may be moving throughout the zone as well, including flaggers such as Farrell who are operating within close proximity to passing vehicles.

However, highway construction zones are usually well marked by bright orange or yellow signs. The signs may warn drivers of the need to slow down and remind them that speeding violations in work zones in New York State can carry double fines.

With this degree of warning, there may be little excuse if a motorist fails to reduce his or her speed and drive cautiously through a work zone.

Legal Options for Injured Highway Construction Workers

If a highway construction worker is struck and injured by a passing vehicle while on the job, the worker may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.

However, because the accident involved a non-employer – or a “third party” – the worker may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit as well. (If the accident resulted in the worker’s death, eligible family members may pursue a wrongful death claim.) This is called a “third-party liability claim.”

While worker’s compensation benefits typically are limited to medical expenses and a portion of a disabled worker’s lost wages, a third-party liability claim can lead to additional funds, which can play a crucial role in helping an injured worker (or the family of a deceased worker) to recover and move on in life.

It is important for the injured worker or surviving family members to contact an experienced attorney who can review the case and explain the options that may be available to them.

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