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Liability in trench collapse cases

When a trench wall collapses on a construction site in New York, damage can result to equipment, supplies and personnel. At times that damage can end in catastrophic injury to workers, or even death. Yet determining liability in a trench collapse can be tricky, when a number of conditions and variables could have led to the collapse. Trench walls may collapse due to unsafe work conditions, weather factors impacting the site, worker negligence or employer negligence.

In the case of employer negligence, workers or their surviving family may be eligible for workers' compensation. New York law in particular provides special provisions for construction workers to extend protections for workers' compensation to contractors and subcontractors. This includes requiring proper insurance coverage for contractors identified as employees under special provisions for construction workers. In the event of a trench collapse, these provisions offer protections in construction worker compensation claims as long as the construction company is determined to be at fault.

One case in which the construction company was identified as liable for the death of a worker was reported by the New York Times. In this case, an immigrant died at a Lower Manhattan construction site when a trench collapsed and buried the worker beneath thousands of pounds of soil. The company had repeatedly been warned about unsafe conditions on the site. Other agencies and subcontractors were named in separate suits regarding negligence, but this case was a landmark as one of the rare instances when a criminal negligence verdict was passed against a company in the construction industry.

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