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Elevator Shaft Accident in the Flatiron District

Another horrific construction accident in January resulted in no fatalities, but plenty of pain and suffering.

A worker performing his duties at 34 West 17th Street, in the Flatiron District, fell down an elevator shaft and became impaled on a series of steel rebar at the bottom of the shaft. According to witnesses, the steel bars ran through various parts of his torso, immobilizing the worker several feet from the bottom of the elevator shaft—a scene that should have been from a horror movie. By keeping the worker talking, and counteracting gravity to prevent him from becoming impaled any further, his coworkers probably saved his life.

This case illustrates several worrisome issues faced by construction workers in New York. In 2015, construction worker fatalities increased 52% since the previous year, with a total of 10 hard-working individuals losing their lives while trying to make a living.

Safety regulations exist but, too often, are not being followed. New York City regulations require that safety harnesses be used, or a covering be placed over open elevator shafts, whenever there is risk of a worker falling. And all rebar used in construction in New York City are required to be outfitted with plastic caps to help prevent impalements.

These mandatory safety measures were ignored by the developer overseeing the construction, Atkins & Breskin. It should be noted that Atkins & Breskin was fined for an unsafe elevator in August of 2015—and again fined for not making any improvements to worker safety in and around elevator shafts.

New York City’s Department of Buildings has come under considerable fire in response to the rapid increase in workers’ and pedestrians’ deaths in or around construction sites. While the enforcement of the city’s building codes is being improved, the worker injured in the Flatiron District will likely have lifelong effects from this accident, including chronic pain. Worse yet, he is almost certainly going to be faced with astronomical medical bills that might threaten his ability to provide for his family.

When governments are held accountable in civil court, plaintiffs exert pressure on them to act even before various slow-moving committees, study groups, and task forces formulate their often vague and confusing recommendations. That is why personal injury lawyers are not just working for their clients, but for all New Yorkers—because in life or death situations, you cannot wait for a committee to make recommendations.

If you have been injured in a construction accident, contact the Law Offices of Levine and Wiss at 1-888-GOT-HURT to review your options.