Objects falling from overhead can do tremendous damage to life and limb. In New York City, they pose a hazard to pedestrians walking on public sidewalks, workers laboring at construction sites, and anyone else unlucky enough to find themselves in the path of an object hurtling toward the ground.
While many New Yorkers believe that the chance of being struck by a falling object is remote, these types of incidents are more common than they should be. Construction workers are particularly vulnerable to being injured by falling objects; according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than 50,000 falling object injury incidents occur each year at construction sites across the United States. If you search Google News using the search terms “falling object” and “New York City” at any time of the year, you’ll see a grim list of troubling headlines about ordinary New Yorkers hit from above by falling objects.
These falling objects can include:
- Ice falling from the cornices of buildings during the winter months
- Construction tools, debris, or materials dropped from scaffolding or buildings under construction or renovation work
- Flower pots or other household items falling from fire escapes
- Improperly secured air conditioning units falling from apartment house windows
- Debris or tools falling from elevated subway tracks
- Falling trees or tree branches
- Objects deliberately dropped or thrown from the roofs or windows of buildings by local troublemakers
Falling object injuries can also occur inside buildings; for example, while sitting in a restaurant, shopping in a store, attending a theatrical performance, or waiting for an underground subway train.
What To Do In the Immediate Aftermath of Being Struck by a Falling Object
If you’re hit by a falling object, the first and most important thing to do is to immediately get medical attention. Objects falling from above often strike the head with considerable force, which may cause a traumatic brain injury. Serious back and shoulder injuries can also be caused by falling objects. The gravity of these injuries may not be apparent in the immediate aftermath of the incident, so it’s vital to seek and obtain proper medical attention if you’ve been struck.
If it’s possible (and it may not be, given the seriously debilitating nature of falling object injuries), attempt to do the following:
- Take photos documenting the scene of your accident, including images of the object that’s fallen and the overhead areas from which it may have fallen (for example, a scaffold, building façade, or elevated subway track). Ask someone to help you do this if you’re unable.
- Identify any witnesses who observed what happened, obtain their contact information, and ask whether they’d be willing to testify on your behalf in court.
- Surveillance cameras. The NYPD and private businesses have installed many hundreds of cameras on the streets of New York City in the past decade. Make an effort to locate any surveillance cameras aimed in your direction that might have been active during the time when you were injured.
Who’s Responsible for the Falling Object that Injured You?
If you’re a construction worker who’s been injured by a falling object, your claim for compensation may fall within New York’s Workers’ Compensation law; alternatively, if 3rd parties were involved, your remedy may lie in bringing these 3rd parties to court. An experienced New York City-based personal injury attorney will be in a position to advise you of which course of action will be best for you, given the circumstances of your injury.
If you were injured by a falling object while simply pursuing a private pursuit (for example, walking across the street to meet a friend), Workers’ Compensation does not apply to your situation, so it’s likely that you can pursue a lawsuit against whichever entity was in control of the physical area from which the object fell. These entities may include corporate establishments, individuals, or municipal authorities. An experienced personal injury attorney who’s handled cases such as yours before will be able to inform you of your legal rights and guide you through the legal process of successfully obtaining proper compensation for your injuries.