The Buffalo City Council has recommended a $3 million settlement in the case of a state worker who suffered disabling injuries on the job.
"LIFE-CHANGING" INJURIES ON THE JOB
The Buffalo News reported that Michael Yusczyk was working for the New York State Department of Transportation at the time of his injury. He was mowing the lawn on the Scajaquada Bike Path in Buffalo, and he didn't know that the broken-off base of a steel sign was lurking in the long grass.
The sign had been installed years earlier. At some point, the sign had either been removed or fallen, leaving a steel stub behind. When Yusczyk's stand-up mower hit that steel stub, it brought the mower to an abrupt halt. Yusczyk catapulted over the front of the mower, landing on his head.
Yusczyk was rendered a paraplegic and had to live in a nursing facility for years after the accident. After extensive physical therapy, he regained some limited mobility but still needs assistance with everyday tasks like showering.
According to the Buffalo News, Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera said, "There is no amount of money we can ever repay him."
NEW YORK ACCIDENT INJURY LAWS
Yusczyk's case highlights some of the many complexities in New York personal injury law.
It is difficult for injured workers to sue their employers in New York, even if the employer's negligence caused the worker's injuries. Compensation for most on-the-job injuries is handled via New York's workers' compensation laws. Workers' compensation provides a financial remedy for injured workers, regardless of who was at fault.
According to the Buffalo News, Yusczyk had not been able to sue his employer, the State Department of Transportation, for his on-the-job injury. But he had already received $1.5 million through workers' compensation. If Yusczyk receives the $3 million settlement from the City of Buffalo, he will need to repay the state the amount he received from workers' compensation.
Although it may be difficult (or even impossible) for an injured worker to hold his or her employer financially responsible in a personal injury lawsuit, an injured worker may be able to file a suit against a responsible third party if a serious injury occurs. In Yusczyk's case, that responsible third party was the City of Buffalo, where his injury occurred.
Cases against government entities are particularly complicated due to the principle of sovereign immunity, which holds that a government entity (such as the State of New York or a city or town) cannot be sued without its consent. New York has waived its sovereign immunity in some circumstances, potentially allowing a lawsuit to be successfully filed against the State of New York, an individual city, or a government agency. However, these cases have specific guidelines, deadlines and process requirements that differ from lawsuits against individuals or corporations.
When someone is seriously injured, it can be difficult for them to determine who was at fault and who can be held financially responsible for their injuries. If you were seriously injured in an accident, Frost & Kavanaugh can help you navigate the complexities of New York personal injury law. Contact us for a free consultation today.