Construction worker says his identity was stolen to file false workers' comp claim, lawsuit

Kristin Thorne Image
Tuesday, April 2, 2024
Worker's identity stolen in construction injury lawsuit
Kristin Thorne has more on the investigation into identity theft.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The 7 On Your Side Investigates team is continuing its investigation into what construction company owners are calling a scam that is costing everyone in New York -- fake falls on local construction sites.

Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne met with a Queens resident who believes he is a victim in one case.

The man asked that we not reveal his name because he believes someone has already stolen his identity. We are calling him Daniel for the purposes of this story.

Daniel said he never fell at a construction site in Brooklyn, but he's been named in a workers' compensation claim and a lawsuit stating that he did.

"I want to denounce the people or the person who did this to me, took my name, my address," Daniel said in Spanish.

Eyewitness News obtained New York State workers' comp documents which state that Daniel was injured on August 17, 2022 while working on a construction site in Brooklyn; however, Daniel said he never worked there.

"It's a company that I don't know, have never worked for," Daniel said.

The construction company, based in New Jersey, confirmed with Eyewitness News that Daniel has never worked for them.

Daniel's name also ended up in a lawsuit against the Brooklyn worksite's property owners and developers.

The personal injury law firm in Lower Manhattan, which filed the lawsuit, said in court filings that Daniel was left severely disabled when he tripped and fell on the job site on August 17, 2022 suffering internal and external injuries and was confined to his bed and home.

The lawsuit said the companies showed "negligence, carelessness and recklessness" for not providing a safe work environment for Daniel.

"I didn't do the lawsuit," Daniel said in Spanish. "I didn't do any lawsuit."

Daniel said he didn't sign anything with the law firm, but in 2022 he did complete what he thought was a job application.

Daniel said that year he was speaking with an acquaintance about how he was looking for a job. Both men work in construction.

Daniel told Eyewitness News the acquaintance told him not to worry and that he would help him get a job. Daniel said a short time later the acquaintance brought him a stack of papers to sign. He said the acquaintance told him it was a job application. Daniel said he couldn't read the forms, however, because they were in English.

Daniel said the acquaintance told him Daniel would get a $15,000 check just for filling out the job application. A while later, Daniel said that's what happened - a check arrived at his home in his name. The check came from a pre-settlement funding company.

Pre-settlement funding companies provide money to a person who is typically suing an employer for a work-related injury. The money allows the plaintiff, who is unable to work due to the injury, to have money while their lawyer pursues the claim.

Daniel said the acquaintance instructed him to cash the check, give the acquaintance $13,000 in cash and then Daniel could keep the rest.

"I got $2,000," Daniel said.

Shortly thereafter, Daniel said he started receiving workers' compensation documents in the mail from New York State about the injury he suffered and then later he received a lawsuit.

"It was a lawsuit that was done behind my back with my name without my knowing anything," Daniel said.

We contacted the law firm regarding Daniel's claim that the fall never happened. They told us Daniel signed a retainer agreement and other legal documents with their firm six days after the alleged accident. We tried for months to get the documentation from the firm, but they declined to give it to us or to Daniel himself.

Court documents show that last summer the law firm asked a judge to let them off their own case because they weren't able to get in touch with Daniel for several months. The judge agreed.

The law firm said in a statement to Eyewitness News that they no longer have any involvement with the client after the judge relieved them of their representation. They said they'll have no further comment.

"I want to get free from all this," Daniel said.

Earlier this month, Eyewitness News reported that an insurance company in New York filed a federal lawsuit against eight local doctors and four lawyers claiming they helped construction workers stage construction site accidents in order to cash in on workers' compensation settlements.

The law firm involved in Daniel's claim was not named in the lawsuit.

Eyewitness News has been reporting on this issue since last summer when construction company owners contacted us about the issue of fraudulent claims. They said every homeowner and renter in New York State is paying more in order to cover buildings' and properties' skyrocketing insurance premiums as a result of fake falls and injuries on work sites.

Construction industry insiders believe the bogus claims are happening because of a New York Labor Law which dates back to the late 19th century.

New York Labor Law 240 and 241, which was established in 1885, makes a property owner fully liable if a worker falls from any height and is injured. The company overseeing construction on the site ends up being named in lawsuits as well. The worker bears no responsibility for the fall under the law.

New York is the only state with such a regulation.


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