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An overview of workers’ compensation in New York

Erwin, McCane & Daly | Thursday, July 10, 2014

It is an unfortunate reality that work can be dangerous. Of course, some professions are more hazardous than others, but nearly every job carries some risk of injury or illness.

A work-related injury can cause major disruptions in a person's life. At a minimum, there will be medical care to pay for. In some cases, the worker will need to take time off to recover. In others, he or she may be left with long-lasting disabilities.

When work injuries or illnesses happen, it is important for workers to avail themselves of the protections offered by New York's workers' compensation law. Workers' compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that injured workers can recover benefits even if they were partially responsible for causing the accident that led to the injury.

When does workers' compensation apply?

Workers compensation benefits are available both for injuries caused by accidents and for occupational diseases. Occupational diseases are conditions that develop gradually as a result of working conditions. Common examples of occupational diseases include carpal tunnel syndrome in people who work with computers and lung disease in workers who have occupational exposure to respiratory dust. Many cancers can also be caused by exposure to hazardous substances at work.

In order to qualify for workers' compensation benefits, in most cases injured workers must show that the injury or illness arose during working hours and that it is causally related to working conditions or a on-the-job accident. Often, this can be accomplished by providing a report from the worker's treating physician.

State law limits the time workers have to make a claim, so it is a good idea to talk with an experienced New York workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. In addition, injured workers must give notice to their employers within 30 days of a work-related accident.

What benefits are available?

Workers' compensation insurance will provide coverage for reasonable medical care arising out of a work-related illness or injury. However, the care must be provided by a doctor or chiropractor who has been coded by the New York Workers' Compensation Board. If the worker must take time off to recover, workers' compensation will provide wage-replacement benefits up to two-thirds the worker's average weekly wage (up to a statutory maximum benefit). Workers who have to transition to a different job with lower pay may be entitled to benefits to make up the difference.

In addition, some injuries qualify for compensation even if the worker does not have to take time off. Generally, this rule applies to injuries to the extremities, facial scarring, and hearing or vision loss.

Working with an attorney

Unfortunately, it is not rare for workers' compensation insurers to deny valid claims or to cut off benefits before the worker has recovered. For this reason, it is important to work with an experienced workers' compensation attorney, especially in cases of serious injury or occupational disease.