In New York State, under the reformed Workers’ Compensation law, people suffering from permanent partial disability to non-extremities due to injury or illness at the workplace will have caps on the benefits they are able to receive before maximum medical improvement is reached. Since 2007, “non-schedule” impairments were allowed a maximum level of benefits based on the Medical Impairment Guidelines which helped to determine the level of disability once permanency was reached. However, there was no limit to how long an injured employee could take to reach maximum medical improvement. After Permanent Partial Disability reform, the time frame allotted to reach MMI is 130 weeks for all injuries which occurred after April 9, 2017.
If the Workers Compensation Board determines that a claimant has not reached MMI in the allotted time frame (130 weeks from the date of injury), any benefits awarded to the claimant will go against the cap determined by their injury. There is the option to seek continued uncapped temporary payments through a law judge. The 2017 reforms allow for extended periods of temporary disability without the loss of future benefits through the creation of a “safety valve”. However, we highly recommend that you seek out an experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney to assist you if this is a course of action you wish to take.
Lifetime benefits will only be available to workers with permanent total disability.
Additional Reform Related to Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Hardship Exception Reduction
Prior to the Permanent Partial Disability reform of 2017, only injured workers with a degree of disability that surpassed 80% could apply for hardship benefits after reaching the end of their capped benefits. The budget reductions made in 2017 reduced the degree of disability needed to apply for Hardship Exception to a threshold of 75%.
Labor Market Attachment
One of the more significant changes to Workers’ Compensation Law in 2017 under Permanent Partial Disability was the change made to requiring demonstrated Labor Market Attachment. Claimants who have been classified under PPD no longer have to demonstrate labor market attachment. Claimants will need to be entitled to benefits at the time of classification. This was effective immediately but also retroactive. Meaning there may be opportunity to restore previously suspended benefits due to lack of labor market attachment.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
The recent reforms to Workers’ Compensation in New York State have made forward progress in efforts to save money for employers throughout the state, but have also opened up new doors in an already difficult to navigate legal arena. There have also been changes made which will benefit injured employees, but new litigation will arise as a result. We will continue to keep you informed of the changes being made moving forward.
If you are seeking legal assistance in recently reformed Workers’ Compensation Law in New York State, Erwin, McCane and Daly have the experience and knowledge that may help you.