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Understanding Worker’s Compensation if Injured at Work

Written by
Abraham Jaros
|
Updated on Tuesday, Nov 14, 2023

The Workers’ Compensation Law applies when you were injured while you were at work. It is a New York State law. You have two years from the date you were injured at work to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board, although most people do file immediately after being injured.

Under the Workers’ Compensation Law, it does not matter if you are a citizen of the United States or an illegal immigrant. You still have rights to Workers’ Compensation benefits and to also possibly sue a “third-party” to be compensated for your injuries.

Under the Workers’ Compensation Law, it does not matter if your employer does not have Workers’ Compensation insurance. If your employer does not have it, you then have the choice of suing your employer, or bringing a Workers’ compensation claim, and you will then be paid from a pool, and the Workers’ Compensation organization will then seek to recover the money from the employer who did not have Workers’ Compensation insurance.

If you work in what is known as, “off the books”, you can still receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers’ Compensation deals with persons getting hurt on the job. It doesn’t matter whether they are working on the books or off the books; you just have to prove that you were working when you were injured.

What is very important for you to be aware of is the fact that even if the accident may have been entirely your own fault that does not prevent you from receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits. You are entitled to those benefits even if the injury was your fault, so long as you were not drunk or on drugs at the time the injury occurred.

Workers’ compensation has what is called a “schedule loss of use award,” §15 of the Workers’ Compensation Law.

You may deserve an award if one or more of your “body parts” do not fully heal to where they were before the injury. Permanent injury to a body part may include: fractures, amputations, surgeries, tears, dislocations, second or third-degree burns, crush injuries and severe nerve damage.

The Workers’ Compensation law states how many benefit weeks you'll receive. It's based on the body part and how much it was injured. You'll get a certain number of weeks of payment to make up for the permanent injury.

In order to obtain a scheduled “loss of use” award, a doctor’s opinion is needed. Ask your doctor when you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. If your injury is permanent, your doctor will state how much less you can use that body part. It will be put as a percentage: 25%, 50%, and so on. The doctor will file that opinion with the Board. With respect to the scheduled loss of use award, the Board can direct the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier of your employer to pay one lump sum instead of spreading it out over a period of time.

If you are hurt on the job, in addition to your right to Workers’ Compensation benefits, if you believe your injury is the fault of a “third-party”, you also have a right to sue that party for your pain and suffering, as well as for your lost wages and loss of future earnings capacity.

The law in New York is that you cannot sue your employer, or a co-employee, that caused your injury. However, you can sue others, what are called “third parties”, who may be held responsible for causing your injury. For example, if you are a delivery person, who was making a delivery, and you fell over a dangerous condition such as a broken or defective step or handrail, a box, a broken driveway, etc., you can sue the homeowner or the business to whom you were making the delivery.

The law protects construction workers who are employed in dangerous work. If you are hired for a job that is particularly dangerous and are more susceptible to being injured, such as at a construction site, if you fell off a ladder or a scaffold, under a specific section of the New York State Labor, §240, if the ladder or scaffold was defective, or was not properly secured, you can sue not only the owner of the building but also the owner of the land. If you were working for a subcontractor, you may also sue the general contractor or other subcontractors. These other companies are called “third parties”, as they are not your employer.

If, as a construction worker, you are given a tool such as a drill, saw, grinder, or other piece of equipment, which is defective, the owner of the land is also responsible under §241(6) of the New York State Labor Law if you were injured while using the defective equipment.

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