Many people are surprised when I tell them that they don’t necessarily have to lose time from work in order to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits. While many people know about the medical coverage through their employer’s Workers’ Compensation carrier, and that they will be paid Workers’ Compensation benefits while they are unable to work, they are very unfamiliar with some of the other benefits they may be entitled to despite returning to work.
These benefits are not advertised by the employer or the employer’s compensation carrier, or explained to you individually by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. So today I am going to let you in on a little secret not widely known to the average person or for that matter, by the average employer. If you get hurt on the job and you have a permanent injury to an extremity (arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers or toes) or have an injury that results in a loss of vision or hearing, or sustain a facial scar, you are entitled to a cash award. However, if you don’t apply for this award, you will never receive it.
As described in a prior article, if you get hurt on the job you should notify your employer immediately, seek medical attention and let the medical practitioner or hospital know that you were hurt while working, and file the claim with the New York State Workers’ Compensation board within two years. If your medical provider indicates that the injury to your extremity is permanent in nature (generally determined as six-12 months after the injury), you may be entitled to a schedule loss of use award.
One of the reasons it is so important to see a doctor coded under Workers’ Compensation is that they know the rules and procedures. They know the proper paperwork to file and they know the standards necessary for determining schedule loss of use findings. Permanency to an extremity can result not only from a fracture, but from a tear with or without surgery or a serious sprain. To determine schedule loss of use, the doctor takes into consideration mobility defects, loss of power and impaired dexterity or coordination.
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 and will file the percentage loss with the Board. The law states how many benefit weeks you’ll receive and is based on the particular extremity and how much it was damaged, as well as how much you earned prior to your injury. For example – someone who earns $900 a week and has a 10% loss of the arm will receive 31.2 weeks at 2/3 of his/her earnings ($600) for a total of $18,720. If you lose time from work, any prior payments are deducted from the overall award. The same applies for a loss of vision or loss of hearing. Additionally, if you sustain a serious facial disfigurement, you also can be eligible for a cash award up to a maximum of $20,000. These awards are tax free and are not dependent upon losing time from work.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Again – no one wants to get hurt on the job, but if you do, know your rights. Knowledge is power!
Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.