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Workplace Injury / Workers' Compensation
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New York Workplace Injury Lawyers

After your home, the place you are most likely to be injured is at work. Unless you work in certain public service jobs in New York, such as the police or fire department, you are covered by workers’ compensation insurance if you’re hurt on the job. Workers’ compensation should cover all work-related injuries and illnesses and provide you with a portion of your regular income until you can return to work.

Workers’ compensation may not cover everything. If you’re injured due to a third party’s negligence at the workplace, you may not know whether to accept workers’ compensation or sue the outside party.

And what can you do if your workers’ compensation claim is denied?

If you’ve been injured on the job or have a chronic illness that results from something that happened during your employment, you need to consult a legal professional. At Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law, we can help you make sense of any competing claims and help you get whatever compensation you need to get back on your feet.

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workplace injury

What Is a Workplace Accident?

A workplace accident is an injury that happens at your place of employment while you are on the clock. The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board explains that a covered injury must arise out of your employment. That means the injury must be a result of the hazards of the job. To be covered, the injury must also occur in the course of employment, meaning it happened at a time and location related to the job while you were performing your job.

For instance, if you are a construction worker, a fall at the construction site during working hours would be covered. A fall on the sidewalk outside the site during the weekend would not.

Any injury can be a workplace injury if it happens under these circumstances. Office jobs and high-rise construction jobs can both cause injuries and illnesses. On-the-job injuries are a major cause of lost time and lost income in the workplace.

Depending on the nature of your work, any or all these types of accidents are potential causes of workplace injury:

Slip and fall accidents are common everywhere, but especially in construction and heavy industry. Falling from heights is a known hazard of construction work. However, any type of fall can cause serious injury, even a minor slip in the office.

Equipment-related injuries can include everything from being injured while servicing a piece of heavy machinery in a factory to being hit by a cart in the office. Being struck by or striking a piece of unyielding equipment can result in serious injuries.

Overexertion, or overwork, is a catch-all phrase for repetitive movements on the job leading to injury and disability.

Weather-related exposure is a source of concern for those working outdoors. Heat and cold injuries like heat stroke or frostbite can happen indoors and out.

Chemical exposure. This type of injury is not only a hazard for those in industrial work. Spills of solvents or cleaning supplies in the wrong place can fill a room with toxic vapors.

There are nearly as many types of workplace injuries as there are workplaces. What is important is whether the incident occurred while the worker was doing their job and whether the injury stemmed from their job.

Who Is Covered and Who Is Not

Workers’ compensation insurance is the result of a compromise between labor boards and employers. The employer agrees to pay the cost of any workplace injury and partially replace any lost wages. The employee agrees not to sue the employer for an on-the-job injury. All things being equal, this should resolve most problems.

Not every employee is covered by workers’ compensation. New York law requires all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance for all employees. Some business types are excluded from this law: sole proprietorships where there are no other employees, some types of non-profit agencies, and independent contractors.

However, those who must have insurance must provide it for all employees. An employee is defined as a “person (including family members) who performs under the supervision, direction, and control of an employer either on or off their premises.” This applies whether the employee is full-time, part-time, or unpaid.

The important considerations are “supervision, direction, and control.” If the employer instructs the worker what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, that person is probably an employee. If the employer has just hired the person to complete a specific project and then has no input until the job is complete, that person is probably not an employee.


Now that remote work and hybrid worksites have become more common (thanks to the COVID pandemic), the line between being an independent contractor and an employee is becoming blurred. Remote workers should review their employment contracts carefully to be certain that being “at work at home” is still covered by workers’ compensation. When there is any doubt, you should contact an attorney.
 

Types of Workplace Injuries

There are hundreds of serious injuries and illnesses that can result from a person performing their job duties in their usual way. The exact type of injury depends on the nature of your job, but the most frequent causes of injury-related time away from work include:

Head injuries, such as concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and fractures

Spinal cord injuries

Broken bones and nerve damage

Electrical burns, heat burns, or chemical burns

Chronic illness from chemical exposure, such as mesothelioma or COPD

Repetition injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome

Any of these injuries can lead to extended periods away from work, loss of income, and potential disability.

workplace accident

Proving a Workplace Injury

In New York, proving that an injury happened on the job is not as simple as just going to the doctor and getting a note. There are specific steps that must be taken for a workers’ compensation claim to succeed. Failing to carry out these steps can lead to the denial of your claim, or at a minimum, a series of hearings and appeals to try to get the denial reversed.

Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law strongly recommends that anyone who has suffered a workplace accident seek legal advice before attempting to file any type of insurance claim.

Seek medical treatment

The first step in filing a claim is to see the doctor. Unless it is an emergency, the doctor must be authorized to accept workers’ compensation claims. Usually, your employer will have a list of doctors they can refer you to that are authorized providers.
Once you receive treatment, it is important that you not pay for any treatment or medications. Bills will be sent to the workers’ compensation insurer or to your employer. Paying for your own treatment could complicate the insurance process.

Notify your employer

In New York, you must report a workplace injury within 30 days of the date of injury. You should do this yourself, even if your on-site supervisor said they would do so. Your employer has only ten days to report the injury to the insurance carrier, so put the ball firmly in their court by letting your boss know right away.

File a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board

These forms are available online. You should file your claim as soon as possible. You have up to two years to file a claim for occupational injury or illness, calculated from the date you knew or reasonably should have known the injury was work-related. For instance, if you fall down the stairs and break your wrist, the time to file begins on the day you broke your wrist. If you develop carpal tunnel syndrome after 30 years as an accountant, the time begins the day your doctor gave you the diagnosis.

Keep up with all treatment plans and rehabilitation

Don’t miss any appointments or therapy sessions.

You should begin receiving benefit payments within 18 days of the date your employer notified the insurance carrier of the injury if your time away from work will exceed seven days. An employer or insurer can still dispute the claim during the period benefits are not being paid.

What Is Covered and What Is Not

Workers’ compensation only covers medical costs and lost income related to the job. Workers’ compensation does not cover pain and suffering, loss of future wages, loss of consortium, or any other type of loss. You do have a right to transitional or alternative work assignments to ease your way back into work.

If you are disabled as a result of your injury or unable to return to the same job, you may be eligible to receive vocational training.

The goal of workers’ compensation insurance is to help you heal and return to work. If you are unable to work at your previous job, you will be helped to find another job. You will only be given long-term benefits if you are declared permanently disabled.

Third-Party Liability Claims

Sometimes, an outside agency can be responsible for conditions leading to an accident. This is especially true on construction sites, where subcontractors and vendors bring their own people in to work on a location.

The benefit of filing a third-party liability claim is that, unlike with workers’ compensation, you are not barred from suing for pain and suffering or other non-economic losses. The downside is that a personal injury claim will not be paid out immediately. As with any personal injury suit, you could face years in court before receiving compensation.

Some types of third-party liability claims can include:

Vehicle accidents

Other drivers have the same duty to follow property rules as the workers. Delivery trucks, temporary equipment drivers, and others sometimes cut corners (literally) when attempting to get their work done. An outside company would be responsible for their drivers’ negligence.

Negligent workers

An outside company is responsible for hiring, training, and explaining the worksite rules to their own employees. If the workers fail to obey safety regulations and job site requirements, the company could be liable. For instance, if an outside janitorial company sends its workers in to clean an office at night, the workers must follow the office building’s requirements about preventing accidents.

Equipment defects

If a piece of equipment was defective when purchased or brought to the workplace, legal action against the manufacturer or seller of the item might be appropriate.

Property liability

The owner of a property is responsible for the condition and upkeep of their building or site. They also have a duty to inform any tenants or workers of known hazardous conditions. The employer’s responsibility to their workers ends where the employer’s ability to remedy ends. The property owner may be the one to blame if an accident impacts the entire building or work location.

If you believe you have a cause of action against an outside party for your workplace injuries, you should contact the legal team at Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law.

When You Need a Lawyer

Whether you file a workers’ compensation claim or believe you need to file a personal injury lawsuit, you should consult an attorney before making any decision. You should always have a lawyer review any documents before you sign them, especially if they involve your legal rights after a settlement. Other situations may call for specialized legal assistance. Any time you believe you have been injured and should receive workers’ compensation or other insurance coverage, you should call an attorney. . 

Independent Contractors and Employers

The question of whether a worker is a “contractor” or an “employee” is always open to debate. If you are a 1099 worker and handle your own taxes, you are probably an independent contractor. On the other hand, if your contract with the employer spells out exactly what you must and must not do, you could be an employee.

Misclassification

Businesses sometimes hire “contractors” to save money or avoid taxes. These workers may still be employees, depending on how they are treated by their employer. The decision hinges on the control your employer has over your workday.

Personal injury claims

Independent contractors may need to file a personal injury claim against an employer rather than using workers’ compensation. In these cases, the contractor would need to show they had control over their workspace, paid their own expenses, and handled their own taxes.

If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. Before attempting this type of action, you should consult an attorney about the matter. Appealing a claim in New York has multiple steps.

The Workers’ Compensation Board reviews all cases and must make a determination on the case. The Board may issue an administrative decision on the case. Interested parties (you) have 30 days to request an administrative review.

Matters may be sent to conciliation if they can’t be resolved by an administrative hearing but don’t warrant a formal hearing before a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge. This process attempts to resolve issues in dispute without a formal hearing. Once a decision has been reviewed and approved, the parties will have 30 days to object. If no objections occur, the decision will become final. After that, the conciliation is binding and cannot be appealed.

Complex matters are referred to a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge. The WCLJ’s decisions are appealable.

If you decide to file an appeal, you must use the Workers’ Compensation Board’s forms and format. Many claims are denied simply because of missing paperwork or incomplete forms. The completed documents must be filed and served on the opposing parties.

You need the legal team of Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law for this part. The requirements of an appeal are more extensive than that of the initial claim. The Board may request a legal brief outlining your case, transcripts of the hearing (including objections made at the time and the judge’s ruling), requests for attorneys’ fees, and other documentation.

Deadlines for filing, service, and responses are strict. By having an attorney and legal team to handle your administrative appeal, you can be sure that nothing was overlooked or forgotten. If you are still recovering from your injury or adjusting to a new lifestyle imposed by an illness, you should not have to handle the legal complexities of an appeal.

The administrative appeal may be judicially appealed within 30 days of the Board’s decision. This appeal will be handled by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division. If you decide you want your case reviewed at the judicial level, you should consult an attorney and let them assist you. Court requirements are entirely different from an administrative review, and your attorney will be able to guide you through the process.

Why You Need Us

Our legal team will collect the documentary evidence needed to make your case, ensure that all filing deadlines are met, and ensure that all paperwork is filed properly and sent to the correct people. You should not have to handle these matters alone.

If you have been injured on the job and need to know your rights, contact the attorneys of Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law at 800-724-6529. You can also fill out our intake form and a member of our team will call you. If you’ve already filed your workers’ compensation claim and need help with a denial or appeal, our legal team is ready to explain the requirements and assist you in presenting your case.

Being injured on the job can be life-altering. Let Burns & Harris Attorneys At Law help you obtain the compensation you need to recover and get on with your life.

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