Help for Injured Workers

Information for Injured Workers

Some say that an attorney is not needed to help prosecute a Workers' Compensation claim, however we strongly urge any injured worker who seeks Workers' Compensation benefits to consult with an attorney who practices in the field of Workers Compensation. Please note that it is unlawful for an attorney to accept any money directly from a client in a New York Workers' Compensation case. Any fee requested by a lawyer in a Workers' Compensation claim must be approved by the Workers' Compensation Board, and if awarded it will be deducted from any additional benefits owed to you by the insurance carrier.

The Workers' Compensation Board operates on a "Service Center" concept. A District Office Service Center is a place where injured workers can go to review the Electronic Case Folder containing the materials that the Board has on your claim, to speak with an examiner regarding your file and to go to hearings on your claim. Each district is comprised of one or more counties.

There are remote Service Centers in each district that host hearings and may be used to obtain access to your file and to communicate with the Board. However, the examiner that is responsible for your file will be in the District Office Service Center.

Years ago the Workers' Compensation Board did more to ensure that injured workers' received the benefits to which they are entitled under the Workers' Compensation Law. Unfortunately, this is no longer true. Now the Workers' Compensation Board places the burden upon the injured worker to know and request the benefits to which her or she may be entitled. Oftentimes if no request is made, the Board will not award the benefit. The most glaring example of this may be found in awards for permanent loss of use in accordance with the New York State Workers' Compensation Board Medical Guidelines. Before 1996 the Board scheduled hearings for claimants to be examined by State Doctors for a determination of Schedule Loss of Use. Now the claimant must be examined by their own doctor, submit the report on permanency, and request a hearing. If the injured worker doesn't do this, they won't receive the award.

Currently, the Board does not adequately inform injured workers that they may be entitled to such an award.

A hearing provides the only opportunity for an injured worker to make a claim for benefits before a Workers' Compensation Law Judge who is empowered to make a determination regarding the claimant's request. Without hearings, the injured worker's access to benefits is limited.

In recent years the Workers' Compensation Board has reduced the number of hearings significantly. Currently, when requests for hearings are received by the Board, claims examiners look for reasons why the case shouldn't be set for a hearing rather than scheduling one. The rationale provided by the Board for this policy is to make the hearing system more efficient thereby having fewer wasted hearings. The more cynical members of the bar believe that the Board's antipathy towards hearings reflects this administration's desire to reduce benefits to injured workers; simply stated - if you decrease the number of opportunities injured workers have to request benefits, the benefits awarded to them will be reduced.