In a previous essay I wrote about Workers’ Compensation (WC) permanent injury awards:
“Permanent injuries to joints of the body, vision, and hearing, qualify for “schedule loss of use” awards regardless of whether a person is working or not“, I explained.
As a follow up to that, I can tell you that it has become very difficult, in the world of Workers’ Comp in New York, to receive not a permanent injury award, but to receive weekly benefits while out of work!
This sounds counterintuitive: Isn’t Workers’ Compensation primarily designed to pay people while they are out of work? Well, in the current climate, it’s not so easy to obtain a proper weekly payment while out on comp (called a “lost time award”.)
First, understand that eventually it becomes a choice, because ultimately you do not receive both types of awards. The WC law says you can’t get a permanent injury award and ADD it to your lost time award..at the end of the case you have to choose one or the other!!!
For an experienced Workers’ Comp lawyer in New York, then, this becomes an analysis of which one is better for the client.
Here’s a comparison of the two types of awards:
(Note: Permanent injury awards are called “SLU’s”)
Lost time: Paid only if injured worker (IW) is under medical treatment.
SLU: Paid only if the IW is finished with treatment.
Lost time: Paid most often at a lower than maximum rate.
SLU: Paid at the maximum rate.
Lost time: Injured worker can be required to look for work (job search) to qualify.
SLU: No requirement to look for work.
Lost time: Paid in bi-weekly installments.
SLU: Paid in one lump sum.
SLU: Paid one year from date of accident
Lost time: Paid after one week of being out of work.
As you can see, a SLU award has huge advantages over lost time awards. The problem is, when someone has suddenly stopped working and is in need of income to survive, it is unimportant to that person that one year later, they may receive a lump sum that will cover all of their lost wages. That person needs income NOW.
That is why we as WC attorneys still try as hard as we can to get our clients “lost time bi-weekly checks” while they are out. Later on, we worry about whether they qualify for an SLU.
More complicated than you thought? That’s why an experienced WC attorney is essential in almost every WC case.
Clearly one of the biggest misconceptions about Workers’ Comp is that you have to be out of work to collect. That’s because most people have a limited understanding of what benefits are available. In New York, there are many situations where injured workers can collect workers comp money benefits even if they are working:
1. Permanent injuries to joints of the body, vision, and hearing, qualify for “schedule loss of use” awards regardless of whether a person is working or not. These awards are extremely common.
Lynn, a right handed office worker, tears her left rotator cuff (shoulder) at work. She normally makes $900 per week salary and she manages to keep going into work and doing her job even with the injury. One year later all of the doctors agree Lynn, who is still performing her job, has suffered a permanent, 20% loss of use of her left arm. An entire arm is worth 312 weeks of money benefits under New York law. This award would then be calculated as follows:
20% of arm= 20% of 312=62.4 weeks at the weekly rate of $600, which is 2/3 of Lynn’s salary. 62.4 x 600= 37,440.
Total monetary award that Lynn collects: $37,440.
All Workers’ Comp benefits are tax-free, BTW.
2. John is a union welder. A torch he is holding when he takes off his mask backfires, burning his face and neck. These leave permanent scars. John only loses one week from work after the accident.
Maximum award John can collect for his facial scars: $20,000.
3. Gina is a nurse. She injures her back at work. She requires physical therapy, pain management, medications, and surgery. After her back surgery, she goes back to work at reduced earnings since she can no longer work full time.
Her employer’s insurance company offers her a lump sum settlement to pay for future loss of earnings and her future medical costs for her back injury, even though she is working part time. The insurance company offers Gina $150,000 to settle the case.
So there are many instances where injured workers can be compensated even if they are working. Therefore, it is important to remember that workers injured on the job should always file a claim not only with their employer but with the Workers’ Compensation Board each and every time they are seriously injured at work whether they are working or not.
Injured workers too often “leave money on the table” that is rightfully theirs; they just don’t know the law.
That’s where The Law Office of Morrin & Sands PLLC can help.