Every so often I get this call from an attorney I know:
“Hi Dan, my client has a small business in New York. One of his workers got into an accident at work. Now the employee has filed a claim against him. Even worse, the NYS Workers’ Comp Board has hit the company—and my client— with thousands of dollars in penalties and fines for not having comp insurance. What should we do?”
My answer is: “THEY SHOULD HAVE HAD WORKERS’ COMP INSURANCE IN THE FIRST PLACE. NOW YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE MONTHS OF AGGRAVATION AND HAVE TO PAY UP THE WAZOO TO GET OUT OF THIS MESS.”
Wazoo’s a legal term, isn’t it?
Of course, uninsured employers have rights, and they should be adequately represented and advised when they deal with the s—storm that ensues from not having comp insurance. But believe me, it is a full-blown s—storm—something to be avoided like the plague. The State WILL make the uninsured employer miserable.
So here’s the moral to my story. IF YOU OWN A BUSINESS, AND HAVE ANY EMPLOYEES WHATSOEVER, WHETHER ON THE BOOKS OR OFF THE BOOKS, AND YOU DON’T HAVE WORKERS’ COMP INSURANCE, YOU ARE INVITING DISASTER.
State law requires that the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) MUST give you a policy of comp insurance if you cannot obtain a policy from a private carrier like Liberty Mutual, Hartford, etc. The NYSIF’s website is at www.nysif.com. Do yourself a favor. For a few hundred dollars, protect yourself from untold grief. Take it from an attorney who sees the aftermath of companies and employers having no comp insurance—-way too often.
Sometimes prospective clients come to my office and tell me that they were injured on the job. The problem, they tell me, is that aren’t sure when this happened. When I hear this, I usually need to ask them a series of questions, to find out more information. Perhaps this individual has what is known as an “occupational disease.” (We often abbreviate this to “OD”.)
Not all OD’s are what is commonly known as a disease. Some are truly injuries, but they all happened gradually over a period of time at work. Here’s some examples of fairly well-known or common occupational diseases:
A welder who develops bronchitis from breathing in welding fumes.
A computer operator who develops carpal tunnel syndrome from extensive keyboarding.
A machine operator who develops asthma from repeated chemical inhalation.
A nurse’s aide who develops back pain from continually transferring patients from bed to wheelchair and wheelchair to bed.
A jackhammer operator who develops hearing loss.
A sandblaster or sandhog who develops lung disease/silicosis.
These are just a few examples, but all of these are Workers’ Compensation cases.The law in New York says that you have two years to file a claim for an OD with the Workers’ Compensation Board. This is measured from date of diagnosis or when you knew or should have known that your condition is work-related, whichever is later.
Most OD’s are “controverted” by the employer and its Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier, meaning, you will have a fight on your hands to win the case. You will need a doctor to say that your condition was at least partially caused by the type of work you do.
Bottom line—if you think you have an occupational disease, consult an attorney experienced with these types of claims who can properly advise you of your rights. Occupational diseases are covered by the Workers’ Comp Law, and if you win your case, you are entitled to the same benefits as if you had been injured in an accident. OD cases are more difficult to prove, however, than routine work accident claims. That’s why it’s usually not a good idea to file these types of claims without getting sound legal advice first.