What are My Rights if I Get Hurt at Work in New York?

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If you are injured at work and your accident occurs on the job while you are in the course of your employment, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Understanding when to use this system and when you might actually be eligible for a lawsuit under certain loopholes can be a difficult question you should speak with a lawyer about.

In most cases, any workers injured on the job in New York have to file through Workers’ Compensation in order to get damages paid for medical bills and a certain portion of lost wages. However, a lawsuit may be filed in cases involving third-party negligence or certain safety violations committed by your employer, potentially opening up higher damages.

For a free case review, call the Westchester, NY personal injury lawyers at The Martello Law Firm today. Our phone number is (914) 685-6950.

How Does the New York Workers’ Compensation System Work?

The New York State Legislature passed a law in 1914 as a compromise between employee and employer interests. As part of the compromise, employees lost the right to sue their employers for negligence resulting in injury, illness or disability. In return employees receive their lost wages due to their inability to work. Additionally, employees’ medical bills are covered for their work-related injury. Workers are typically required to use this system, but there are some exceptions our Yonkers personal injury lawyers might be able to help you with.

When Can an Injured Worker Bring a Third-Party Lawsuit in NY?

One exception is where an employee can receive Workers’ Compensation benefits and still bring a lawsuit is when a third party is liable for the injury. For example you may be able to sue if you get hurt while working at a Yonkers construction site and the building owner failed to provide a safe work environment, or you were hit by a negligent driver while driving a company car, or you slip while at work due the negligence of the building owner who is not your employer. The determination as to whether a third party is liable for your injuries can be complicated and you should consult a White Plains personal injury lawyer immediately after getting hurt.

Benefits of the New York Workers’ Compensation System

When you pursue your case through the Workers’ Compensation system, there are some pros and cons. One major benefit is that you do not need to prove fault to get the payment you need. Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault system where you do not need to prove that your employer was responsible for the injuries to get payments. In fact, many cases where a lawsuit would be impossible because the employer was not negligent can still be compensated through Workers’ Compensation. However, you may face some limitations, too.

Limitations of NY’s Workers’ Compensation System

Healthcare Limitations

First, your damages through Workers’ Compensation are limited to compensation for your medical bills and lost wages only. Medical bills are covered so long as the injuries are work-related, but there may be requirements as to paperwork you need to share with your employer’s insurance company, and you might have to use doctors specifically approved by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board rather than using your own doctor.

Limited Lost Wage Recovery

When you receive damages for lost wages, these are usually paid at only a fraction of your full wages, meaning you could lose out on substantial income by going through Workers’ Compensation. Ultimately, this means receiving only 2/3 of your normal average weekly wages. Wage loss damages are also blocked for the first 7 days of injury unless your injury lasts at least 14 days. Injuries lasting under 7 days typically do not receive lost wage payments at all.

No Pain and Suffering Damages

One of the biggest restrictions on damages is the exclusion of pain and suffering damages. When you file a lawsuit, you are typically entitled to compensation for both the economic and non-economic effects of the injury, potentially covering things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other effects of trauma. However, Workers’ Compensation does not pay non-economic damages, blocking you from recovering for these invisible harms that, nonetheless, might be some of the biggest harms you faced in your injury case.

Examples of Situations Where You Can Sue for Workplace Injuries

As mentioned, there are multiple situations where a lawsuit is opened up to you. One example was already given: third-party lawsuits. However, you can also sue in a few different situations where your employer violates safety regulations – especially scaffolding laws. In many cases, filing a lawsuit is the best option because you can get additional damages for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages that Workers’ Compensation typically refuses to cover.

Third-Party Lawsuits

In many workplace accident cases, your employer might have been doing everything they could to keep you safe by providing safety gear or tools and equipment with good safety features. However, if the manufacturer failed to properly design or manufacture those tools or equipment, they could actually be at fault for your injuries. Other third-party injuries are caused by car accidents and other types of accidents involving negligence by someone outside your company.

In these cases, a lawsuit is typically permitted against the outside parties. However, you might also be able to join your employer in the lawsuit and hold them both (your employer and the other party) responsible for their fair share of your injuries. For example, this is common in car accident cases involving roadside work crews who might have a case against the driver as well as the site operator who failed to construct hard barriers to keep the roadside workers safe.

Statutory and Safety Violations

In New York, workers are also entitled to sue an employer in many cases where the employer committed some sort of safety violation. One major example of this is in cases involving scaffolding injuries, which are explicitly allowed under New York law to go to a lawsuit. Talk to your Yonkers construction accident injury lawyer about these kinds of statutory exceptions and whether your case might be able to be filed in court.

Rights After a Workplace Accident for Independent Contractors in New York

In some states, independent contractors are excluded from Workers’ Compensation coverage. This means that companies do not need to get Workers’ Compensation insurance for their independent contractors and that independent contractors can sue instead of being required to file through Workers’ Compensation. In New York, the rules are a bit more complex.

Generally speaking, any worker who performs the same sort of work that the company is engaged in must be covered by the company’s Workers’ Compensation insurance. There are specific laws on the books dealing with the construction industry and the trucking industry, but they essentially boil down to the same ultimate requirement.

There are other factors you can use to determine whether someone is properly classified as an independent contractor, including whether the employer controls the time, place, and manner of their work or whether they are paid through their own Federal Employer Identification Number, but those factors alone do not necessarily justify leaving a worker un-covered by Workers’ Compensation.

Even though independent contractors do not get free rein to file a lawsuit against their clients in the event of an injury in New York, the many exceptions to the Workers’ Compensation rules often allow Mount Vernon personal injury lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of injured independent contractors in many different industries.

Other Details about Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in New York

In order to determine if you have a viable claim, you should be aware of the following elements of a Workers’ Compensation Case in New York State.

Timeline for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

An injured worker must file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board within 2 years of the incident or condition that caused the injury, illness or disability.

Definition of an Accident for Workers’ Compensation

To be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Law an accident must arise out of and in the course of employment. “In the course of employment” means that you must be working at the time of the accident. Talk to your New York workplace injury lawyer about injuries sustained on special work trips, at after-hours work functions, or during special assignments outside of your normal workplace. Many of these still qualify for Workers’ Compensation coverage, and our workplace injury lawyers might be able to help you file a lawsuit even if they do not qualify.

Definition of Notice for Workers’ Compensation

The law requires that the injured worker give the employer a written report of the accident within 30 days of the accident. The Workers’ Compensation board will often excuse this requirement in situations where the employer had knowledge of the accident within the 30-day time period. The notice and filing requirements for lawsuits are quite different, but you should always consult with an attorney quickly in case you need to fall back to using the Workers’ Compensation system to get the damages you need through a lawsuit.

Documentation Proving Cause

In order to establish a Workers’ Compensation case the injured worker must have a medical report stating that a work-related accident or condition was the cause of the injury, illness or disability. Without a medical report stating this, the Workers’ Compensation Board will not consider the case. Proving that the accident caused your injuries is quite different in a lawsuit, which our attorneys can help you with.

Call Our New York Workplace Injury Lawyers Today

The law related to accidents at work can be very complicated, and it is important to consult a Yonkers personal injury lawyer if you are hurt at work in order to protect your rights. Call The Martello Law firm today at (914) 685-6950 for a free case review.

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