By José Enrique Perez

New York State has a workers’ compensation law dealing with accidents of workers and occupational diseases.  The workers’ compensation law sets forth the procedure for obtaining benefits when you are out of work because of a work-related accident or occupational disease.  The law requires almost all employers to have coverage for all workers.  Even if an employer, however, does not have workers’ compensation coverage for its workers, you will be still entitled to benefits under the workers’ compensation law because the Uninsured Employers Fund unit will step into the shoes of that employer.

You should know that workers’ compensation is a type of insurance.  Therefore, the employer or the insurance carrier, and not you, will pay for medical treatment, and the wages you lose because you are injured on the job and/or become ill because of your job.  The benefits paid pursuant to the workers’ compensation law are determined pursuant to various degrees of disability (which I will describe in the May edition).

The employer or its insurance carrier cannot discriminate based on race, national region, color, immigration status, sex, age, religion, disability and/or sexual preference when providing benefits to the workers.

What Should You Do If You Are Injured On The Job?   The first thing you should do is to seek medical treatment for your injuries.  Thereafter, you should notify your employer about your injury (and you should do so preferably in writing) as soon as practicable, but no later than thirty days after the injury.  If you fail to notify your employer within thirty days of your injury, the employer may be able to raise a failure to notify and/or lack of notice defense which may affect your claim.  After you notify your employer, you should file a claim for compensation benefits as soon as practicable.  Remember that the workers’ compensation law sets a statute of limitation of two years.  The statute of limitation means that if you do not notify the Workers’ Compensation Board of your case and/or injury within two years after the accident, you will not be able to claim benefits under the workers’ compensation law.  The Workers’ Compensation Board is a New York State agency that oversees all claims for compensation under the workers’ compensation law.

How Do You File A Claim With The Workers’ Compensation Board?  You can ask your employer for a form C-3, Employee’s Claim for Compensation.  If your employer does not have the form C-3, you can do any of the following:

  • Call the Workers’ Compensation Board at (866) 396-8314 and ask the Board representative to complete it with you over the telephone;
  • Go online to www.wcb.state.ny.us/ and complete the form electronically;
  • Go online to www.wcb.state.ny.us/ and download form C-3, complete it, and mail it to the nearest Workers’ Compensation Board office;
  • Go to the nearest Workers’ Compensation Board office and ask a Board representative to help you complete the form. Please note that the employer will complete a similar form called C-2, Employer’s Report of Work-Related Injury/Illness, as soon as you notify it of your injury.
  • Who Is Covered Under The Workers’ Compensation Law?  Almost all workers are covered and may receive medical treatment and wages for time lost because of the injury and/or illness with only a few exceptions.  If you have any doubt about your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits, you should still file the C-3 and contact either the Workers’ Compensation Board or an attorney to discuss your case.

    What Injuries Are Covered Under The Workers’ Compensation Law?  There are two types of coverage under the workers’ compensation law:

    On the job injuries:   All injuries sustained while working for an employer or in the course of employment are covered with only one exception:  If you sustain an injury as a result of your use of illegal drugs and/or alcohol, or from trying to self-inflict an injury or inflict an injury to someone else, you may lose the right to benefits under the workers’ compensation law.

    Occupational disease:   If you do not sustain an injury on the job or in the course of employment for the employer, and you, nonetheless, become ill, you may still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  This is called occupational disease.  An occupational disease is contracted as a result of your work.  An occupational disease arises from a specific aspect of the work you do.  A typical example is a person who works with computers and develops carpal tunnel syndrome.  It is important you tell your doctor what your work involves because you may not even know you have an occupational disease.  Occupational disease guidelines and timeframes are complex and different from a regular on-the-job injury.  Therefore, you should notify your employer as soon as you learn about it and file a workers’ compensation claim.  You are entitled to the same benefits you would have if you had sustained an on-the-job injury.  However, you may not even know you are suffering an occupational disease because either you have not lost time from work or you think it’s unrelated to your work.  Therefore, you should talk to your doctor not only about your symptoms, but also about your job activities.

    What Benefits Are You Entitled To Under The Workers’ Compensation Law?

    Under the Workers’ Compensation law, you may be entitled to: wages; medical treatment; reduced earnings; rehabilitation and social work;  reinstatement;  disability benefits in case the employer and/or insurance carrier objects to your claim; death benefits; etc.  Please see the May edition for a full description of these benefits, and much more. (i.e., employer’s objections to your claim;  degrees of disability;  discrimination;  etc.)

    You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about potential workers’ compensation accidents.  Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with an accident.  Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

    I represent individuals in workers’ compensation cases.  If you have any questions or concerns about an accident, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the May edition.