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Workers’ Compensation Benefits in New York—Understanding Your Basic Rights

What Does New York Workers' Compensation Cover

Workers’ Compensation—The Basics

In New York, when you have suffered an injury on the job, you are protected by the state’s workers’ compensation laws. There are only two requirements to qualify for benefits—you must have suffered an injury and it must have happened during the course of your employment. There are a few exceptions—for example, workers cannot recover for intentionally self-inflicted injuries.

The New York workers’ compensation laws were enacted to provide benefits to both employers and employees:

  • Workers benefit from a streamlined process. There’s no need to get on the court’s docket or to go through the discovery process. An injured worker can often start receiving benefits within a few weeks. In addition, workers’ compensation is essentially a no-fault approach. There’s no need to demonstrate negligence on the part of the employer.
  • Employers benefit from the ceiling set on benefits paid out. Workers’ compensation payments are calculated based on average weekly income over the past 52 weeks, with a cap on benefits paid. Accordingly, an employer is not at risk of an exorbitant judgment by a sympathetic jury.

Under the New York workers’ compensation, you can qualify for temporary or permanent benefits, and for partial or total disability. If you cannot work at all because of your injury, you will be entitled to full benefits for the time you are off work. Benefits typically do not start until you have been unable to work for one week. Benefits include compensation for lost income, as well as reimbursement of necessary medical expenses. If, on the other hand, your injuries only keep you from working for a limited period of time, benefits will cease when you return to work. Additional benefits may be available, though, if you have a permanent, but partial, disability, one that does not make it impossible for you to work in any capacity.

When you file for workers’ compensation benefits, your employer and/or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will most likely require that you submit to a medical examination by a doctor of their choosing. That does not mean you cannot be treated by your own physician. You have a right to videotape the examination, and can refuse to submit if the doctor does not allow that.

Workers’ Compensation Hearings

In many instances, instead of simply granting your application for benefits, the New York Workers’ Compensation Board will schedule a hearing. Your employer may allege that your injuries were not work-related or that it does not affect your ability to work. Either party may challenge the amount of benefits to be paid.

At the hearing, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence. At the end of the hearing, the workers’ compensation judge will issue a ruling, either granting or denying the claim for benefits. Either party can appeal that decision.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in New York—Understanding Your Basic Rights

Experienced Queens |NYC | Brooklyn | Bronx Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

At Pyrros & Serres LLP, we handle all matters related to workers’ compensation and Social Security disability claims for people in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and across the greater New York City metropolitan area. Because of our reputation for effective advocacy, many of our new clients come to us as referrals from clients and other lawyers.

To learn more about the full scope of our practice, see our workers compensation practice area overview page.

A New York Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Explains Your Rights Under the Law 

You may know workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages for employees hurt at work. Until you suffer an on-the-job injury, however, you may not consider the specifics.

When it happens to you, all kinds of questions may run through your mind: Am I covered if I only work part-time? What if I was doing something wrong at work? How about if I am undocumented?

In this post, an experienced New York workers’ comp lawyer answers common questions about your rights under New York law.

What Are the Most Common Workplace Injuries? 

The most common workplace injuries depend greatly on your industry and profession. Across all occupations, however, some common themes emerge. According to the National Safety Council, the top three work-related injury causes for 2021-2022 were as follows:

1) Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments

After the COVID-19 pandemic, this cause moved from #6 to #1 on the list. In addition to viruses and other infectious diseases, this category includes exposure to electricity, radiation, noise, temperature extremes, and other harmful substances.

2) Overexertion, Bodily Reaction

This category includes injuries associated with excessive physical effort, such as lifting, pushing, carrying, or throwing. It also includes injuries from performing repetitive motions. The most commonly injured body part is the back.

3) Falls, Slips, and Trips

These injuries include slips and trips without falling (such as when a worker catches themselves before falling). It also includes falls to a lower level (such as falling from ladders or scaffolding) and falls on the same level (such as falling off a chair or onto an object).

While these injury categories were the leading cause of days away from work, the most frequent cause of death on the job is transportation incidents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents accounted for 37.7% of all occupational fatalities in 2022. 

What Are Your Workers’ Compensation Rights in New York?

As a worker in New York, you have the following rights:

  • If you are hurt on the job or develop a work-related illness, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
  • You are eligible for workers’ comp benefits regardless of your citizenship and immigration status.
  • Your employer cannot lawfully fire or retaliate against you for filing a workers’ comp claim, reporting workplace safety violations, or asserting your rights under labor laws.

If you believe an employer in New York City has violated these rights, contact an NYC injured worker advocate or an NYC workers’ comp attorney.

Who Qualifies for Workers’ Compensation Benefits in New York?

New York State completed 161,808 workers’ compensation claims in 2022. According to state law, workers’ compensation covers employees who:

  • Work any number of hours, including full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, or casual
  • Are leased or borrowed (such as temporary workers from an employment agency)
  • Are unpaid, volunteering, or family members of the employer

Independent contractors are generally not entitled to workers’ compensation in New York. However, the definition of an “independent contractor” for workers’ comp is not the same as it is for the Department of Labor or the Internal Revenue Service.

To determine whether you meet the criteria, a New York workplace injury lawyer will look at factors including the following:

  • Who controls when and how you work?
  • Do you maintain a separate business establishment?
  • Do you file business tax returns or have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)?

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

In New York, workers’ compensation typically covers the following:

Healthcare Benefits

  • Medical benefits covering all medically necessary treatment related to the injury, including hospital stays, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, prescription medications, and medical devices
  • Related expenses, such as transportation costs to a doctor’s office

Wage Benefits

If your employer does not continue to pay you while you are recovering, you are entitled to a portion of your lost wages in the following circumstances: 

  • Your injury prevents you from working for more than seven days
  • Your injury requires you to work reduced hours or in a different capacity, which lowers your pay

Lost wage benefits include the following:

  • A maximum of two-thirds of your average weekly wage before the injury
  • The maximum weekly benefit is $1,145.43 for injuries that occurred July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024, but resets every July 1
  • Temporary benefits for lost wages
  • Permanent benefits if you can’t work again
  • Cash benefits for permanent loss of use of an extremity, hearing, or eyesight

Survivor Benefits 

  • If a worker dies from an on-the-job injury, their surviving spouse, minor children, and/or other dependents may qualify for cash benefits. This payment equals two-thirds of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage for the 52 weeks before the accident.
  • Workers’ compensation in New York also covers funeral or memorial expenses up to a certain limit. 

What Can Go Wrong With Workers’ Compensation Claims?

While filing for workers’ compensation seems straightforward, it doesn’t always go as smoothly as it should. If you experience any of the following issues, you may want to seek workers’ compensation legal representation in NY:

  • Your employer (or their insurer) denies your claim
  • Your employer says you’re not covered by workers’ compensation
  • Your employer claims your injury is not work related
  • Your employer refuses to process your claim because you are undocumented
  • Your employer fires you, harasses you, or otherwise retaliates against you
  • Your employer says you must return to work, but you haven’t fully recovered

Do I Have the Right To Sue My Employer in New York?

In most cases the answer is, no. Many New York workers’ compensation lawyers describe the system as the “Grand Bargain.” In other words, it reflects a compromise between employers and employees.

The system creates a streamlined path for injured employees to receive medical treatment and wage benefits without having to prove that anyone was at fault. In return, they give up their right to sue employers or coworkers for their injuries. 

However, this doesn’t mean you can never file a lawsuit for a work-related injury. For example, if a commercial truck crashed into you while you were running a work errand, you may have a claim against that company. Or, if you sustained an injury due to a malfunctioning machine at work, you may be able to sue the manufacturer. 

A New York City work injury attorney can help determine whether you have a third-party claim. 

Have Questions? Consult a New York Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Whether you are looking for a workers’ comp lawyer in Queens, a Manhattan workers’ comp attorney, or a work injury attorney in the Bronx, Pyrros, Serres & Rupwani LLP can help.

For more information about your rights, including the rights of undocumented workers to claim workers’ comp, call us today at (718) 626-7730 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Workers’ Compensation in NY

What is the statute of limitations for New York workers’ comp claims?

New York law gives injured workers up to two years to file a claim for work-related injuries and illnesses.

How long do I have to report a workplace injury to my employer?

New York law requires employees to report their injuries within 30 days to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. However, most New York workers’ compensation lawyers suggest that you report your accident as soon as possible. 

Is workers’ compensation no fault in New York?

Yes, workers’ compensation in New York is a no-fault system. You may still be entitled to benefits even if you did something wrong. However, there are exceptions for intentional injuries, personal disputes, and injuries sustained while intoxicated.

About The Author

Picture of Michael Serres, ESQ.

Michael Serres, ESQ.

Michael Serres, ESQ. is a reputed Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Astoria, Queens, NY. He graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 1989. Mr. Serres was admitted to practice law in New York State in 1990 and is admitted in the Federal District Courts for the Southern and the Eastern Districts of New York. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Workers’ Compensation Bar Association and is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Queens County Bar Association.