Not all workers’ compensation is created equal

A recent news report highlighted that there are severe discrepancies in workers’ compensation payouts between states.

Employers in all states are required to carry or provide workers' compensation coverage. While such a mandate is seen in all 50 states, these programs are managed individually by each state. A person who lives in New Jersey but works in New York may not necessarily have the same benefits as a person who lives and works in New Jersey.

The extent of this reality was recently highlighted in a story published by NBC New York. The story indicated that for the exact same injury involving severed limbs, the amount of money a worker would receive would be highly different based solely upon the state. Examples include the following:

  • New Jersey pays out a maximum of $102,600 for a lost eye.
  • The corresponding maximum payout for a lost eye in New York is $129,384.
  • In New York, a worker who loses a foot in a work accident can receive close to $166,000.
  • In New Jersey, that same worker would receive nearly 18 percent less in compensation than the New Yorker.

New Jersey voters passed legislation in 2012 that would have increased workers' compensation payouts but the bill was vetoed by the Governor.

New York's disability requirements

According to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board website, disability benefits are required to be provided in New York. These benefits are cash payouts and do not cover any medical expenses.

The state's medical guidelines document calls out four levels of disability that can be identified. These include permanent partial disability, partial disability, permanent total disability and temporary total disability.

A professional medical diagnosis is required to determine the ultimate compensation that an injured or ill employee can receive. If a situation is deemed to be permanent, offer no possibility of further improvement and involve the loss of a body part or specific functioning, a schedule award can be issued.

A schedule award is not compensation for a specific injury or illness. Rather, a schedule award offers compensation for the lifelong after-effects or impairment that resulted from an injury or illness. Certain time criteria must also be met before these awards are issued.

Ongoing changes and need for help

A recent Claims Journal article indicated that the New York Governor recently repealed multiple fees some of which pertained to workers' compensation. These fees were collectively referred to as nuisance fees because of the amount of work they required relative to the amount of income that they generated. Whether or not the elimination of these fees will improve overall service provided by the Workers' Compensation Board is yet to be seen.

People who work in New York and become ill or injured on the job should always seek professional help from a lawyer. Filing a workers' compensation claim can be complicated and knowing how to approach the process is important.

Keywords: workers' compensation, job, injury