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Staten Island Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Can medical marijuana impact your workers' compensation?

While you never want to end up out of work and dealing with chronic pain after a workplace injury, you have the protection of workers' compensation to ensure your recovery, chronic pain, or disability do not leave you destitute, while providing options to relieve your suffering. However, with New York's medical marijuana laws, you may find a doctor prescribing you medical-grade cannabis as a way to ease any ongoing pain. Yet with many employers taking a dim view of the increasing legalization of marijuana, will using your medical marijuana prescription give employers grounds for a case against continuing your workers' compensation payments?

Technically, no. An action by the New York State Assembly fully ratified possession, use, and distribution of medical marijuana as absolutely legal within the state. As long as you have a prescription from a qualified medical professional, no employer can consider your marijuana usage as grounds to make a counter-claim against your workers' compensation claim or otherwise stop your benefits for use of a prohibited narcotic substance.

Understanding Workers Compensation and the ADA

Those who have suffered a work injury, whether mental or physical, may be afforded additional workers' compensation protections other than those offered by the state of New York under the ADA. The ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, has, since 1990, existed as a civil rights and liberties law that, according to the EEOC website, offers protections to citizens with disabilities in ways considered fair and equal under the law. This includes protecting against discrimination, such as discrimination in availability of public services, access to employment, access to telecommunications services and access to accommodations.

How does this impact a New York workers' compensation case? If an employee's injury led to a temporary or permanent disability but that employee is still able to return to work, he or she may require the protections of the ADA to prevent any discrimination or unfair treatment on the job, as these instances could either compound an existing claim or lead to a new claim. According to the New York Bar Association, on returning to work after an injury an employee is protected from discrimination as long as he or she is able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations made on the part of the employer for the employee's disability.

Are job-related car crashes eligible for workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation benefits are available for employees suffering all sorts of on-the-job injuries. These traditionally include such things as back pain (from repetitive motion trauma), broken bones, falls, crush injuries and occupational illnesses like cancer caused by chemical exposure.

What some people might not realize is that people hurt in work-related Staten Island car crashes might also be eligible for work comp. In some circumstances, an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage will even provide benefits if the worker him or herself is partially at fault for the injury-causing auto accident.

What is OSHA's role in workers' compensation cases?

If you work in New York, you have heard of OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA defines, monitors, and enforces workplace health and safety standards, including imposing penalties on employers who fail to comply with those standards. But if you have been injured on the job in an unsafe situation, how do OSHA violations tie into workers' compensation claims?

According to interpretation by the American Bar Association, the relationship between workers' compensation claims and OSHA violations is complex. When an OSHA violation causes direct harm to an employee, they may have the right to pursue a claim based on the damages incurred. However, in the event of an OSHA violation alone employees may be barred from pursuing a case when such a case could be misconstrued as a personal act of enforcement of OSHA regulations. While many states have provisions that increase workers' compensation awards based on employer negligence under OSHA, New York is not one such state.

Understanding asthma as an occupational disease

One of your greatest fears on the job in any New York workplace may be developing a chronic illness due to exposure to substances in your environment. You worry that every cough, tickle in the back of your throat or shortness of breath may be occupational asthma. Occupational asthma can arise from a number of circumstances, and we at Angiuli & Gentile, LLP understand the concerns you face when potentially dealing with occupational asthma or another occupational disease.

The New York Workers' Compensation Center describes occupational diseases that occur over time, usually as result of repeated or aggravated exposure to the conditions causing the illness. One example can include workers in fiberglass manufacturing. Without proper personal protective equipment, workers may find themselves exposed to inhalation of fibers and particles that cause lung damage and lead to asthma.

Liability in trench collapse cases

When a trench wall collapses on a construction site in New York, damage can result to equipment, supplies and personnel. At times that damage can end in catastrophic injury to workers, or even death. Yet determining liability in a trench collapse can be tricky, when a number of conditions and variables could have led to the collapse. Trench walls may collapse due to unsafe work conditions, weather factors impacting the site, worker negligence or employer negligence.

In the case of employer negligence, workers or their surviving family may be eligible for workers' compensation. New York law in particular provides special provisions for construction workers to extend protections for workers' compensation to contractors and subcontractors. This includes requiring proper insurance coverage for contractors identified as employees under special provisions for construction workers. In the event of a trench collapse, these provisions offer protections in construction worker compensation claims as long as the construction company is determined to be at fault.

OSHA and whistleblower protection

Workers in New York who report illegal practices or unsafe work conditions are protected under federal law. All employers are required to provide a safe working environment, and employees can inform OSHA of any situation that could potentially lead to workers' compensation claims.

Some employees may think their job could be in jeopardy if they bring up any complaint about management's lack of safety considerations. However, the Chronicle states there are OSHA regulations that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Under OSHA rules, an employer cannot fire the employee, discipline or demote them or cut hours or pay. In fact, if the employer does make threatening comments or harasses the employee in regard to the complaint, the worker can fill out another grievance with OSHA. However, if the employee has another valid reason, such as lackluster job performance, for letting the employee go the employee is not protected by federal law.

Stress and workers' compensation

Employees in New York who experience a high amount of stress in their jobs may have grounds for a workers' compensation claim. Mental stress can be caused by a number of work-related factors, and those that have a negative effect on an employee's ability to perform their job may result in benefits or access to employee assistance programs that help reduce stress.

According to FindLaw, claims related to stress in the workplace usually stem from three main causes: harassment, job-related pressures and job termination. The majority of claims are by employees who are aged 39 and younger, perhaps indicating there are fewer stigmas in regard to mental illness. The claims can typically be placed in three different categories. These include:

  • Those in which mental disability is caused by psychological stress
  • Those in which mental disability is caused by physical stress
  • Those in which physical disability is caused by psychological stress

Opioid use and workers' compensation

Both employers and employees in New York are beginning to see the effects of opioid use. Not only are these painkillers prescribed in many workers' compensation claims, but they also lead to decreased productivity, missed work and more work-related claims.

According to the Postal Record, many of the opioid prescriptions were given due to injuries that occurred in the workplace. As a result, pharmaceutical companies answered the call for these pain relievers by continually developing new drugs. This helped build the foundation for what people are now referring to as an epidemic. To help combat abuse, a new opioid policy was issued. Directed at new prescriptions only, injured workers are given only a 60-day supply of pain medication. In order to get more, a letter of medical necessity needs to be filled out by a physician after examining the patient.

How to prevent hand injuries

Injuries to the hand are some of the most common workers' compensation claims in New York. Although employers are required by law to protect their workers from potential dangers, there is still a lot that can go wrong. Being aware of what causes these injuries and taking the steps to prevent them is extremely important in all types of industries.

According to the National Safety Council, lacerations are the most common type of hand injury in the workplace. Other types are crush, puncture, avulsion and fracture. Malfunctioning equipment is the leading cause of these injuries. Although employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment, employees are just as responsible to use machinery correctly and report any potential hazards that could cause harm.

Success Stories

  • A 43 year old ironworker who fell four stories and sustained injuries to his ankle while installing a staircase settled his claim for $1,500,000.00. The accident was due to the failure of the building owner and general contractor to provide a safe place to work.
  • A construction worker operating an asphalt roller settled his case for $525,000.00 when the edge of the roadway he was paving collapsed into a trench being dug by a subcontractor causing him to sustain injuries to his leg.
  • A 54 year old commuter settled his case against the NYCTA for $1,200,000.00. when he tripped and fell on a subway platform due to the pavement being in disrepair, causing him to fall forward and to strike his head on a train pulling into the station.
  • The estate of a 64 year old woman received a settlement of $425,000.00 after she was struck and killed by a speeding tractor trailer while crossing the street at the intersection of Richmond Terrace and Port Richmond Avenue.
  • A $1,200,000.00 settlement was reached on behalf of a 54 year old man from Staten Island, New York, who, while in the course of his employment as a bus driver, was rear-ended on the Garden State Parkway and caused to suffer injuries to his back and neck as well as a fractured rib and fractured pelvis.
  • A 47-year-old building superintendent who sustained injuries to his head and right side of his body due to a tripping hazard at his job site received a settlement of $300,000.00 from the electrical company performing work at the site.
  • A 43 year old construction worker was caused to sustain injuries to his back, shoulder and hand when the elevator he was riding malfunctioned and dropped 8 floors. He received $350,000.00 in the settlement of his claim against the building owner, maintenance company and elevator company.
  • The administrator of the estate of a 69 year old man who suffered stage four pressure sores while a patient at a Queens nursing home settled the case for $400,000.00 after the man died.
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Phone: 347-201-4447
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Phone: 347-201-4447
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