Landmark Victories Mean More Injured Workers Will Receive Compensation for Permanent Limb Injuries
The Workers’ Compensation Law includes two types of “permanent partial disability” awards. One kind, known as “schedule loss of use,” provides compensation for the loss of use of a limb – arms, legs, feet, hands, fingers, toes, vision loss, hearing loss, or permanent facial scars. There are money awards payable for these kinds of injuries even if there was no time lost from work. In fact, because any money paid for time out of work is deducted from a schedule loss award, the law encourages people to return to work as soon as they are able.
The other kind of permanent partial disability award is generally called a “classification” and covers all other kinds of injuries (neck, back, head, lung, etc.). If the injury results in a classification of permanent partial disability, then compensation is paid only for lost wages – the law does not provide any award for the permanent injury itself.
Many workers have both a “schedule loss” injury and a “classifiable” injury in the same accident. For example, someone might hurt their back and knee when they trip and fall at work. Most are able to return to work, even if they still have some residual problems.
Several years ago, employers and insurance companies began to argue that a classification of permanent partial disability to one part of the body meant that no compensation could be paid for schedule loss of use to another part of the body. In other words, if someone injured their back and their knee and went back to work at full wages, the permanent injury to their back meant that they forfeited any compensation for the knee injury – even though no compensation was being paid for the back injury either.
The Workers’ Compensation Board sided with the insurance companies and denied compensation awards to thousands of workers across New York State. We challenged the Board’s policy in a case called Matter of Taher v. Yiota Taxi, Inc. and the Court held that the Board was wrong and that our client was entitled to schedule loss award even though he also had a classifiable injury for which he was not being paid. You can read the decision here. Taher Decision.
Unfortunately, the Board refused to follow the Court’s decision in Taher, and as a result we challenged the Board in three more cases: Matter of Arias v. City of New York, Matter of Saputo v. Newsday, and Matter of Fernandez v. New York University. On February 27, 2020, the Court again decided in our favor and required the Board to follow the rule of law we had won in the Taher case. You can watch the argument here and read the decisions here. Saputo Decision, Fernandez Decision and Arias Decision; Arias Video.
These landmark decisions are a tremendous benefit not only to our clients, but also to injured workers across the state.
If you have a permanent injury to one of your limbs and were previously told that you could not be compensated for that injury because you also had an injury to your neck or back, you may now be entitled to an award.