Thirty years ago, in July of 1992, New York’s maximum weekly workers’ compensation benefit rate was $400 per week. Fifteen years later, in June of 2007, it was still $400 per week. A lot has changed in the last fifteen years, thanks to sweeping amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Law that occurred in 2007. Although not all of those amendments were beneficial to injured workers, the changes to the maximum weekly benefit rate certainly were.
Between 2007 and 2012, the maximum weekly benefit rate nearly doubled from $400 per week to $792.07 per week. Then over the past decade it has increased another 30% to $1,125.46 per week as of July 1, 2022. In other words, after remaining flat at $400 per week for 15 years from 1992 to 2007, it has nearly tripled from $400 per week to $1,125.46 per week in the 15 years from 2007 to 2022.
There are three things to keep in mind about the maximum weekly benefit rate. First, any individual worker’s benefit rate depends on how much they were earning before they were injured, known as their “average weekly wage.” The most a worker can receive in workers’ comp benefits is two-thirds of that figure. Thus, for a worker to receive a benefit rate of $1,125 per week, s/he must have been earning $1,687.60 per week or more before being injured.
Second, a worker’s benefit rate depends not only on their pre-accident wage, but also on their level of disability after the accident. Only workers who are totally disabled receive two-thirds of their wage; as the level of disability decreases, the benefit rate usually does as well.
Third, a worker’s maximum benefit rate is fixed as of the date of their injury. If the accident occurred in 2006, the worker is still capped at a maximum weekly benefit rate of $400 per week, regardless of the later increases.