COURT REJECTS WORKERS’ COMP GUIDELINES FOR SOME KNEE INJURIES

The Workers’ Compensation Law includes money awards, called “schedule loss awards,” for injuries that involve the permanent loss or loss of use of a limb (arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, vision loss and hearing loss).  In 1996, the Workers’ Compensation Board issued Guidelines for doctors to use in assigning a percentage loss to many different types of injury. 

In most cases, the 1996 Guidelines required the doctor to consider both the nature of the injury (the diagnosis or type of surgery) and the result of the injury (the loss of motion in the injured limb). 

In 2017, however, the Board made significant changes to its permanency Guidelines.  In some cases, the percentage loss for the diagnosis or surgery was removed; in others, the doctor was not permitted to consider loss of motion.

Based on its new Guidelines, the Board would only make an award for a 10% schedule loss of the leg for certain injuries – even if the loss of motion would justify a 30% or 40% schedule loss, which would have been the result under the previous guidelines.

In a decision filed on June 2, 2022, the Appellate Division in Albany rejected the Board’s interpretation of its Guidelines.  The Court held that it made no sense to give the injured worker a smaller award due to diagnosis than what would be appropriate based on function.  In essence, the Board’s approach gave the injured worker less compensation for a greater injury, which was contrary to both common sense and the basic purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Law.  The Court therefore reversed the Board’s decision and directed it to decide the case and make an award based upon a more equitable interpretation of the Guidelines.

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