Albany Workers’ Compensation Attorney
A person should always feel comfortable and secure at their Albany workplace. After all, we spend substantial time there, and it’s where we make a living to provide for ourselves and our families. This trust in our employers helps make workplace accidents so tragic, and the accident is even more heart-wrenching when it was preventable. Unfortunately, far too many Albany residents know the feeling. Every year, thousands of workers are seriously hurt while on the job. They are left with debilitating physical injuries which may require hospitalization and surgery to treat; the less fortunate may be left with permanent disabilities rendering them permanently unable to work. Additionally, many will struggle with mental and emotional trauma following the accident, making it difficult to engage with friends and family.
But the physical and psychological damage is often only the beginning. On top of everything, victims are often buried under a mountain of medical debt and other financial burdens. Of course, employers are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance meant to aid injured workers and, by proxy, their families. However, accessing these benefits isn’t as easy it sounds. Claims are frequently denied and, even if a claim is accepted, the insurance company may dispute the severity of the injuries to pay out less in benefits. Unfortunately, for the injured worker, even if they’re denied access to worker’s compensation benefits their injuries continue to exist. Where does a person in such dire circumstances turn? The skilled workers’ compensation lawyers at Finkelstein & Partners can help. We represent Albany workers in legal actions seeking compensation for workplace injuries. Contact us now for your free case evaluation.
New York Workers Compensation: Some Background
Unfortunately, people get injured at work. Even with the advent of modern safety technology, workplace accidents, even serious accidents, are not uncommon.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries were reported in just one recent year. Of these injuries more than 800,000 caused employees to miss at least one day of work.
The most injury-prone professions include nursing assistants, heavy truck drivers, laborers and material movers, light truck drivers, construction laborers, and maintenance and repair workers.
The three most common workplace injuries include:
- Overexertion. Overexertion occurs when an employee strains himself while attempting to lift, push, or carry an object. This category also includes repetitive motion injuries that occur if the same body part is exposed to stress day after day; for example, a construction worker routinely lifts heavy objects over his head which breaks down his shoulder cartilage.
- Slips and falls. This category is wider than what it might seem. It also includes injuries that occur when a worker falls through a structure or barrier ( e.g., a construction worker falling through scaffolding).
- Contact with objects or equipment. All instances of a worker colliding or being struck by an object or piece of equipment. Such a scenario includes a warehouse worker being run over by a forklift while on the job.
All of these on-the-job injuries result in a tremendous number of workers comp claims filed every year. In fact, 3.4 claims are filed for every 100 full-time employees.
How Does the Workers’ Compensation System Work?
Under New York law, employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. As already mentioned, this insurance pays out benefits to workers injured on the job. In turn, the employee forfeits his right to sue the employer for his injuries, although he can still sue other parties (more on this later). Additionally, workers’ comp benefits notably do not include compensation for pain and suffering (unlike personal injury lawsuits).
Generally, it’s simple for hurt employees to access these benefits. When it comes to filing a worker’s compensation claim, fault is irrelevant. Thus, even if the worker was partly at fault for his or her own injuries, the claim can still qualify.
The only real requirement is that the injury or illness be work-related. However, meeting New York State’s definition of “work-related” is trickier than it seems.
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board defines workplace injury as one occurring at the employee’s assigned workstation, during their scheduled shift, while performing tasks incumbent with their employment. If one of these elements is missing, the employee cannot collect benefits.
For example, a grocery store worker is performing a duty befitting of his employment in his workstation. While performing this duty, a large barrel of vegetable oil falls from the top shelf and strikes him in the head. He suffers a severe concussion and cannot return to work. However, the accident took place an hour after the conclusion of his scheduled shift. Does he qualify for benefits? No, because the injury didn’t take place during his established working hours.
Additionally, although fault is mostly irrelevant, the accident must not have occurred while the employee was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. On the same note, the injury must not have been self-inflicted.
If the two above conditions are met, a workers’ compensation claim may be filed with the insurance company. In New York State, the injured party has 30 days to report their injuries to their employer.
In an ideal universe, the employer and the insurance company recognize the claim and proceed to pay the employee benefits until he can return to work. Most workers’ comp. claims are that simple, but some aren’t.
If the employer or insurance company believes they can wiggle out of recognizing a claim, they’ll often jump at the chance. They might argue that the employee wasn’t performing a job duty or that he wasn’t at his workstation. They may also contest the severity of the injuries to pay out less in benefits.
If the employee disagrees with how his claim was handled, he may file an appeal with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. The claim will then be heard before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Both parties can present evidence and call witnesses, and the judge will issue a ruling on the case.
Even if the ALJ rules against the employee, he still has options. He can file a second administrative appeal which will go before the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board and, if he’s still unsatisfied after the WCB’s ruling, he can file a final appeal with the New York State Appellate Division.
Each step, from the initial filing through the final appeal, is governed by different rules and procedures and requires experienced legal professionals to navigate.
What Is a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
A workers compensation lawyer at Finkelstein & Partners is a bar licensed legal advocate that focuses on workers compensation cases. Even if they handle other kinds of cases, a significant proportion of their practice is dedicated to helping injured workers vindicate their rights.
To represent an injured employee, you need a lawyer with considerable experience handling workers’ compensation cases. The relevant law is notoriously difficult to navigate and the procedures are highly idiosyncratic. A seemingly small error can have profound implications down the road.
Most worker’ comp lawyers have experience advocating at each step of the process, from the filing of the initial claim and appealing a denial to appealing an administrative ruling before a state judge.
There are a few different kinds of workers comp cases; some lawyers only handle one case type while others handle all of them. For example, some may only handle construction injuries or toxic substance cases.
When searching for a lawyer, it’s important to consider whether they have extensive experience handling workers’ comp. cases and, if they do, what kind of cases specifically.
Filing a Lawsuit
When an employee agrees to receive workers’ compensation benefits, he or she usually forfeits his right to file a lawsuit against the employer. However, he or she in many cases may still file a claim against a responsible third party.
A third-party lawsuit may arise if the negligence or wrongdoing of another entity contributed to the workplace injury.
For example, if the scaffolding on a construction site breaks causing a worker to fall and suffer injuries, the worker may file a claim against the scaffolding manufacturer.
If the lawsuit is successful, the workers may be granted damages for the cost of medical care, lost wages, and, unlike in a workers’ comp. context, collect money for the pain and suffering endured.
Note that the worker can still usually receive workers’ compensation benefits while pursuing litigation against a third party.
Usually, a workers’ compensation lawyer is also adept at handling third-party lawsuits.
Lawyer as Negotiator
Workers’ compensation lawyers like the Albany associates at Finkelstein and Partners provide value in more ways than helping clients navigate the filing and appeals process.
Most claim disputes do not go all the way to state court to be decided by a judge. Rather, these claims are settled outside of the judicial system far more regularly. The gravity towards settlement partly exists because of the employer’s disdain for getting tied up in a legal battle, and the employee’s desire for an expedient resolution.
Considering settlement is more the rule than the exception, most workers compensation lawyers are also skilled negotiators that know how to obtain the best possible offer for their client. In fact, just a lawyer’s presence during negotiations can increase an offer, as it communicates to the insurance company that the employee means business.
You Pay Us Nothing
The stereotype is that lawyers are expensive. For some people simply hearing the word “attorney” evokes images of mountainous legal bills and eternal payment plans. However, the reality is a little more nuanced.
Lawyers usually cost money, and all lawyers are paid for the services they render unless they’re working pro bono. But this doesn’t mean the client is necessarily left drowning in legal fees. An adept attorney recognizes the financial situation of every client varies, and that not everyone can afford to pay an hourly rate out of pocket. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution; it’s known as the contingency fee.
The contingency fee leaves the client paying next to nothing out of pocket (besides ancillary costs such as court fees). It’s aptly named because the lawyer’s payment is contingent on the client winning the case. If the client does win, the lawyer takes his fee as a percentage of the compensation awarded to the client.
Not only do many clients prefer the contingency fee over traditional payment structures, many lawyers prefer it as well. It makes their services available to people who could otherwise never afford legal representation.
Albany Workers’ Compensation Assistance for You
Recovering from a workplace injury can be a monumental challenge. You may spend weeks in the hospital and require surgery; physical therapy may also be necessary. Even so, some may never fully recover from their injuries necessitating around-the-clock assistance.
The financial burden can be just as heavy. Injured workers are often out of work for an extended time, if not permanently. They may also be facing mountains of medical debt. Paying bills and putting food on the table may suddenly seem like an epic struggle.
Thankfully, employees have rights. Under New York law, all employers must maintain workers’ compensation insurance providing benefits to employees injured on the job. These benefits include full coverage of medical costs, partial compensation for lost wages, rehabilitation services, and survivor benefits.
Unfortunately, employers and insurance companies aren’t always willing to provide these benefits. They may argue that the accident doesn’t qualify and the employee is ineligible to file a claim. They may also try to downplay the severity of the injuries to pay out less money.
The denial of workers’ compensation benefits can have catastrophic consequences for the injured party and their family. However, they can fight back. An experienced Albany workers comp lawyer courtesy of Finkelstein and Partners can file a formal appeal with the New York State Workers Compensation Board and ensure your rights are protected.
For Albany residents who want to file a workers’ compensation claim or appeal a claim denial, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. New York State imposes strict time restrictions on both claims and appeals.
1707 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12205