Gov. Cuomo proposes major reforms to New York workers’ compensation

New York law requires all employers to carry workers' compensation insurance to provide medical, disability and wage loss coverage to employees who are injured in work-related accidents or who develop occupational diseases. Workers' compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that workers are entitled to compensation even if their own negligence played a role in causing the injury. In addition, employers are prohibited from passing workers' compensation costs on to employees.

Given these things, it is easy to see how workers' compensation costs can become burdensome for some employers. When employers struggle, it is ultimately the workers who suffer the most.

To help remedy this problem, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a package of proposed reforms to New York's workers' compensation system.

Cost reductions to improve work environment

The biggest change is a proposal to use a bonding program to address budgetary problems in a number of group self-insurance trusts. Widespread negligence in the group trust business had led many of these trusts into default. When the trusts fell apart, employers were often left on the hook to make up the lost money. Many could not, and either completely failed to pay or had to negotiate reduced payments with the state. All told, the liabilities totaled nearly $1 billion.

Under Gov. Cuomo's plan, the outstanding liabilities would be sold off as investments. Trust members would be able to pay off these bonds by making payments that will be more predictable and affordable than under the old model.

It is hoped that the reforms will help save many New York employers from potential shutdown or bankruptcy. This should improve conditions for workers and ensure that workers with valid workers' compensation claims receive timely and adequate benefits.

Other reforms

Gov. Cuomo's plan also proposes two additional reforms. The first is a streamlined assessment system that would make workers' compensation assessments more transparent and allow employers to change workers' compensation providers more easily.

The second is a proposal to close unnecessary or outdated funds. In doing so, the governor estimates that New York's workers' compensation system could save about $300 million.

Help for injured workers

The fact that these reforms are needed just goes to show how complicated and unwieldy New York's workers' compensation system can be. Too often, injured workers look for help only to get the run-around from their insurance company.

An experienced workers' compensation attorney can help with this problem. After a work injury, an attorney can ensure that the worker is treated fairly and can fight back if it appears that the insurance company is letting its own financial problems serve as an excuse for not paying the benefits the worker is rightfully owed.