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New York Workers' Compensation standards may get a makeover

Workers' compensation requires employers to provide workers with benefits if they get injured on-the-job, in exchange for immunity from lawsuits. These benefits are provided to give the worker and their family financial stability as they recover from their injuries.

Workers' compensation laws in New York may change soon, affecting thousands of disabled people. In the 2017 budget agreement, Governor Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers required the Workers Compensation Board to come up with new guidelines to evaluate injured workers' levels of impairment.

Business groups are all for the new standards, saying that the workers' compensation was using outdated medical data when determining impairment. Certain injuries can heal much more quickly than they used to, thanks to new technology and less invasive surgical techniques. However, the outdated standards do not account for these changes. For example, a person with a torn rotator cuff would have been out of work for weeks in the past, but now only has to be out a few days. Yet, they are still receiving the same amount in "loss of use" damages they would have received in the past.

However, some unions are concerned that these changes are extreme and that injured workers who need benefits will receive significantly fewer benefits than before. They note that the awards are there to make up for the employee's inability to sue the employer.

The Workers' Compensation Board's new guidelines are in the public comment period and may go into effect in January. Those in opposition may file a court challenge. If these changes go into effect, they can have a significant impact on workers who were injured at work.

Source: Times Union, "Worker's Compensation awards to change, sparking controversy," Rick Karlin, Sept. 11, 2017

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