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Worker’s Compensation Board Proposes Drastic Changes to Schedule Loss of Use Awards to be Implemented January 2018

New changes expected staring 1/1/18

To begin…schedule loss of use awards are lump sum awards provided to injured workers when they have an injury to an extremity that results in a permanent disability (this excludes neck, back, low back and organs).  Each body part has a different amount of weeks and the percentage of loss directly correlates with the number of weeks an injured worker is entitled to.   The lump sum you receive (less carrier credits and employer reimbursement) is supposed to compensate you for future loss attributable to your injured extremity.

Under the Rules and Regulations currently in place, the claimant’s doctor and the carrier’s doctor submit opinions with respect to range of motion measurements and the claimant’s overall percentage loss of use.  If the opinions match, the judge makes a finding implementing the agreed upon percentage of loss.  If the opinions don’t match, the doctors are deposed and either a compromise is reached or a Judge makes the final determination.

However, in April of 2017, the New York State Legislature ordered the Workers’ Compensation Board to review the schedule loss of use guidelines and reform them consistent with modern advances in medicine and enhanced healing.  In the wake of this mandate, the New York Workers’ Compensation Alliance conducted a survey in which they polled injured workers across New York State.  A staggering 81% of injured workers (YOU) polled in the survey found that the awards that they received under the current system did not adequately compensate them for the wage loss resulting from their work-related injury.  See WCA RELEASES RESULTS OF INJURED WORKER SURVEY ON SCHEDULE LOSS OF USE – NY Workers’ Compensation Alliance for a more complete summary of the WCA survey results.

September 1st, 2017 (ironically just in time for Labor Day), the Workers Compensation Board submitted for public comment newly drafted “impairment guidelines” to supplement the proposed rules and regulations that would effectively:

  1. Drastically reduce and in some cases eliminate entirely compensation for permanent injuries to limbs;
  2. Limit the claimant’s choice when obtaining opinions with respect to schedule loss of use opinions; and
  3. Place Workers’ Compensation Judges in the role of medical experts when providing discretionary opinions with respect to the claimant’s overall percentage of disability.

Public comment with respect to these new provisions is open until October 23, 2017 at which time the draft rules will be codified and implement as of January 2018.  The draft revisions to the schedule loss of use guidelines together with the proposed rules and regulations are available to view on the Workers’ Compensation Board website. (DISCLAIMER: We’ve read them and have no idea what they will mean when practically applied so Good Luck!).

Do us a favor…no, do YOU a favor.  If you or a loved one have been injured on the job and have a claim that puts you, him or her in this grouping of individuals who stand to be directly impacted by these changes, contact your local political representatives and make sure your voice is heard.

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