There might be 150 miles and 20 years between Albany and Ground Zero in New York City, but Alex Dell is reminded of the 9-11 tragedy nearly every week.
Dell is a workers compensation attorney in Albany and still represents people who were part of the rescue operation at Ground Zero two decades ago. They are mostly first responders – police, firefighters, emergency medical workers – who even after all this time, still are getting ill from the horrible terrorist attack in 2001.
“We see people who come in with very serious cancer claims; with gastroesophageal reflux disease, sinusitis, sleep apnea and post traumatic stress disorder,” Dell said. “These are people who served at Ground Zero and many of them moved away from New York City, but they’re still dealing with the effects from that tragedy and we help them get benefits through workers compensation.”
That is a big part of Dell’s practice, but he’s also dealing with the standard injuries that accompany many workers compensation cases in Albany, such as injuries to the neck, back, shoulders, knees, etc.
“We have a wide variety of industries in our area of New York and because of that, we’re exposed to a number of different claims,” Dell said. “We have warehouse workers who get work-related injuries from over use; we have a heavy concentration of first responders statewide involved in accidents and occupational diseases. It’s a vibrant area so we see a multiple number of claims that vary across a lot of industries.”
Signs You May Need a Workers Compensation Attorney in Albany
The workers compensation system was set up to offer injured workers benefits in two areas – medical treatment for the injury; and compensation for wages lost while recovering.
If anything interferes with the injured worker receiving benefits in either of those two areas, that is a sign you need to contact a workers comp attorney. That could be something as subtle as being interviewed by the insurance carrier’s claims adjuster about the accident.
“In the early stages of a claim, the insurance carrier is gathering as much information as possible,” Dell said. “If you haven’t been through the process before, you’re giving them information that maybe they shouldn’t be privy to at that time or maybe not even at all.
“If that happens, it’s a sign you should have representation so you don’t say something that might eventually impact your claim.”
Some of the other signs that you should contact an attorney include:
- You simply don’t know all the benefits you are entitled to
- Your employer or the insurance carrier is dragging its feet responding to your claim
- Your employer threatens retaliation if you file a claim
- Your employer tells you not to file a claim because he’ll handle all the medical bills
- There is a dispute over whether the injury happened at work
- Your injury is serious enough that you expect to miss more than one week of work
- You suffer either partial or total disability from the injury that will prevent you from returning to work
- You aren’t sure if the wage compensation has been accurately calculated
- Your employer or insurance carrier offers to make a settlement
- Parts or all of your claim are being denied
What Do Workers Comp Attorneys in Albany Do?
When people weigh the decision on whether to hire an attorney or not, almost all the focus is on how that attorney will do when he/she shows up in court to argue the case.
The trouble with that line of thinking is that most cases never get to court.
In fact, workers compensation attorneys say that 90% to 95% of their cases are settled before it reaches a courtroom. That’s because much of the work involved is doing the things a good workers compensation attorney knows how to do and clients don’t, including things like:
- Knowing the case law that applies to an injured workers situation
- Knowing filing deadlines and paperwork required with a claim
- Knowing what evidence needs to be included in filing a claim
- Knowing how to gather and present necessary evidence
- Knowing the experts that will testify in support of your claim
- Knowing how the injury affects the worker’s ability to return to the job now, or anytime in the future
- Know how to successfully calculate lost wages
- Knowing the insurance carrier’s attorney and how far they can be pushed on issues
- Knowing how to conduct settlement negotiations and what the realistically expect from the insurance carrier, based on experience
- Knowing the grounds for an appeal, should the case get that far
That’s a lot of things for someone to know, especially if you’re just trying to recover from an injury and get back to work. You should be focused on that and let an attorney do the work needed to present your case in a positive way
“The way individuals get in trouble with workers comp claims is they have tunnel vision,” Dell said. “It’s a terrible phenomenon that strikes injured workers, particularly when they’ve been decimated by an accident or injury at work and now they’re in financial trouble or in poor health.
“What a lawyer can effectively do is help someone navigate the process to make certain they are pursuing all the appropriate benefits they’re entitled to.”
How Much Do Workers Comp Lawyers in Albany Charge?
The argument many people have over whether to hire an attorney – “I Can’t Afford an Attorney!” – doesn’t apply when it comes to workers compensation lawyers.
Workers compensation lawyers in New York are paid on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless they are able to obtain a settlement reward for their client.
It doesn’t cost anything upfront to hire a workers compensation lawyer in New York. There is no retainer fee. There is no hourly rate for the attorney’s services. The attorney incurs all the costs of building a case.
The first visit to a workers compensation lawyer’s office – called a consultation – is free! Injured workers tell their side of the story and the attorney advises them on whether they have a claim to pursue, what the should expect if they pursue it and how long it may take to reach a conclusion to the case.
“More people should realize that the first meeting is free and take advantage of the consultation, even if it doesn’t result in representation,” Dell said. “The injured worker will be relieved because now he/she sees the claim from the perspective he/she should see it and not from the perspective presented to them by the attorney for the insurance claims carrier or its claims adjuster.”
It is common practice for workers compensation attorneys in New York to receive up to 15% of the reward the worker receives, but judges sometimes disputed that number and reduced the compensation. However, New York state legislators passed a law mandating the 15% for attorney’s fees in the summer of 2021. It is awaiting the governor’s signature.
All attorney fees must be approved by the New York Workers Compensation Board.
“The proposed new law is a good thing because it will allow judges to focus more on the merits and issues that are affecting injured workers rather than spend time focused on attorney fees,” Dell said. “The goal here is to make certain that the injured worker gets all the benefits they are entitled to under the law.”
Handling a Workers Comp Case on Your Own in Albany, NY
Most claims do not require the help of a workers comp attorney. When the system works as intended, you simply have to notify your employer to kickstart the process of filing a workers compensation claim. If things do not work out in your favor, you have the option to appeal a claim denial. This will require the help of a workers comp lawyer, but for reference, the step-by-step guide is detailed below.
Filing a Workers Comp Claim in Albany
It’s a good rule of thumb to notify your supervisor and your company’s human resources department as soon as possible when you realize you have a work-related injury or illness — assuming, of course, your injury is not catastrophic.
Always (always, always) seek medical attention in cases of emergency such as a broken leg or torn muscle, for instance, as opposed to slow-onset carpal tunnel syndrome. Your survival and recovery are more important than the paper trail demanded by bureaucracy. We’ll talk about notification deadlines below.
Workers compensation is overseen by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, aka, The Board, with headquarters in Schenectady.
Begin the process by filing a C-3 employee claim form online. You also may acquire paper forms through your employer or the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board. If you lack access to a computer, you can visit any of the nine statewide Workers’ Compensation Board offices or satellite service centers to file a claim.
Need the customer service toll-free number? It’s (877) 632-4996. That’s also the go-to number to get language help.
Paper forms can be mailed to The Board:
NYS Workers’ Compensation Board
Centralized Mailing Address
PO Box 5205
Binghamton, NY 13902-5205
Scanned forms and related digitized documents can be emailed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A word of caution: Read through the form first before you begin filling it out. You may have questions about the questions (What if I had more than one job when I was injured?) that are answered as you work your way to the end.
So: To help avoid frustration, read the form all the way through at least once before filling in any of the blanks.
Some of what you will need to complete the form:
- Your employer’s name and address.
- The dollar amount of gross wages (before taxes and other deductions) paid per pay period.
- The names and addresses of any other employers you worked for at the time of your injury or illness.
- The name and address of the doctor or hospital that provided your initial treatment.
Deadlines for Albany Workers Comp Claims
Procrastination in workers compensation claims is not your friend. Things will not get better if you ignore them. Get busy:
- Notify your employer as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days. Miss this deadline and there’s a good chance you’ll lose your rights to workers compensation benefits.
- Also as soon as possible, file Employee Claim (Form C-3) with The Board. Form C-3 must be filed within two years of the accident/incident, or within two years after you knew (or should have known) you contracted a disease or condition as a result of the nature of your employment.
- Occupational diseases carry specific reporting requirements.
- Have you injured the same body part before, or had a similar illness? That requires filing Limited Release of Health Information (Form C-3.3).
- You can track the progress of your filings.
How to Appeal a Workers Comp Denial in Albany
If your initial claim has been rejected, consider hiring a workers comp attorney. The odds for a better outcome have tilted in your favor. You and the attorney have work to do. Here are the steps:
- File an Application for Board Review within 30 days of the date of your claim being denied. Your case will be considered by a three-member panel of The Board. The respondent — your employer and/or its insurer — has 30 days from the date your appeal is received to file its rebuttal.
- If either party disagrees with the panel’s ruling within 30 days of its filing, they may file a Request for Full Board review, an administrative appeal that puts the case before the entire Board.
- If the ruling was a split decision — that is, one of the three judges dissented — a Full Board Review is required if requested.
- If the ruling was unanimous, the full Board is not obligated to conduct a review, even if asked.
- Still not satisfied? Final decisions by The Board are subject to additional review in the New York Appellate Division. Again, deadlines must be met and preparations must be made: filing the Notice of Appeal; “settling the record” (agreeing which exhibits, medical records, documents, and testimony should be included) with opposing counsel; and a brief submitted.
- If after all this either side remains opposed, and one of the Appellate Division judges filed a dissent, one final step is available: an appeal to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. Otherwise, the high court is not obliged to hear the appeal.
Workers Comp District Office in Albany, NY
New York has nine district offices scattered all over the state, including one in Albany. Contact them for information about workers comp claims and benefits.
Directions to the Albany District Office:
- N.A. (ND) Lost Wage Benefits: Employees who miss work due to an on-the-job injury or illness may receive payment for lost wages. This is known as an indemnity benefit. Retrieved from http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/TheBoard/indemnity-fact-sheet.pdf
- N.A. (2020, July 1) Workers’ Compensation Schedule of Maximum Weekly Benefit. Retrieved from http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/Workers/ScheduleMaxWeeklyBenefit.jsp
- N.A. (ND) Injured Workers: Get Better – and Get Back. Retrieved from http://www.wcb.ny.gov/returntowork/injured-worker.jsp