Michael Gruber has been practicing workers compensation law in Brooklyn for the last 25 years and it’s hard to say which has grown faster – his client base or Brooklyn’s skyline.
The two are closely related.
The Williamsburg Bank was the tallest building in Brooklyn for 80 years at 512 feet high until The Brooklyner nudged its way past in 2009 at 514 feet. A little more than a decade later, both buildings barely fit inside the 10 tallest buildings in Brooklyn.
“The amount of construction in downtown Brooklyn is absolutely insane,” Gruber said. “The Williamsburg Bank was the tallest forever, but now you can barely see it with all the other skyscrapers around it.
“You would think Brooklyn is as developed as it can be, but it’s not even close. It’s amazing what a change has come to it over the last decade.”
All that construction means lots of business for Gruber, a partner in the law firm of Paternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.
“Lots of clients with slip-and-fall accidents, heavy lifting injuries, workplace hazards such as scaffolding collapsing, things like that,” Gruber said.
With that much development happening – and the obvious risks that accompany work in high-rise construction – that there would be plenty of inspections to make sure safety was part of the plan, but that isn’t always the case.
“It’s mostly union workers and I spend a lot of time working with the union leaders to communicate safety concerns to the government agencies, but there really isn’t the level of concern there should be from the oversight standpoint,” Gruber said.
If workers do get injured on the job site, they could try to file claims for medical and lost wages benefits on their own, but if working on a high rise is risky business, it might be even riskier trying to go it alone against insurance companies and their lawyers.
“If you try to go in front of a judge without an attorney, theoretically the judge is supposed to look out for you, but he’s also supposed to be a neutral party in deciding the case,” Gruber said. “There is only so much a judge can do to look out for the rights of an injured worker. If you don’t have a lawyer, you’re going to miss all the nuances and opportunities to get the claims you’re entitled to.”
Signs You May Need a Workers Compensation Attorney in Brooklyn
While there may be a boatload of nuances, subtleties and shades to workers compensation law, the ultimate goal in all cases is to compensate an injured worker for lost wages and medical treatment, so they can return to work as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, not everyone involved in the process shares that goal.
There are plenty of signs that things aren’t going the way they should and it might be time to consult a workers comp attorney. Some of those signs include:
- Your employer stalls on filing a claim
- Your employer asks you not to file a claim, but says he will handle all the medical bills
- There is a dispute over whether the injury or illness happened at your work site
- The insurance carrier says the injury is the result of a pre-existing condition and denies the claim
- Your injury is serious enough that you expect to miss a week or more of work
- The wage compensation checks are late in coming or miscalculated
- Your employer threatens retaliation if you file a claim
- You aren’t sure exactly what benefits you’re entitled to
- Your employer or insurance carrier offers to make a settlement
- Parts or all of your claim is being denied
“If you don’t have an attorney, nobody is going to look out for you,” Gruber said. “You can be sure the insurance company is going to have one and they will control the narrative on your case. They will address the issues they want to address and not address the issues you should want to address. That’s why you need an attorney.”
What Do Workers Compensation Attorneys in Brooklyn Do?
If you think you can represent yourself in a workers compensation claim, it’s wise to consider two important factors before making that decision:
- Do I have the time it’s going to take to prepare my case if it goes to trial?
- Am I good – really good! – at filing paperwork and meeting deadlines?
If you hesitate on either of those factors with anything but a resounding YES! Then it would be wise to hire an attorney to do it for you.
Workers compensation is a difficult strain of law on its own, but the task they put in front of you in New York is overwhelming. Where workers compensation attorneys in parts of the U.S. might attend 10-15 hearings a year, Gruber estimates he does 10-15 hearings a day. There is paperwork involved for each one and if the right forms aren’t filled out the right way …
“The bills don’t get paid,” Gruber said.
The practice of judges demanding exactly the right forms, filled out exactly the right way and delivered on exactly the time and day given, is how business is done with New York’s Workers Compensation Board the agency responsible for enforcing workers comp.
“Our system has gotten to the point where the Workers Compensation cares more about form than function,” Gruber said. “If you don’t file the proper request, on the proper form, in the proper time, you can’t get you money, you can’t get your medical treatments, all these things will be denied.”
Those are just some of the things workers compensation lawyers in Brooklyn do. Other things they take care of include:
- Obtain all necessary medical documents related to your case
- Depose accident witnesses and insurance claims adviser
- Be able to accurately calculate lost wages
- Knowing how the injury affects the worker’s ability to return to the job now, or anytime in the future
- Know the case law that supports your case
- Know the opposition attorney and how far he/she can be pushed on a claim
- Know the rules of evidence and how to present them in compelling fashion
- Know the medical experts that can lend valuable testimony for your case
- Conduct settlement negotiations
- Know how to file an appeal, if necessary
“These days, the insurance companies are fighting even the easiest cases,” Gruber said. “If there is any level of complication involved with your case, you are going to need an attorney to get all the benefits you deserve.”
How Much Do Workers Comp Lawyers in Brooklyn Charge?
One of the most common phrases used by New Yorkers is: “I can’t afford _____ (fill in the blank).
Injured workers fill in the blank with “… an attorney” because of the long-held misconception that you can’t afford an attorney, especially in New York.
That’s not true. It doesn’t cost anything to consult with an attorney to find out if you have a case that needs help. Beyond that, if you don’t win your case, your attorney doesn’t get paid.
“You definitely can afford a workers compensation attorney,” Gruber said. “We do not charge for talking to people about their cases. We don’t have a set percentage of what is awarded.
“Our fees are set by New York’s Workers Compensation Board. We might spend hundreds of hours on a case and the Board might say we get 5% of the award, and if that’s what they say, that’s what happens.
In reality, New York’s workers compensation attorneys receive 15% of the monetary amount their clients are awarded. They receive no part of the cost for medical awards. And it’s rare that the percentage of monetary award ever is higher than 15%.
But as Gruber points out, the deciding factor should not be how much an attorney makes, as how much he’s able to produce for a client.
“There are diff types of benefits you’re entitled to in New York, depending on what type of injury you have and what your work status is,” Gruber said. “For example, you may have an injury to your arm, but you can still work and that entitles you to one type of award, but if you have an injured arm and can’t work, you’re entitled to a different type of award.
“If you don’t know what type of awards are available to you, you’re not going to ask for them,” he added. “And if you don’t ask for them, you’re definitely not going to get them.”
Handling a Workers Comp Case on Your Own in Brooklyn
Most claims do not require hiring 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 Brooklyn
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: email@example.com.
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 Brooklyn 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 Brooklyn
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 Brooklyn
New York has nine district offices scattered all over the state, including one in Brooklyn. Contact them for information about workers comp claims and benefits.Phone: (877) 632-4996
One Pierrepont Plaza, 5th floor
300 Cadman Plaza West
Brooklyn, NY 11201
About The Author
Bill Fay has touched a lot of bases in his 45-year career. He started as a sports writer, gaining national attention for work on college and professional sports. He had regular roles as an analyst on radio and television and later became a speech writer for a government agency. His most recent work is as an internet content marketing specialist. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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 https://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 https://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/Workers/ScheduleMaxWeeklyBenefit.jsp
- N.A. (ND) Injured Workers: Get Better – and Get Back. Retrieved from https://www.wcb.ny.gov/returntowork/injured-worker.jsp