At 118 miles long and 23 miles wide, Long Island is the largest island in the contiguous United States and it needs to be, to handle a bustling business community and one of the most diverse populations in the country.
The intersection of commerce and diversity presents a daily challenge for Cathy Stanton, who has been practicing workers compensation law in the area for 30 years. Some days, she’ll see the white-collar workers who like to question every move in a workers compensation case.
“They are high-wage earners and there is always a lot of give-and-take with them,” Stanton said. “They ask more sophisticated questions because they know other people in their industry who got hurt and they discuss and compare their cases with each other. Some of them think they know the law better than the attorneys.”
Other days, there are the immigrants and low-income wage earners who get hurt on the job, but don’t want anyone to know about it.
“They are the opposite side of the spectrum,” Stanton said. “We have to explain why we are asking them to do something, why it’s necessary and why, even if they’re working off the books, they still could be entitled to workers comp benefits. There is a real fear factor we have to get them to overcome.”
Balancing the two sides of the story is what Stanton does as a partner at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP. She says the biggest problem though, is with “Google Lawyers.”
“That’s what we call the people who get on Google and research a story about somebody with a similar injury,” Stanton said. “They have all this information right at their fingertips. They have an assumption of how a case should run and what it’s worth, but don’t understand that every case is different.
“That’s why you need an attorney. We sort it out and get them everything they’re entitled to.”
Signs You May Need a Workers Compensation Attorney in Long Island
When Stanton started representing injured workers 30 years ago, she had the usual frustrations that happen to rookies, but a veteran attorney eased her mind with this piece of advice: There is nothing you can do that would hurt your client, that can’t be made right by a phone call or a letter.
“That’s not the case anymore,’’ she said, glumly. “The need for an injured worker to have an attorney is 10 times what it was when I started.”
Much of that is because the workers compensation system in New York is overwhelmed with rules, regulations and bureaucracy that make it virtually impossible for any lay person to know how the system works.
Some of the signs that you should at least speak with a workers comp attorney about your case include:
- You’re not really sure what benefits you are entitled to
- You get hurt and you have to see a medical professional
- You’re going to be out of work for more than a week
- You have a permanent injury, even if it didn’t cause you to lose time from work
- You need medical treatment that isn’t listed in the Medical Treatment Guidelines
- Your employer or the insurance company questions whether the injury occurred on the worksite
- Your employer asks you to use your personal insurance rather than file a workers comp claim
- Your employer threatens retaliation against you for filing a workers comp claim
- Your wage compensation checks arrive late or are miscalculated
- Any part of your claim is denied
“Most people don’t know all the benefits available through workers compensation and how to get them,” Stanton said. “Our job is to make sure all that information is accessible to injured workers.”
What Do Workers Comp Attorneys in Long Island Do?
If a workers compensation case is disputed in New York, there are a lot of steps that have to be taken, a lot of obstacles that have to be overcome and a ton of paperwork that has to filled out, signed and filed – properly! – before the Workers Compensation Board will schedule a hearing.
“It’s not an injured workers job to get involved in all that paperwork and bureaucracy,” Stanton said. “The injured workers role is to see a doctor regularly; follow all their instructions; go to treatments and get healthy enough to go back to work.”
Unfortunately, injured workers don’t often fill that role. It can be costly because they aren’t seen by the right doctors or able to produce the right paperwork to make their claim go smoothly.
“That’s another reason you hire a lawyer,” Stanton said.
Some of the things an attorney will do to improve your chances of receiving benefits include:
- Send you to the doctors certified to do workers comp cases
- Provide the proper paperwork for doctors to fill out to expedite your claim
- Contact the doctors to be sure the process is running in a timely fashion
- Be able to accurately calculate lost wage benefits
- Know how an injury affects your ability to return to work at any time in the future
- Be familiar with the insurance company attorneys and how they operate
- Know the judges for Long Island and what they will accept for evidence
- Be prepared to depose witnesses
- Know the questions that need to be answered when cross-examining
- Be familiar with case law as it applies to your case
- Conduct settlement negotiations with opposing attorney
“Most cases never make it to the hearing level because there is a lot of outside information that has to be gathered from doctors and lawyers,” Stanton said. “If you have an attorney who knows the rules, knows how to get the forms filled out properly, you are going to be 10 steps ahead of the game from the start.
“It doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything you ask for, but at least you’ve got a fighting chance.”
How Much Do Workers Comp Lawyers in Long Island Charge?
The issue of whether an injured worker can “afford” an attorney on Long Island, is really no issue at all.
“Any fee we receive is sent to us by the insurance company directly out of an award and not by the injured worker,” Stanton said. “Injured workers have the comfort of knowing they are not going to be paying any money out of pocket to hire an attorney.”
The laws in New York specify that the attorneys fee for a case must be approved by the Workers Compensation law judge or agreed upon stipulation with a client.
In most cases, lawyers request a fee out of compensation award they win for the client. Typically, that is 15% of the compensation award, but again, there is no law specifying how much the attorney gets paid. The amount rarely exceeds the standard of 15%.
“We don’t get paid unless the client gets paid,” Stanton said.
Handling a Workers Comp Case on Your Own in Long Island
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 Long Island
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 Long Island 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 Long Island
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 Long Island
New York has nine district offices scattered all over the state, including one in Long Island. Contact them for information about workers comp claims and benefits.
Phone: (877) 632-4996
220 East Rabro Drive
Hauppauge, NY 11788
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