Until a decade ago, the NY comp board was all but insensate to many of the provisions of the Workers Compensation Law, a tradition which began with the 1947 changes in the law. The result was that clear provisions in the law were ignored in favor of informal “traditions”. That led to a degradation of adherence to the statute which led in turn to presentation of “close is good enough” facts and law.
Employers Receive Much Value From A Proactive Role
Employers, in turn, justifiably began to feel that their input was of little value in the outcome of claims, but that has changed in the last decade. Unfortunately, employers have rarely been informed of the renewed value of a more proactive role.
Recently, a new decision discloses the changes that have been occurring. An attorney who requested that the hearing point be changed, without sufficient cause, was fined $500, which was upheld by the court, even though the attorney had taken care to have his client request, in writing, the change. That may not seem to be a game-changing decision but the practices of just a few years ago show that it is.
Small Change In NYC Practice Means Large Opportunity For Employers
In the not so distant past, requesting a change of hearing point could yield large differences, especially for large firms with high volume. In particular, asbestosis claims which had a chance of being held outside of NYC, were invariable allowed to be changed if the hearing change request was to NYC. Normally, the hearings were scheduled for the hearing point closest to the workers residence but asbestosis claims originating hundreds of miles from NYC were routinely being rescheduled to the city.
The most recent case penalized the attorney for requesting a change of hearing point which was 25 miles away from the original, an unthinkable outcome less than 10- years ago.
What does this have to do with employers? It demonstrates that seemingly small details are now relevant. The employer’s role is important, but only if the employer participates. “Participation”, for employers, means forwarding information to the carrier, and not just the information requested on the employer’s report of injury form C-2.
All Claims Can Be Legitimate Unless Employer Becomes Involved
In the late 1990’s, a comp claim was disallowed because the worker’s uniform contained a label which said the garment was machine washable. The worker had been hit by a car while taking his laundry, including the uniform, to a dry cleaner. The worker tried to make the incident a comp claim by alleging that care of his uniform was a necessary job duty. The court said it wasn’t, based on that label. Details like that can only come from the employer, but now they make a big difference.
Employers have been allowed to believe that completing a C-2 form is sufficient, but there are no boxes on the form to describe cleaning instructions for work clothes. Nor are there any boxes which ask the employer to list possible defenses. The form, in fact, seems to assume that all claims are legitimate. And so will everyone else, unless the employer becomes involved.
Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100. email@example.com
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