100th Anniversary of New York Worker’s Compensation Law

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the enactment of New York’s Workers’ (then Workmens’) Compensation Law.

The horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire moved New York’s legislature and Governor to enact the first in the nation workers’ compensation statute in 1911 after 146 employees died due to poor employer practices and unsafe working conditions. The law represented a historic tradeoff between workers and employers, whereby workers were assured of prompt wage replacement and medical treatment coverage in connection with workplace injuries regardless of fault, and employers were shielded from lawsuits that may require them to pay large amounts for pain, suffering, wrongful deaths and other causes of action.

The 1911 law was struck down by New York’s Court of Appeals which found that the statute violated New York’s constitutional protection of employer’s due process rights. It took an amendment to New York’s constitution before the workers’ compensation statute could be reenacted in 1914. Over its contentious 100-year history, the New York Workers’ Compensation Law and the workers’ compensation system have seen many dramatic changes, but they have assured compensation for millions of injured workers and their families while at the same time protecting New York employers from ruinous lawsuits.

Reforms Under the Business Relief Act
In 2013 Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the enactment of a number of reforms to the workers’ compensation system, apparently to cut costs for employers and carriers, without decreasing benefits to claimants. To do so the Governor successfully bypassed the usual process for legislative change to the law by including the proposed reforms in the New York State 2013/2014 Budget, which was due to be enacted by April 1, 2013. The reforms, enacted March 29, 2013, are contained in that part of the budget bill referred to as the Business Relief Act.

The Business Relief Act made many changes, including raising the minimum weekly compensation rate to the lesser of $150.00 or the claimant’s actual average weekly wage for injuries occurring on or after May 1, 2013, an increase from the $100.00 per week minimum enacted in 2007. Based on the 2007 indexing of the maximum compensation rate to the state average weekly wage, the maximum rate for accidents occurring on or after 7/1/2013 was raised to $803.21, more than double the maximum rate in 2007.

Worker’s Compensation is an intricate and complex field of law. If you have been injured while working, contact an experienced worker’s compensation attorney today. A skilled attorney can afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles workers’ compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

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