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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Availability of Seaman’s Rights to Marine Unit Personnel

Police officers assigned to the Marine Unit are entitled to NYS Workers Compensation benefits as are all employees of Police Departments in Suffolk County. However those who are assigned to a vessel may elect to pursue a civil lawsuit under maritime law. The US Supreme Court in McDermott International v. Wilander 498 U.S. 337 (1991) defined a “seaman” as a worker who has an employment related connection to a vessel in navigation and who also contributes to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission. This broad definition means that “seaman status” is not limited to sailors on the high seas who crew commercial cargo vessels, but is sufficiently broad to include harbor workers of various types working on vessels of various descriptions, including employees assigned to vessels of a Police Marine Unit.

A person who qualifies for seaman status is afforded three important rights:
1) The right to sue the Municipality under a Federal Statute known as the “Jones Act” for all injuries caused by negligence
2) The right to sue the Municipality for all injuries caused by the “Seaworthiness” of the vessel
3) The right to sue for “Maintenance and Cure”

Monetary damages recovered under the “Jones Act” and Seaworthiness include economic losses consisting of past and future loss of wages, fringe and pension losses, and past and future pain and suffering. Compensation afforded under Seaman’s Rights typically exceeds those provided under Workers Compensation. To determine which route is most beneficial to you and to determine if you qualify for seaman’s status, a consultation with a “Proctor in Admiralty” – which is an attorney who specializes in Admiralty and Maritime Law, is highly recommended.

A decision to accept traditional Worker’s Compensation Benefits can be considered an election of remedies. If an Officer is injured at work, and the assignment was in any way related to the activities of a Marine Bureau Vessel all options should be explored. Find out what your options are immediately. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Zadroga Ruling on 9/11 Responders Expected to Include Cancer

By RIDGELY OCHS  ridgely.ochs@newsday.com

Worry and wait.

Almost 11 years after 9/11, first responders, many still dealing with stubbornly persistent illnesses, say they worry their health will only get worse. Cancer is the fear that stalks them.

“It weighs very heavy,” said Glen Klein, 54, of Centereach, a retired NYPD detective who worked more than 800 hours at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. “When I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel well, the first thing that goes through my mind is ‘Oh, I got cancer.'”

Those who already have the disease fear they could leave their families with unpaid bills.

Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is expected soon to issue a final rule on which cancers will be covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, enacted January 2011.

In June, Howard issued a proposed rule expanding the list of illnesses associated with Ground Zero exposure to include about 50 cancers.

Sean Riordan, general counsel for the FealGood Foundation, a first-responders’ advocacy group, said Sunday he had heard “all the cancers look good for addition, but nothing is final until NIOSH says it’s final.”

Under the Zadroga law, $2.8 billion was set aside to compensate people made ill by exposure to toxins at the site. Another $1.5 billion has been allocated over five years to fund the World Trade Center Health Program, which treats and monitors about 40,000 first responders.

How many first responders suffer from cancer is unclear. Last September, the first major cancer study of city firefighters who worked at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks found they were 19 percent more likely to have cancer than those who weren’t there.

FealGood Foundation founder John Feal said his group has compiled an unofficial list of close to 400 responders with the disease. That number is likely to grow, given that cancer can take decades to develop and an estimated 40,000 people were exposed.

Ken George, 48, of North Babylon, who worked 12- to 16-hour days for months on the pile for the city highway department, said that when he went to a picnic for first responders on Long Island last year, there were five or six widows who had lost husbands to cancer.

“This year there were 10 to 15,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, how many are getting sick?’ ”

Manhattan attorney Michael Barasch said about 250 of the 5,000 first responders he represents have cancer.

“I’m trying to manage expectations and tell them that not every cancer will be found admissible,” he said. “Common sense tells me that probably respiratory and blood cancers will be covered. But nobody can give out any awards until we know whether the cancers are admissible. And they’ve got to make sure there’s enough money.”

About 300 first responders have submitted eligibility forms to a special master of the fund for diseases other than cancer now covered under the law that are in the process of being reviewed, according to Allison Price, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice. “We expect more people to file as the fund progresses — it is hard to speculate, but thousands of additional claimants will most likely apply,” she said.

Some are concerned the fund could be quickly bankrupt if all cancers are covered, although New York members of Congress have vowed they will fight for more money if it’s needed.

For former city firefighter Jeff Stroehlein, 48, of Babylon, having all cancers covered is about the government doing what is right by the people who put their lives on the line.

In March 2011, Stroehlein was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma in his brain. He underwent months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant last August. His last four MRIs have showed no sign of the cancer, he said.

“This isn’t just for me,” he said of the coverage. “This is for everybody else. First of all, I’m lucky enough to be talking to you. But what about the guy who could lose his house trying to pay his medical bills?”

Feal described a 47-year-old construction worker — a nonsmoker — who had worked on the pile and developed lung cancer. He had no health benefits, couldn’t work, acquired a mountain of bills, lost his house and had to move in with family members.

“We need to remember that having cancer added [to Zadroga coverage] won’t save anybody’s life,” he said. “It’s not a magic pill. But it will ease the financial burden and that’s the right thing to do.”

Chris Baumann, 49, of Lindenhurst, a city police officer in the traffic division who worked at Ground Zero on 9/11, said he has had precancerous polyps in his colon and granulomas in his thyroid. “Things keep popping up,” he said. “I’m always waiting for the big ‘C’ when I go to see the doctor.”

Knowing cancer will be covered would give him a measure of peace.

“I’m not looking to get rich,” he said. “I just want to live.”

Source: http://www.newsday.com/911-anniversary/zadroga-ruling-on-9-11-responders-expected-to-include-cancer-1.3986230