What Does Third-Party Liability Mean in Worker’s Compensation Cases?

Workers who have sustained an on-the-job injury or illness are entitled to workers’ compensation to cover the medical bills and lost wages that result from their injuries. However, workers compensation benefits do not cover an individual’s long-term monetary loss, pain and suffering, or additional damages that may have resulted from particularly reckless conduct. As a matter of fact, state law actually limits most workers’ compensation payments. Furthermore, individuals who accept workers’ compensation benefits forfeit their right to sue their employer for their job related injury or illness.

Third-Party Liability

Third-party liability provides an additional remedy, separate from workers’ compensation benefits, to individuals who have sustained a job related injury or illness. A third-party is anyone other than a worker’s employer or co-worker. Third-party liability occurs when an individual who sustains a job related injury or illness sues someone other than his or her employer for damages.

Common third-party defendants include, but are not limited to:

• Manufacturers of workplace equipment, tools, or materials, whose products may have caused or intensified an individual’s work related injury or illness;

• Landlords or business owners who fail to keep their premises clear of hazards, thus resulting in an injury or illness to a worker who visits the premise as part of his or her job;

• Automobile drivers who cause an accident, which results in an injury to a worker who was on the road as part of his or her job.

Will a claim for third-party liability affect the status of my workers compensation benefits?

No. All awards received in third-party liability suits are separate and distinct from workers’ compensation benefits. This means that injured or ill workers can receive an award based off of their third-party liability claim and still retain their workers compensation benefits. Additionally, the right to bring a claim for third-party liability also extends to the surviving families of a deceased individual in cases of work related wrongful deaths.

Why should you pursue a third-party liability claim?

Since workers’ compensation benefits generally do not account for all of the cost associated with a work related injury or illness, pursuing a third party liability claim affords the victims of a work related injury or illness an additional remedy which may fully cover the costs of the of injury and lost wages. 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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Congressional Candidate in Long-running Dispute Over Worker’s Comp

A campaign worker on Republican congressional candidate Matt Doheny’s 2010 and 2012 campaigns alleges Doheny “is stalling” the hearing of a disputed workers compensation claim, related with injuries she received in a February 2012 motor vehicle accident while traveling to a campaign event.

Alicia E. Sirk, who was Doheny’s deputy campaign manager, said she continues to have chronic pain from back, neck and arm injuries she received when her vehicle fishtailed and flipped over on an icy road when she was en route from Plattsburgh to Cape Vincent to coordinate a morning “Doughnuts with Doheny” event. Mrs. Sirk continued working for the Doheny campaign until the summer of 2012, but maintains that her injuries left her unable to perform full-time work since then.

The case centers around whether Sirk was an employee or an independent contractor. An administrative law judge in a separate Department of Labor Hearing determined in March 2013 that Sirk was an employee, and Sirk and the campaign reached a compromise settlement on back wages.

Under the Workers’ Compensation Law (WCL), most individuals providing services to a for-profit business will be deemed an employee of that business and therefore must be covered by the employer for workers’ compensation insurance. This applies unless those services are specifically excluded as employment under the WCL. For workers’ compensation insurance purposes, the term employee generally includes day labor, leased employees, borrowed employees, part-time employees, unpaid volunteers (including family members) and most subcontractors. Additionally, if you are in a car accident while driving or riding in a car for work-related reasons away from your workplace, in New York State, you may also be covered by workers compensation.

David M. Catalfamo, a spokesman for Mr. Doheny, said Mrs. Sirk was fired in July 2012 and has brought several legal actions against the campaign in the ensuing years, including a wage and labor dispute that Mr. Doheny settled. He characterized the recent claim as an attempt to derail Mr. Doheny’s current campaign and connected Mrs. Sirk with Mr. Doheny’s 2014 primary opponent, Elise M. Stefanik.

Although the outcome of this case is unclear, one thing is for sure, if you are an employee, you have right a to worker’s compensation if injured while on the job. If you believe that your employer has purposefully misclassified your employment status to avoid worker’s compensation, or if you are an employee and have a worker’s compensation claim, contact an experienced attorney. A skilled employment attorney will 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.

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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