New York, NY – When a worker injures their head, neck or back, the only compensation the Workers’ Compensation Law provides is payment for lost wages due to disability and medical coverage. As a result, if the worker is out of work for reasons that have nothing to do with the disability, no wage loss benefits are payable – even if the disability continues. One example of this situation would be a worker who returns to work at full wages, but with limitations from their injury, and later retires due to age or years of service. Although the worker remains disabled, compensation is not paid because the loss of wages was not caused by the disability, but instead by the decision to retire from work.
When it comes to injuries to limbs, however, the rule is different. The law includes “schedules” of benefits that are payable for permanent limb injuries, and once the worker reaches maximum medical improvement the only compensation payable is the amount they are due on the “schedule” – even if they remain disabled from work. In addition, any benefits that they received for wage loss are deducted from this “schedule loss” award.
As a result, an injured worker’s work status is irrelevant to their compensation for permanent injury to a limb. If the worker misses no time from work, then they receive the full amount of the “schedule loss” benefits for their injury; if they never return to work then their recovery is capped at the same figure.
However, recently some employers have argued that no compensation should be paid for permanent injury to a limb unless the worker has returned to employment, and the Workers’ Comp Board has agreed in cases where the worker also had an injury to something other than a limb (such as a neck or a back). On April 14, 2022, in a case brought by Grey & Grey, the Appellate Division overruled the Board, and upheld the principle that compensation should be paid for permanent limb injuries regardless of the injured person’s work status.