A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The New York workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers’ comp. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a New York workers’ compensation claim.)
New York pays cash benefits to workers who need to take more than seven days off work due to their injuries. The first seven days of disability are not paid. However, if you end up needing more than 14 days off work, the first seven days will be paid retroactively. The amount of cash benefits depends on your typical wages and whether you are totally disabled or partially disabled. Your treating doctor will assign you a disability percentage, ranging from 0% to 100%.
Cash benefits for total disability are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceed a maximum amount set by law each year. As of July 1, 2017, the maximum benefit is $870.61 per week. (The cap is updated annually in July; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the New York Workers’ Compensation Board.)
For partial disabilities (less than 100%), cash benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage multiplied by your percentage of disability. For example, if you normally earn $900 per week and your doctor has given you a 50% disability rating, you would receive $300 (2/3 of $900 x 50% = $300). The same annual cap mentioned above applies.
However, if you’re able to return to work but you are earning less due to your injury, you may be able to get two-thirds of the difference in your wages. For example, suppose you normally earn $900, but you’re working a light duty job earning $300 per week. You could receive two-thirds of $600 ($900 - $300), or $400 per week.
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to have a permanent and total disability, you will continue to receive weekly payments for life. Permanent total disabilities are very severe injuries—such as the loss of both eyes, hands, arms, feet, or legs (either by amputation or total loss of use). These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the same maximum as cash benefits.
If your doctor finds that you have a permanent partial disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits. New York workers’ compensation pays for scheduled losses, unscheduled losses, and disfigurement.
A scheduled loss of use award is available for disabilities of certain body parts, such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, or feet. The award is paid at two-thirds of your average weekly wages, for a number of weeks determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of a hand at 244 weeks. If you have only a 50% loss of use of the hand, you would receive 122 weeks of payments. You will receive your award in weekly payments, unless you request a lump sum payout. Cash benefits that you have already received are deducted from your award.
If the body part you injured does not appear on the schedule, you can receive a non-scheduled award. This is for injuries to body parts other than the eyes, ears, or extremities—such as injuries to the head, spine, or organs. The award is also paid at two-thirds of your average weekly wage. However, the duration of the benefits depends on the degree of your lost earning capacity (which is determined by a workers’ comp judge). For example, if your loss of earning capacity is 15% or less, you will receive 225 weeks of benefits. On the other end of the scale, a loss of 95% or more equals 525 weeks of benefits.
An additional award of up to $20,000 is available if you have a serious and permanent disfigurement to the face, head, or neck due to your injury (or due to surgery to treat your injury).
New York workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)