Do I have a workers’ comp lawsuit?

Under New York Law, a workers’ comp claim is not what people refer to or consider a lawsuit.  The injured worker is not suing another party due to his or her injuries sustained while on the job.  The injured worker is seeking benefits from the worker’s comp insurance carrier.  These benefits are for indemnity (loss wages) and medical treatment. 

Although both the injured worker and the insurance carrier may have legal representation, neither party is suing the other.  Worker’s comp hearings are held in from of an Administrative Law Judge, and are conducted at a workers’ compensation board location.  The hearings do not take place in a court like one may associate with a tv show such as Law and Order.  

The hearing room consists of one judge, the injured party and his or her attorney, and the attorney or representative for the insurance carrier.  There is no jury and an injured worker cannot collect an award for pain and suffering.  On certain occasions a trial may be scheduled.  Workers’ compensation trials are conducted in a hearing room where all parties are sitting at one table.  Each party is able to ask questions to any witness, and all final rulings are made by the administrative law judge. For the most part these trials do not last longer than two hours.  If one side does not agree with the decision it is appealed to a board panel, not to an appellate court.  

The format of depositions in a workers’ compensation matter also differs from that of a lawsuit. Worker’s compensation depositions consist of over the phone testimony of doctors.  The parties do not conduct depositions in person.  Even if an injured worker does not have legal counsel, the deposition of the doctors is done over the phone at a hearing.  Additionally, depositions of the injured worker do not occur.

Also there is no standard value to a case as there may be with a lawsuit.  Any award on a workers’ comp claim depends solely on the injuries themselves and medical treatment in connection with those injuries.  The NY State Workers’ Compensation guidelines give statutory guidance based on severity of the injuries.

If an injured worker is considering a lawsuit that is a topic for which he or she should consult with an attorney. 

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