When an injured worker is searching for a workers’ compensation lawyer in Long Island, he or she must find a firm familiar with all types of awards on a case. Oftentimes, a worker will injure more than one body part in a single accident. Even further, an injured worker may injure different joints on the same arm or leg in the same accident. In these scenarios, the injured worker should hire an attorney familiar with the workers’ compensation Guidelines. The Guidelines will determine what award the injured worker receives for permanent injury. Undoubtedly, insurance carriers will make medical and legal arguments to limit awards on every case.
The parties will obtain medical opinions as to the damage to each body part injured in the accident. This will happen once the worker reaches maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement means that more active treatment will not help the claimant’s condition. Where a worker has injured his arms, hands, feet, or legs, the parties’ respective doctors will give an opinion as to Schedule Loss of Use to each body part. The workers’ compensation lawyer will refer to these opinions when discussing settlement.
The Guidelines and Schedule Loss of Use
For example, a claimant can suffer from a 10% Schedule Loss of Use of the leg, or some other percentage. This percentage represents the level of permanent damage to that body part. Usually, the higher the percentage for Schedule Loss of Use, the higher the money award payable to the injured worker. Medical experts on both sides will refer to the medical Guidelines. The Workers’ Compensation Board issues these Guidelines. Both doctors and the Board use the Guidelines to calculate Schedule Loss of Use. A workers’ compensation lawyer must be familiar with the medical Guidelines.
A Case Every Long Island Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Should Know: Bell v. Glens Falls Ready Mix Co., Inc.
Recently, the Appellate Division applied the Guidelines to a situation where a worker injured his shoulder and elbow in the same accident, both on the same arm. In that case, the Law Judge found the claimant to suffer from a combined 80% Schedule Loss of Use of the right arm. That percentage was based on an opinion of 50% Schedule Loss of Use to the right shoulder and 30% Schedule Loss of Use to the right elbow. The insurance carrier appealed to the Board Panel.
The Board Panel applied a specific portion of the medical Guidelines. That section refers to high percentages for multiple joints on the same body part. It modified the Law Judge’s decision to reflect that the claimant suffered from a 60% Schedule Loss of Use to the right arm inclusive of the shoulder and elbow. The Appellate Division affirmed the Board Panel’s decision. All workers’ compensation lawyers handling cases in Long Island should refer to this decision when negotiating settlements.
Importantly, this decision shows that an injured worker may be compensated for permanent injuries sustained to the elbow and shoulder in the same accident. Many insurance carriers will attempt to limit awards for permanent damage. In fact, carriers will do so by arguing that schedule loss of use percentages under the Guidelines for different joints on the same arm or leg may not be added together. Some insurance carrier’s may go so far as to arguing that these percentages must actually be subtracted from one another. However, this decision shows that additional percentages can be awarded for injuries to multiple joints on the same body part. It is important for an injured worker to contact a seasoned lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation law. This lawyer should also be an expert regarding the Workers’ Compensation Guidelines.