There are certain workers compensation decisions every Bronx lawyer must know before settling a case. The higher court recently came down with a decision that greatly affects settlement values throughout New York, including the Bronx. Specifically, it affects settlements on workers comp cases where the injured worker has prior injuries to the same body part.
When settling a case, the Bronx workers compensation lawyer must always consider whether the injured worker has a prior comp claim. And, if so, whether that worker received a Schedule Loss of Use (SLU) Award in that prior case. A SLU award results in a money award to the injured worker. The Board makes this type of award when the worker suffers from permanent injury to an extremity (arms, legs, hands, feet). The amount of the SLU award, if any, depends on how much the worker has been paid in total on a case. A SLU award is reduced by the prior amount paid. It also depends on what the Board finds to be the percentage of schedule loss of use for a body part. Typically, a worker seeks the highest schedule loss of use percentage possible. A higher percentage will usually result in a higher award.
The Appellate Division recently dealt with the issue of prior schedule loss of use awards to the same body part. In that recent case, the injured worker, a patient care technician, slipped and fell on ice in February of 2006. He injured both knees and had a surgery to each knee. Then, in 2009, the same worker had another accident at work and filed a workers comp claim. In that 2009 case, the worker injured both hips but not the knees. The Board awarded the worker a 52.5% SLU to the right leg. It also awarded a 50% SLU to the left leg. Both percentages in the 2009 case were due to hip injuries only. The same worker then litigated the issue of SLU to the knees on his 2006 case.
The workers compensation Law Judge found the claimant to suffer from an 80% SLU to the left leg and a 40% SLU to the right leg on the 2006 case. Both of these percentages were due to injuries to the knees only, not the hips. The Law Judge then reduced that award based on the prior SLU awards given on the 2009 case. The Judge noted that the knees and hips are not eligible for separate SLU awards. They are both part of the legs for the purposes of workers comp awards. The Judge then reduced the 80% SLU to the left leg by 50% (the prior award on the 2009 case). Also, because the prior award percentage to the right leg in the 2009 case exceeded the 40% SLU given in the 2006 case, the worker received no additional compensation for that leg.
The workers compensation lawyer appealed on behalf of the injured worker. The Appellate Division agreed with the Law Judge. It found that the SLU award percentages related to the knee were properly reduced due to prior SLU award percentages related to the hips. Therefore, when considering settling a workers compensation case related to an accident in the Bronx, a lawyer must always obtain information about prior cases and awards. This case shows that all prior SLU percentages to the same body part must be accounted for when settling a claim. This is the case even if different joints on the same arm or leg were involved in the prior case. If you are considering settling your case, call the workers compensation lawyers at the Platta Law Firm. We handle cases in all of the boroughs, including the Bronx, and will fight for the highest settlement.