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How NY Workers’ Compensation Covers Eye Injuries and Vision Loss

A Brooklyn workers’ compensation attorney explains

Eye protection is essential for employee safety in the workplace. Most people know that workers in high-risk jobs, such as construction workers, welders, and chemical handlers, must take precautions. But dangers to the eyes exist in all kinds of industries.

When workers get hurt on the job in New York City, they are entitled to workers' compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages. Workers' compensation covers eye injuries, but because they can be expensive to treat and may result in permanent damage, collecting benefits can be challenging. Claims are often disputed or downplayed.

That’s why many employees with eye injuries choose to have experienced NYC workers' compensation attorneys protect their rights and legal options. Understanding how eye injuries happen at work and the benefits available to employees can help workers avoid injuries and get the help they need when damage occurs.

What is an occupational eye injury?

Occupational eye injuries may include damage to the retina, eyelid, nerves, pupil, or another part of the eyeball(s). They can result in temporary or permanent reduced eyesight, blindness, scarring, or disfigurement, among other possibilities. In New York, common factors in workplace eye injuries include:

  • Tools that slip or malfunction, striking or scraping the eye
  • Flying objects like glass or metal shards becoming lodged in or penetrating parts of the eye
  • Wood splinters
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Exposure to extreme heat
  • Infection or disease
  • Eye strain

About 2,000 occupational eye injuries are reported daily in the U.S. Incredibly, 90 percent of these injuries were preventable with safety training and the use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) like goggles and face masks. Safety advocates estimate that 1,800 of those daily work-related eye injuries could be avoided.

Who is most at risk?

  • Construction workers. Laborers, carpenters, and electricians, among others, face various risks associated with construction activities. These hazards include handling heavy equipment, exposure to potentially dangerous materials, and the potential for debris-related injuries.
  • Welders. Welding involves exposure to the extremely bright light of the welder’s torch, which can cause flash burns known as “welder’s flash” or “arc eye.”
  • Warehousing and transportation. Workers in warehouse and distribution roles may encounter risks handling materials and potential exposure to heavy equipment.
  • Healthcare. Medical professionals, including hospital nurses, doctors, and medical technicians, face risks such as bodily fluids, chemicals, and contact with medical equipment.
  • Retail. Store clerks and sales associates face risks handling merchandise, with potential exposure to hazards in storage areas.
  • Building cleaning and pest control. Janitorial and pest control workers may face risks from exposure to cleaning chemicals, dust, and potential contact with pests.
  • Maintenance and repair services. Employees, including building maintenance workers and HVAC technicians, may encounter hazards handling tools and equipment, as well as potential exposure to debris and chemicals.

Workers’ compensation for eye injuries

With few exceptions, New York employees are entitled to collect workers’ comp for occupational eye injuries regardless of how many hours they work per week, if it was their first day on the job, or their immigration status. Workers’ compensation includes:

  • Medical treatment, including visits to an optometrist or ophthalmologist, vision tests, eye surgery, follow-up care, medical devices, and any other reasonable and necessary medical treatment. Unlike health insurance, there is no co-pay or deductible for workers’ comp.
  • Disability benefits. Eye injuries can be life-changing. If an eye injury renders an employee unable to work for a period of time, workers’ comp pays two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage (AWW) for as long as they are out of work.
  • Schedule Loss of Use awards. Permanent vision loss is one of nine injuries that qualify for Scheduled Loss of Use (SLU) compensation in NY. Loss of an eye is worth 160 weeks of compensation according to the workers’ compensation schedule. This is then prorated to the percentage of disability; for instance, losing 25 percent of use of an eye would entitle the worker to 40 weeks of compensation, even if they don’t miss a single day of work.
  • Vocational rehabilitation. If your eye injury renders you unable to do your job, you may have access to occupational training and resources to get a different job.

Again, getting access to these benefits requires evidence and documentation. If you sustain an eye injury on the job, report the incident to your employer right away. Get medical attention and save copies of all medical records. And talk to an experienced New York workers’ compensation attorney who can protect your rights.

How a New York workers’ compensation attorney can help after a work-related eye injury

Navigating the workers’ compensation system can be confusing and frustrating. But a knowledgeable NYC workers’ compensation lawyer can guide injured victims and their families through the process. An attorney can:

  • Ensure that all workers’ comp forms are complete, correct, and submitted before deadlines
  • Review medical records
  • Negotiate with workers’ compensation insurance companies for maximum benefits
  • Represent workers at New York State Workers Compensation Board hearings
  • File an appeal, if necessary

Before filing a workers' compensation claim, consult an attorney. At Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP, our attorneys can help make sure all the complicated paperwork is filled out correctly and represent your interests in any disputes and appeals. Our firm offers free case evaluations, so there is no downside to getting legal advice on your situation. Give us a call or contact us online today.

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