What Happens if I Am Partially Disabled by a Work Injury?
An attorney explains how the system works in New York
When workers get hurt on the job, the injured body part may be partially or totally impaired. That, in turn, may limit the injured worker’s ability to do their job, reducing their income. When that happens, workers’ compensation benefits may be available for your partial disability. If your workplace injury occurred in New York, it’s important that you understand how workers’ compensation works in New York State.
What is a partial disability?
As the name suggests, a partial disability is any work-related injury that prevents an employee from being able to perform all of their normal duties at work. However, with a partial disability, an injured employee can still work in a limited capacity. In contrast, someone with a total disability cannot work at all.
Partial disability workplace classifications in New York
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board classified partial disabilities into two categories:
- Temporary Partial Disability
- Permanent Partial Disability
New York State defines a Temporary Partial Disability as any work-related injury in which someone has “temporarily lost some ability to work and earn full wages.” Meanwhile, Permanent Partial Disability means “part of your wage-earning capacity has been permanently lost.”
Partial vs total disability classifications in New York
Unlike partial disability, total disability injuries prevent workers from being able to do their jobs altogether. The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board classifies these work-related injuries as “total disability” injuries. There are two types of total disability injuries:
- Temporary Total Disability
- Permanent Total Disability
Temporary Total Disability means you cannot work and earn wages, but only on a temporary basis.
Permanent Total Disability means your wage-earning capacity is permanently and totally lost. If you have a permanent total disability, there is no limit on the number of weeks payable that you receive workers’ compensation.
How Temporary Partial Disability benefits work
If you are out of work due to a work injury, then workers’ compensation pays two-thirds of your average weekly wage (AWW), subject to a state maximum and minimum. If you are partially disabled – meaning you have to work reduced hours or lighter duties for reduced pay – then workers’ compensation pays two-thirds of the percentage of income you have lost.
For example, let’s say you normally make $600 a week. If you couldn’t work at all due to a workplace injury, you would receive two-thirds of your normal weekly income or $400 in workers’ compensation benefits if you had a total disability.
If, instead, you have a partial disability that reduces your ability to work by 25 percent, for example, then you would receive $100 per week (25 percent of $400) in workers’ compensation benefits for your temporary partial disability.
Note that every disability starts out as a “temporary” disability, even an injury that is expected to be permanent.
How does New York determine a Permanent Partial Disability?
Permanent Partial Disability starts when you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), which means your doctor has determined that your condition has stabilized, and further improvement is unlikely. At that point, your percentage of disability will be diagnosed, and your Permanent Partial Disability benefits, if any, can be calculated.
Schedule Loss of Use (SLU) vs. Non-Schedule Loss
If you have a permanent partial disability, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board has two permanent partial disability classifications:
- Schedule Loss of Use (SLU)
- Non-Schedule Loss
The two classifications depend on which body part was injured and the nature of your permanent partial disability.
Schedule Loss of Use injuries involve any work-related injury in which someone permanently loses the use of a specific body part included in the “schedule” of benefits:
- “Upper extremity” injuries, including injuries to the shoulder, arm, hand, wrist, or finger.
- “Lower extremity” injuries, including injuries to the hip, leg, knee, ankle, foot, or toe.
- Loss of sight.
- Loss of hearing.
Non-Schedule Loss is “a permanent disability involving a part of the body or condition that is not covered by a SLU award,” according to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. Examples include injuries involving the spine, pelvis, lungs, heart, and brain.
How long are worker’s compensation benefits paid for Schedule Loss of Use (SLU) injuries?
If you have a SLU injury, then your benefits are paid according to the schedule. Each body part is assigned a specific number of weeks of benefits:
- Arm – 312 weeks
- Leg – 288 weeks
- Hand – 244 weeks
- Foot – 205 weeks
- Eye – 160 weeks
- Ear – 150 weeks
- Thumb – 75 weeks
- First Finger – 46 weeks
- Second Finger – 30 weeks
- Third Finger – 25 weeks
- Fourth Finger – 15 weeks
- Big Toe – 38 weeks
- Other Toe – 16 weeks
Your SLU award is based on the injured body part and the percentage of disability. For example, if you suffered an injury causing you to lose 25% of the use of a leg, you would receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage for 72 weeks (25% of 288) – even if you didn’t miss a single day of work.
How long are worker’s compensation benefits paid for Non Schedule Loss injuries?
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board formula uses another formula to determine how long someone can receive workers’ compensation benefits for non-schedule loss injuries, based on how much your injury has reduced your wage-earning capacity:
- 525 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is greater than 95%.
- 500 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 90% and 95%.
- 475 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 85% and 90%.
- 450 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 80% and 85%.
- 425 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 75% and 80%.
- 400 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 70% and 75%.
- 375 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 60% and 70%.
- 350 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 50% and 60%.
- 275 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 30% and 40%.
- 250 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is between 15% and 30%.
- 225 weeks if your loss of wage-earning capacity is 15% or less.
How are workers’ compensation benefits paid for partial disability injuries?
In most cases, you will be paid workers’ compensation benefits each week. However, in certain circumstances, you can receive a one-time lump sum payment for your worker’s compensation benefits.
This is another reason why you should talk to a New York workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. They can help you decide which payment makes the most sense for you – a weekly check or a one-time lump-sum payment.
Who determines my partial disability classification?
In New York, a workers’ compensation judge will determine what percentage on a scale of 0 to 100 percent you are partially disabled and cannot work. New York workers’ compensation judges are called Administrative Law Judges. Their ruling can have a big impact on how much money you receive each week in workers’ compensation benefits.
In making this determination, judges use medical evidence submitted by your doctor, your employer’s medical consultant, and/or an independent medical examiner. They can also use other information they consider relevant. The right workers’ compensation lawyer can help you make your case to a judge to maximize the compensation you receive.
Why should I hire a New York workers’ compensation attorney?
If you sustained a partial disability at work in New York and you can still work, you should receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, actually getting those benefits can often be much harder than many people suspect. In addition, you may be eligible to receive more benefits for a longer period, depending on the circumstances of your case.
This is why talking to an attorney who understands how the workers’ compensation system works in New York is important. Our workers’ compensation lawyers at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP have decades of experience successfully handling complex claims. As a result, we can work with you to develop a strategy that best suits your case.
Learn how our law firm can help you. Contact us and schedule an appointment today.
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