The New York Workers’ Compensation Board has temporarily changed many elements of the workers’ comp program in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these changes impact both those suffering from COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the coronavirus, and others impact those with job-related injury and illness not connected to coronavirus.
Can I Still Receive Ongoing Workers’ Comp Benefits?
If you were receiving workers’ comp benefits before the coronavirus pandemic, or plan to file a claim for an injury not related to the pandemic, you will still be able to file claims and receive appropriate benefits. Those benefits have not changed; you may still be eligible for medical expenses and lost wages due to your injury at the same rate as before.
However, the way you go about filing claims or proving the extent of ongoing disability could be different. This situation is fluid and you should contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney to understand the procedure at any given time.
In early March 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo established an executive order that called on all insurers — including workers’ compensation carriers — to not cancel or non-renew any policy for 60 days. Carriers also cannot cancel group policies for individuals or businesses facing hardship due to COVID-19. This order helped protect workers’ comp benefits for many workers while businesses were negatively impacted by slowdowns, The order was put into place in early March and expired on April 28, so the 60-day window should continue through at least late June.
If you need to show medical evidence of an ongoing disability to continue receiving benefits, some of the requirements have changed in your favor. Typically, you have a 90-day window to demonstrate your ongoing disability, but that has been relaxed by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board.
You also may be exempted from attending an independent medical examination (IME) due to the pandemic, but you should let your attorney and the state workers’ comp board know that you cannot attend. State law says that your benefits can be suspended for refusal to attend an IME, but this expectation is also being relaxed during the pandemic.
Any hearings on your claim are also being done remotely, rather than in person. You may attend by using a smartphone app available for both Apple and Android devices, and the state provides a video tutorial on how to use the app. Contact your attorney if this is not an option for you.
What If I Have A New Claim?
As noted for ongoing claims, you will still be able to file a workers’ compensation claim with the state for a new job-related injury or illness, whether or not that condition is related to the coronavirus. Take the same steps that you would any other time — immediately report your injury to your supervisor, then contact an attorney to help you file a claim.
One important change during the pandemic is that you are exempted from obtaining handwritten signatures on more than two dozen forms related to workers’ compensation. Among the exempted forms are the Employee Claim, the Section 32 Waiver Agreement and Claim for Compensation in a Death Case.
This is where an attorney can be of great benefit. The state allows you to simply give approval via email for your attorney to electronically submit a document on your behalf, simplifying your claim during a stressful time.
Each day brings new information about the coronavirus pandemic. The office of Paul Giannetti is keenly focused on any new developments as they relate to workers’ compensation benefits, procedures and laws. Call the office at (518) 243-8011 for a virtual consultation or complete the form on our contact page so you can obtain all the benefits to which you’re legally entitled.
Q: Can I still get workers’ compensation during the coronavirus pandemic?
A: Yes. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board is still accepting claims and paying benefits at the same amounts as before.
Q: What if I had another kind of injury or illness and not coronavirus?
A: That will not have any impact on your claim or benefits. You may file a claim on any work-related injury or illness.
Q: Do I still have to attend an independent medical exam (IME) while the pandemic is going on?
A: You may be able to receive an exemption from attending an IME, but you need to notify your attorney and the state workers’ comp board. Do not just skip an IME because you don’t want to go.
Q: What if I can’t get signatures on my workers’ comp claim form because offices are closed?
A: During the pandemic, the state is exempting you from getting signatures on more than two dozen documents related to workers’ compensation. Work with your attorney to learn how to file documents without signatures.