The New York State Workers’ Compensation Law sets forth a scheme for assessing permanent impairments. Part of that framework involves what is known as schedule loss of use awards. Certain types of injuries that result in permanency are subject to this “scheduled award”.
Certain body parts have been assigned a maximum number of weeks which represent 100% loss of that body part. For instance, a 100% loss of use of a foot translates to 205 weeks of compensation. This means that if a Law Judge determined that a claimant had a 25% loss of use of their foot that would translate to 51.25 weeks of benefits.
The ironic part of the schedule loss of use statute is that all benefits paid to an injured worker while they are out of work prior to the finding of permanency are subtracted from the schedule loss of use award.
Assuming that the person with a 25% loss of use has a total disability rate of $400.00 per week, the schedule would translate to $20,500.00. From that amount all prior benefits would be deducted. Assuming that person had received $10,000.00 in lost wages during their period of disability following the injury, the balance due on the scheduled award would be $10,500.00. That would be paid in one lump sum upon a finding of permanency.
As you can see, less is more in that the person who misses very little time from work following the injury will be entitled to a larger schedule payment than someone with the same permanent impairment who missed an extensive period of time. This is ironic because one might think that the longer that you are disabled following the injury the more severe is must be. Unfortunately that does not always translate into a higher final payment. Often times it translate into a much lower payment.
The moral of the story is that in schedule loss of use cases, the sooner the injured worker returns to work the better chance they will receive a more significant schedule loss of use award payment.
In New York State the issue of permanency is very complicated and specific guidelines apply to which type of cases qualify for schedule loss of use awards.