Insurance carriers usually have attorneys, or experienced representatives, at these hearings
New York, NY (PRWEB) April 7, 2009
Many injured workers in New York State choose to abandon pursuit of their own much-needed workers' compensation claim rather than face another day of frustration and failure at the hands of a heavily-politicized system that is riddled with "delays, suspicion and questionable rulings," according to an exhaustive 3-part investigative series published this week in The New York Times.
"The New York Times reporters hit the nail right on the head with this report," said David Perecman, a New York personal injury lawyer whose law firm handles workers' compensation cases.
"Even in what appears on the surface," he said, "to be a simple comp claim, where the insurance company agrees that an injury or illness is covered by workers' compensation, and the claim is accepted, there may be delays and other problems that arise that could have been expedited, or avoided altogether, if the disabled employee sought the advice of a New York personal injury lawyer before filing the claim, or before a dispute had arisen."
Perecman, who is also a co-chair of the Labor Law Committee of The New York State Trial Lawyers Association, said that some experienced trial attorneys are not only intimately familiar with New York State's Workers' Compensation Board guidelines, but they also understand the medical issues associated with these cases and know how to explain an injured worker's real disability to the judges and medical examiners who work for the Board and preside over workers' compensation claims in New York State.
"Many personal injury lawyers," he explained, "are well versed in medicine, particularly trauma. We bring in medical witnesses to support our client's case and use our medical knowledge to cross-examine the employer's, or their insurance company's, witnesses. We often expose their witnesses for what they are: insurance company doctors who know how to testify to help the company that butters their bread.
"Plus," he added, "trial lawyers know how to handle personal injury cases. We have more experience when it comes to challenging a doctor's testimony."
Rebuffing statements made by Board examiners that the majority of workers lie about their conditions and take advantage of the system, Perecman said that Board doctors are grossly exaggerating the situation. Based on the hundreds of clients The Perecman Firm has represented, very few have tried to game the system.
"When my clients come to me they are injured and can't work," Perecman said. "Pain is subjective. But when a sanitation worker injures their meniscus and their knee hurts so much they can't lift anything heavy, they need arthroscopic surgery to correct the problem, or they can't go back to work."
Perecman said that workers' compensation is also difficult to manage without legal counsel because certain City of New York workers, such as firefighters, sanitation workers, teachers, police officers and others are covered by union carve out programs.
"For an injured worker trying to figure out how the system works, it can appear as if there are at least two sets of rules, " Perecman said. "One for certain New York City employees, and another for other workers, such as Transit Authority employees, for example."
"For some workers," he added, "such as Transit Authority workers, who are not employees of the City of New York, the laws for workers' compensation, and how they affect a person's right to bring a lawsuit against certain parties, will create different results. The way the system is set-up now now, if a transit worker is injured, or killed on the job, the employee is not allowed to sue his or her employer in civil court for the accident or injury."
Perecman further explained that since the Transit Authority provides workers' compensation insurance to its employees, a transit authority worker, and by extension the worker's family members, are only entitled to file a claim against the Transit Authority for workers' compensation, or for workers' compensation death benefits. The injured worker cannot bring a lawsuit against the Authority in civil court, nor can the worker sue a co-worker for an on-the-job injury, even if the Transit Authority, or the co-worker, was at fault.
"But Transit Authority workers," he said, "are permitted to file a civil claim against any other party who caused their injury, including the City of New York, because the city is not their employer, the Authority is."
To illustrate an inherent complication in the current system, Perecman described a complicated workers' worker's compensation case his law firm handled recently involving a claimant who was seriously injured when a piece of heavy metal fell on him.
The individual sustained injuries to his head, shoulder, neck and back including seven herniated discs in the cervical and lumbar areas. The claimant was receiving workers' compensation benefits until the insurance carrier decided to pull the rug out from underneath him and require him to be reexamined by three of their own medical consultants, each of whom later filed reports saying he had recovered and could return to work.
"Insurance carriers usually have attorneys, or experienced representatives, at these hearings," Perecman said. "In this instance, the testimony of both the claimant and the insurance carrier's medical witnesses was highly technical. By getting The Perecman Firm involved, the claimant put the same level of experience, if not more, in his corner, as the insurance carrier had in theirs.
"This story," he added, "clearly serves to demonstrate why it is often in the best interest of the person who is injured on the job to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced personal injury lawyer. As a result of our intervention, this claimant had his workers' compensation benefits reinstated."