New Changes in Workers’ Comp Law

New York State’s budget passed in early April with some sweeping changes to the Workers’ Compensation Law.  Most importantly, the new law directed the Chair of the  Workers’ Compensation Board to revise the permanency guidelines used to determine the schedule loss of use for permanent impairments to injured workers’ limbs, eyes and hearing loss in order to reflect “advancements in modern medicine”.  The new law required that the Chair consult with representatives of labor, business, medical providers, insurance carriers and self-insured employers when making these revisions.

The former Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Board, Kenneth Munnelly, issued proposed new revisions to the permanency guidelines on September 2, 2017.  These proposed revisions called for dramatic reductions in the schedule loss of use awards injured workers’ could receive.  Mr. Munnelly, contrary to the Legislature’s directive, issued these new guidelines with little or no input from the medical community or those representing the rights of injured workers.  Because these new proposed permanency guidelines so negatively affected the rights of injured workers, there was great concern the revisions were heavily or unfairly influenced by the insurance companies and the self-insured businesses who directly pay workers’ compensation benefits.

Public outcry over the lack of transparency in the formulation of these proposed guidelines forced the Workers’ Compensation Board to withdraw them.  Chair Munnelly resigned.  The New York State Assembly held public hearings examining the process, or lack of process, used in formulating these revisions as well as their true purpose.  On November 23, 2017, the Workers’ Compensation Board issued a new set of proposed permanency guidelines.

The primary differences between the permanency guidelines which have been in effect for many years and the most recent revisions involve certain special considerations to the shoulder and knee.  Tears to the rotator cuff and meniscal tears to the knee will no longer be accorded a value for the tear itself.  Also, under the old guidelines a total knee replacement was given an average range of 50-55% loss of use to the knee.  With the new guidelines, a total knee replacement will be subject to a range between 35% and 80%.  Finally, shoulder replacements were previously accorded a schedule loss of use between 60-66 2/3% are now subject to a range between 35% and 80%.

The new guidelines, but for the elimination of tears to the rotator cuff and meniscus, are more in line with the direction called for by the Legislature and are effective January 1, 2018.  Thankfully, the shroud of secrecy woven by the Workers’ Compensation Board in its attempt to unfairly and dramatically restrict the rights of injured workers to receive schedule loss of use awards has been lifted and a fairer but by no means perfect system adopted.

Segar & Sciortino has served Western New York for 25 years in the areas of Workers’ Compensation, Social Security Disability and Personal Injury(Accident) Law. Call us today at (585) 475-1100 or contact us for a free consultation. Local experience you can trust to get the benefits you deserve.