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Workers Comp for Gradual Injuries

The goal of workers’ compensation in New York is not to assign fault, but to provide medical care and compensation to workers who have been injured in the course of their employment. Many workplace injuries occur suddenly, as a result of a specific incident. However, workers who suffer work-related injuries that happen gradually over time are also eligible for workers’ compensation.

In the Matter of NYC Health and Hosp. Corp., a hospital food service aide suffered a hernia in 2009 when he lifted a heavy dessert bowl. The issue in this case was whether the claimant’s injury was causally related to his employment. The claimant began having stomach pains in 2007 and was diagnosed with a hernia in 2008. In 2009, he underwent hernia repair surgery, which caused the claimant to miss one month of work. The claimant submitted a letter from a doctor, who opined that the injury was a result of strenuous physical activity at work.

Under New York law, the Workers’ Compensation Board may classify an injury as accidental, even when it happens gradually over time. The claimant must show that a specific aspect of the workplace was a contributing factor to the gradually developing accidental injury. It must establish this through competent medical evidence.

In the Matter of NYC Health and Hosp. Corp., the workers’ compensation law judge initially found that the evidence of causal relationship was insufficient. However, the board panel majority reviewed and reversed this decision, finding that the claimant’s hernia was indeed work-related. The full board agreed, ruling that the claimant’s bilateral inguinal hernia was causally related to the heavy lifting required by his position as a service aide.

Do not assume that you are precluded from bringing a workers’ compensation claim because you had symptoms of an injury for a period of time. Workers’ compensation claims are highly fact-dependent, and it is best to consult an experienced NY workers’ compensation attorney to have your unique case evaluated. Se habla español.

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