New York Workers’ Compensation Board Proposes a “Second Draft” of the 2018 Impairment Guidelines – and these are Not Favorable to Employers and Carriers.

The day before Thanksgiving the Board released new proposed Guidelines – and these are not great for employers. But wait, what about the draft Guidelines that were issued in September and we were so excited for? Those Guidelines, widely viewed as favorable to carrier and employers as they appeared designed to curtail the worst abuses of the current impairment determination guidelines, have been scrapped.

The new proposed Guidelines are here. When you check them out it will be clear that the old “range of motion” system that the Board was supposed to scrap and start over from has returned. The whole point of the April 2017 statutory reform was that the Board had to adopt updated Scheduled Loss of Use guidelines that reflected “medical advances” (i.e., better outcomes for basic injuries) and were supposed to address the fact that employees with minor injuries, with little or no impact on their working ability, were collecting giant SLU awards, often with only a few days of lost time (which goes to show that there really wasn’t any impact on their working ability). Instead, the Board has caved into pressure from union and “pro-worker” groups (read: trial attorneys representing workers and collecting fat fees) and issued new Guidelines that are bad for businesses and carriers.

Why is this a big deal?

The Board must adopt new Guidelines for Determining Impairment in Schedule Loss of Use cases (think fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, toes) which will take effect on January 2, 2018. The first proposed impairment guidelines were a departure from the prior practice before the Board – in a good way! The initial draft was favorable to employers in that the most frustrating and unfair cases – where the claimant loses minimal time from work for a Schedule Loss of Use Injury (meaning, a minor injury) would result in giant Scheduled Loss of Use awards based on range of motion testing. In those cases, where there was neglible (if any) impact on the claimant’s working ability, it is patently unfair that the employer must pay large Schedule Loss of Use awards based on turn of the century medical guidelines that don’t reflect anything more than subjective range of motion tests. These latest draft guidelines bring back that old range of motion system.

What can we do about it?

The proposed Guidelines are now in “comment period.” Comments can be made here. The Board was clearly persuaded by the flood of comments from the unions and trial attorneys – we are recommending that our clients review the “new” Guidelines and make comments urging the Board to adopt the first proposed impairment guideline.

Training on the New Guidelines.

We will be running training on the new Guidelines, in whatever form they take, on January 8, 2017 in multiple sessions. Register here:
Register for 12PM EST January 8 – New Guidelines Training
Register for 3PM EST January 8 – New Guidelines Training

Both webinars are LIVE and Questions-and-Answer sessions will be held.

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC, a 21-attorney law firm dedicated to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers’ compensation claims.

Greg is the author of a popular series of “Handbooks” on workers’ compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 & 2017 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Practice Guide.

Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@lois-llc.com