Robert Golan, PC, a worker’s compensation lawyer serving the areas of Long Island, Nassau County, Queens and Suffolk County, recently settled a $250,000 case for a union carpenter who hurt his back at work in 2016. A misunderstanding over the definition of “work” caused the Judge to suspend the $800 per week of monetary benefits to that worker and his family.
At most Worker’s Compensation hearings, before monetary awards are made to an injured worker, the attorney for the insurance company routinely asks the worker if he has done any “work” since the last hearing or since his or her accident. “Work” to the court is defined as any activity that could be considered to be “work” such as bartering or volunteering your services, helping out a friend or family member with a business, working on the books, off the books, etc. Attorneys routinely inform the client of this definition before asking the client about work.
In this case, instead of the insurance company attorney asking the client, the Judge questioned the injured carpenter about work, but did not explain what the word “work” meant.
The carpenter answered “no” to the question, because most blue-collar workers define “work” as going to a job and getting a paycheck. Later, when the carpenter told the Judge, as required, that he had been helping his wife with her organic farm business, the Judge accused the carpenter of hiding his “work activity” from her and suspended his $800 per week workers compensation benefits that supported him and his family, and set a trial date for him to testify in detail about what he does to help his wife with her business.
The carpenter stated that had he known that “work” included volunteering his services to his wife, he surely would have told her about it up front. Even Judges make mistakes, but when they do it has an enormous impact on an injured worker who relies on them until that worker is able to go back to work.
Mr. Golan appealed the Judge’s actions and was successful in getting the Decision overturned and restored the carpenter’s $800 per week workers comp benefits.