New Online Portal Matches Pro Bono Attorneys With Injured Workers For Easier Access to Medical Treatment
Injured workers will now be able to obtain medical treatment more easily through the assistance of pro bono attorneys.
A new NYSBA-developed user-friendly online portal will match clients with volunteer attorneys. NYSBA and New York State Workers’ Compensation Board’s Injured Workers Legal Assistance Project have partnered to allow for faster processing of attorney referrals.
“New Yorkers who are injured at work deserve legal representation. But often, workers whose only desire is to make sure their medical bills are paid cannot find an attorney. That is why we are partnering with the Workers’ Compensation Board to help injured workers focus on healing rather than worrying about how they will pay their medical bills,” said NYSBA President Scott Karson. “It is the highest calling of our profession to take on pro bono work and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to justice.”
In medical-only claims, the insurance carrier or self-insured employer who pays the medical benefits has accepted liability but is disputing the medical treatment sought by the injured worker. These cases typically pose a challenge for injured workers seeking legal representation because no attorney fees are awarded when there are no lost wages. This can result in delayed or no medical treatment for workers.
John Snyder, chair of the Torts, Insurance and Compensation Law Section’s Workers Compensation Law Division Committee, noted it can be hard to find legal representation for workers’ compensation claims involving only medical treatment as significant litigation can result without the ability for an attorney to recover any fee for services.
“This program will provide a valuable service allowing injured workers to obtain representation and pursue necessary treatment” said Snyder. “It will also benefit the efficiency of the resolution process as attorneys help navigate through the required steps to obtain a determination on the care in question.”
“This marks another important action in New York’s long history of protecting workers’ rights and access to benefits,” said Clarissa M. Rodriguez, chair of the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board. “The Injured Workers Legal Assistance Project gives injured workers better access to justice when they have difficulty obtaining medical care for their work-related injury or illness. The project helps workers with medical-only claims find legal representation, which also improves the overall operation of the workers’ compensation system.”
Attorneys interested in volunteering can register here. Lawyers who are interested in volunteering will be required to participate in a free training webinar worth 2.0 MCLE credits. The training is presented by Alex C. Dell, founding attorney of the Law Firm of Alex Dell.
An injured workers right to proper and timely medical evaluation and treatment is one of the most important aspects of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law, said Dell.
He explained that in “far too many cases,” recommended evaluation and/or treatment requests are denied, thereby delaying necessary care to the injured worker.
Taking into consideration that injured workers are often dealing with a multitude of stressors after occupational trauma, and that the law itself has many challenging complexities, Dell said, “Attorneys can and do play a vital role in assisting the injured worker to obtain necessary and timely medical care.”
Volunteers must complete the training webinar to be eligible to receive cases from NYSBA. Malpractice insurance coverage is provided for volunteers.
NYSBA has a separate pro bono network that is providing volunteer attorneys to help New York residents who lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic access unemployment benefits. The association is also helping the families of COVID-19 victims with small estates handle these matters in Surrogates Court.