Congratulations to Pasternack Tilker Attorneys Recognized As 2018 Super Lawyers

We are proud to congratulate each of Victor PasternackJordan ZieglerKevin WalshCatherine Stanton, and Edgar Romano for being named to the New York Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2018. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers.

This is the 13th consecutive year Ziegler has been selected, the 12th consecutive selection for Stanton, the 10th for Pasternack, the 9th for Romano and the 5th for Walsh.

We are honored that so many of our attorneys have been a recurring presence on this prestigious list for over a decade.

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. The first Super Lawyers list was published in 1991.

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Injured? Don’t Wait To Report It

The New York Worker’s Compensation Law is a no-fault system that provides medical and monetary benefits to any worker injured while on the job. Though the threshold for establishing a worker’s compensation claim is not high compared to standards in other areas of the law, there are a few important things every injured worker should know. Claims can be rejected because too much time has passed (time-barred), so it’s important to report your injury to your employer and file a claim as soon as possible after the injury occurs.

Under New York law, an injured worker has two years after the date of their accident to file a claim with the Worker’s Compensation board. In the case of an occupational disease that is due to the nature of the job (like carpal tunnel syndrome), the worker has two years from the date that they knew or should have known that their injury was sustained in the course of employment. While two years may seem like a lot of time, many seemingly minor injuries can become much more serious down the line, so to protect yourself it’s important to file a claim as soon as possible after the injury occurs.

The law also requires that employers have adequate notice of the injury. For accidental injuries, the worker must notify their employer about the injury within thirty days of the accident. For an occupational disease, the time limit is relaxed to two years from the date that the worker knew or should have known that the condition was caused by their work activities. Adequate notice can either be oral or written, so even just telling your supervisor that you had an injury on the job is good enough. However, to prevent this from becoming an issue it’s best to fill out an accident report or to provide your employer with some form of written notice of your injury as soon as possible.

Though most claims will need to be reported and filed within these time frames, there are certain exceptions that may apply. If you have any questions about a work injury or how to properly file a claim, reach out to us for a free consultation.

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Don’t Go It Alone

An injured worker walked through my door the other day frustrated beyond belief. He had been representing himself on his compensation claim for his back injury. He thought he did not need a lawyer and could handle it himself.

The insurance company accepted the claim and paid this worker only a fraction of what he was actually entitled to, though that was not the issue the client wanted to discuss. He did not even realize that he had been short changed.

What he wanted to discuss was getting back surgery. His doctor requested a laminectomy, but the insurance company told the doctor and the injured worker that they were not going to authorize it or pay for it. This man had been suffering terrible back pain for nearly six months and his surgery was never scheduled.

The injured worker was shocked when I told him that the insurance company did not have to give authorization — this surgery was already authorized under the Board’s Medical Treatment Guidelines. The insurance company knew this of course, but seemingly played ignorant to avoid paying for the needed surgery.

When I then told him that he could not only have his surgery, but also had been paid less than half of the indemnity payments to which he was entitled, the gentleman shook his head in frustration and said, “I shouldn’t have done this alone.”

How right he was. The New York Workers Compensation system is extremely complicated. Insurance companies know the system well and often do not tell unrepresented injured workers details that matter, often while telling the injured worker that they are acting in their best interest.

Do not go it alone.  At Pasternack, Tilker, Ziegler, Walsh, Stanton, and Romano, with more than eight decades of experience in defending the rights of New Yorkers, we help clients get the justice they deserve.

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Injured Volunteer Firefighters And Ambulance Workers May Be Eligible For Benefits

New York workers are generally covered by the Workers’ Compensation Law, but there are special laws which cover volunteer first responders – firefighters and ambulance workers.

Closely aligned with the Workers’ Compensation Law are the Volunteer Firefighter Benefits Law (VFBL) and the Volunteer Ambulance Workers Benefit Law (VAWBL). As their titles suggest, these two laws protect people who volunteer in the potentially hazardous duties of fighting fires, responding to motor vehicle accidents and tending to those injured in a variety of circumstances. While not all firefighters and ambulance workers are unpaid, many areas outside the five boroughs of New York City and other smaller cities maintain volunteer forces to provide these indispensable services. Given the inherent danger involved, volunteers often suffer injury when “on duty”.

In the event of an injury, both laws provide wage replacement benefits and medical coverage. Also, there is a “built in” presumption of an earning capacity for volunteers; therefore, even if a volunteer is not otherwise employed, she or he may be entitled to benefits. In addition to physical injury, the laws cover such events as exposure to noxious fumes, smoke or chemicals and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The list of what entails an “injury in the line of firematic or ambulance worker duty” is extensive. These events include maintaining vehicles and participation in certain department-sanctioned events. We take pride in representing those who volunteer their efforts in the service of others, especially when those efforts can be fraught with danger.

In order to best insure that your rights are protected, be sure to contact our office for a no-cost consultation. And thank you for volunteering!

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Firm News: Edgar Romano Named Managing Partner; Matthew Funk Named Senior Partner

It is with great pleasure that we announce the promotions of two of our colleagues. They have, over decades, demonstrated hard work and dedication to injured workers, to their communities, to the practice of law, and to our firm.

Managing Partner Edgar N. Romano

Edgar Romano, formerly a Senior Partner, has been named the Managing Partner of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. Mr. Romano litigates workers compensation claims, including cases involving occupational exposure, asbestos and industrial irritants.

His community involvement is extensive – he has lectured extensively to labor unions and medical providers, is a Past President of the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is on the Board of Directors of the New York State Workers Compensation Bar Association.

Among is many passions, Mr. Romano is dedicated to helping those injured on September 11th and to help in this cause he serves on the Advisory Committee of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital and on the Advisory Board of the I.J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

 

Senior Partner Matthew Funk

Matthew Funk has been elevated from Partner to Senior Partner. He handles workers compensation cases for the firm. Mr. Funk is the current President of the  New York Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) and the Co-Chair of the NYSTLA Workers’ Compensation Committee, a member of the Legislative Committee, No-Fault Committee and Labor Law Committee. Since 1999, he has written for the NYSTLA Decisions program and has lectured at the Decisions program on the topic of Workers’ Compensation.

Matthew serves on the Executive Board of the Injured Workers Bar Association, participating in online round table discussions regarding the rights of injured workers. He is a Workers Compensation Committee member of the New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). Matthew regularly lectures on the workers compensation law to various labor organizations. In 2017, Matthew was honored with a City & State Corporate Social Responsibility Award in the Law sector.

 

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Saving Our Benefits – How Public Outcry Saved Workers’ Compensation in New York

Some of you may recall that injured workers and their families were used as political scapegoats by big business and insurance interests who blamed them for the high cost of doing business in New York.  Workers’ Compensation benefits became an easy target as those who needed these benefits were hardly in a position to fight against the deep pockets and political clout of these lobbying groups.  

As a result of political pressure during New York State budget negotiations, there was a direction to update the existing impairment guidelines under the guise of reducing costs to employers while still protecting injured workers. The final budget contained a provision directing the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) to put together a task force with input from labor, the insurance industry, medical providers, and the NYS Business Council to revise impairment guidelines to reflect “advances in modern medicine that enhance hearings and result in better outcomes”.  These impairment guidelines determine the amount of compensation payable to an injured worker for a permanent injury.

Unfortunately for injured workers, the WCB unilaterally revamped and rewrote the guidelines and released them during a holiday weekend with a 45-day public comment period. These proposed guidelines bore very little resemblance to the recommendations made by labor groups and the Orthopedic Society, and were an outrageous abuse of power. As a result of a very public outcry, the New York State Assembly Labor Committee held a public hearing during which it became very clear to labor groups, injured workers’ advocates, and members of the State Legislature that the Board’s egregious actions would result in a slashing of benefits to injured workers at a time when they are most vulnerable.

Public outcry led to action. Workers’ advocates showed up at a number of WCB locations across the state, including Hauppauge, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, for Days of Action. More than 100,000 postcards objecting to the proposed changes were delivered. Members of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the AFL-CIO, NYCOSH, New York City District Council of Carpenters, DC37, and countless others all publicly railed against these changes. Members of the Legislature called out the WCB for overstepping its authority and for proposing changes that would vastly favor the Business Council over the injured worker. 

The Worker’s Comp Board subsequently issued amended revisions, and while there are still some reductions, it was a significant improvement over the initial version. The final version was released last year on December 29. It is clear that grassroots efforts sometimes do work. Governor Cuomo and the WCB Chair clearly listened, and for that we are grateful. We are also grateful to those State legislators, union groups, and medical providers who submitted their insight on the impact the original proposals would have on injured workers.

Lastly, it is clear that those who may have been past or current recipients of Workers’ Compensation benefits – those who have known injured workers or those who just saw an injustice and wanted to help right a wrong – took the time to make a phone call, send a letter, or sign a petition. The outpouring of support took many by surprise, including those interests that were financed by big business groups.   One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Truer words were never spoken.

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

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Dangerous Toys Remain Serious Concern, CPSC Under Attack

Dangerous toys remain serious concern, especially with CPSC under attack. New York personal injury attorney Matt Funk explains.

Dangerous toys remain a serious problem, even though the Consumer Product Safety Commission has focused on banning unsafe toys since the CPSC was created 45 years ago, thanks to repeated warnings by attorneys focused on consumer safety.

But the CPSC and its power to recall dangerous toys are now under attack, according to New York attorney Matt Funk, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and a partner at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP.

Last year, 240,000 people were hurt by dangerous toys, according to CPSC statistics. The CPSC also issued 28 voluntary recalls for dangerous toys, according to the CPSC.  But since the recalls are voluntary, many dangerous toys remain in households throughout the country.

That’s why attorneys play such a vital role in removing dangerous toys from the marketplace. Examples of dangerous toys that attorneys have pressured the CPSC to recall include:

“With the prospect of the federal government reducing its already inadequate consumer protection activities, the task of defending the public will once again fall on consumers. And their lawyers,” Funk wrote in the New York Law Journal.

The power of the CPSC is under attack in two major ways. First, President Trump has proposed cutting the CPSC’s budget by 17 percent, according to The New York Times. Second, Trump has nominated attorney Dana Baiocco to run the CPSC, according to the New York Daily News. Baiocco has reportedly “represented companies accused of selling dangerous and defective products—including toy manufacturer Mattel when it was facing lawsuits because of lead in its products… Can consumers be sure that she will be looking out for them the next time a company is accused of selling a dangerous product,” Funk wrote.

“As lawyers, we have a special opportunity to make sure the toys and other products on the store shelves are safe,” Funk added. 

Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton and Romano LLP

 

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Outrage Over Proposed Benefit Cuts Dominates Public Comment Period – How To Keep Pressure On Lawmakers

As you may recall, the issue of Workers’ Compensation benefits for injured workers was used as a bargaining chip in Albany during this year’s budget negotiations. A compromise was reached that would update the current medical treatment guidelines to reduce costs to employers while still protecting the rights of injured workers. October 23, 2017, was the final day interested parties could comment regarding the proposed changes. 

In order to reach this goal, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board was directed to put together a task force with input from labor, the insurance industry, medical providers, and the Business Council to revise the impairment guidelines to reflect “advances in modern medicine that enhance healing and result in better outcomes.” On the Friday of a holiday weekend, in order to diminish media coverage of the results, the final draft was released. This was not a revision, but rather a full-scale re-write of the guidelines. Labor groups, injured workers’ advocates, and member s of the State Legislature were justifiably outraged.

One of the provisions would allow insurance company doctors to question injured workers without their lawyer present, which could negatively impact future legal proceedings. If an injured worker refused to answer a question, the insurance company doctor could deem the injured worker as “uncooperative,” which could result in a suspension of benefits. Even worse, the end results of these proposed guidelines would slash benefits in some cases up to 97%, and for others, there would be none. 

As a result of the controversy, the New York State Assembly Labor Committee held a public hearing at which representatives of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board testified first about the procedure used to formulate their revisions. They testified that they had a number of meetings with the Orthopedic Society, as well as discussions with the AFL-CIO and the insurance industry.  A number of additional witnesses testified, including members of the task force, and it became abundantly clear that the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board started their own re-write to these guidelines more than two years prior to any direction to do so. It was also clear that the end result had little resemblance to the recommendations made by the AFL-CIO or the Orthopedic Society.

It is now more than 45 days since the proposed re-write was put out for public comment, and the list of those who are opposed is tremendous. On October 18, worker advocates showed up at a number of Workers’ Compensation Board locations across the state for Days of Action including at Hauppauge, Brooklyn, and Buffalo. More than 100,000 postcards objecting to the proposed changes were delivered.  Members of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, the AFL-CIO, NYCOSH, New York City District Council of Carpenters, DC37, and countless more have all publicly railed against these changes.  Members of the Legislature have called out the Workers’ Compensation Board for overstepping their authority and for proposing changes that would vastly favor the Business Council over the injured worker. 

While the comment period is finished, you can still voice your outrage by contacting your State Senator and Assembly member and telling them that injured workers don’t deserve to lose any more benefits.  Sometimes after an injury, Workers’ Compensation is what prevents a worker from losing everything.

 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

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