Beginning March 1, 2016, the New York Workers’ Compensation Board offers a means for resolving claims where only compensation is disputed on an expedited basis. The new rule allows a represented claimant and insurance carrier or special fund to agree to finalize a Section 32 agreement without a formal hearing proceeding having to take place.
New York allows for worker’s compensation claims to be disposed of by way of lump-sum payments called “Section 32 settlements” (the name comes from the part of the statute that authorizes the final dismissal settlements). Under the new rule, the Board can approve a proposed Section 32 without a hearing being held. This should dramatically reduce the time for Section 32s to be approved – often months would elapse before a lump-sum dismissal hearing is held.
Also, under the new rule, if the claimant cashes the settlement check, they can not dispute the agreement.
The text of the new rule reads:
A represented claimant and an employer, insurance carrier or special fund, who have had a dispute regarding compensation benefits determined by a workers’ compensation law judge, may agree to enter into a voluntary binding review process, wherein the parties establish the parameters of a section 32 agreement. Such proposed agreement with the parameters and other terms included therein, shall be submitted to a designee of the Chair. Upon the summary determination by the Chair’s designee made pursuant to and within the parameters of the parties’ agreement, such determination of compensation benefits set forth therein shall be deemed to be incorporated as a term of the agreement as approved by the board on the date the decision approving the agreement was duly filed and served pursuant to subparagraph b of section 32 of the Workers’ Compensation Law.
The value of the alternative means of resolution is an expedited timeline. The only current method of resolution for resolving a dispute about a determination of compensation by a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge is to file for administrative review, and wait for the decision by the three-member panel. The Board often takes months to render their decision.
Voluntary binding review is valuable because the wait for the Board to schedule a traditional Section approval hearing can sometimes stretch into months. This new process allows for a Section 32 to be quickly reviewed and approved.