New York State workers’ compensation fraud may take many forms and result in a myriad of consequences. WLC § 114(a) not only governs circumstances of fraud but also describes significant penalties for those who are caught committing fraud such as a permanent ban on their eligibility to receive indemnity benefits and/or a permanency award.
In New York, pursuant to Workers’ Compensation Law § 114-a (1), a claimant may be disqualified from receiving workers’ compensation benefits “[i]f for the purpose of obtaining compensation . . . or for the purpose of influencing any determination regarding any such payment, [he or she] knowingly makes a false statement or representation as to a material fact.” A fact is “material” if it is “significant or essential to the issue or matter at hand,” and it need not be demonstrated here that claimant received compensation to which he was not otherwise entitled or that he did not sustain a compensable injury (Matter of Losurdo v Asbestos Free, 1 NY3d 258, 265 .
Recently the Third Department of the New York Appellate Division entertained an appeal in which the claimant was disqualified from receiving future benefits and forced to pay back past benefits as a result of violating Workers’ Compensation Law § 114-a, therefore committing fraud. The case, Matter of Poupore v Clinton County Highway Dept. 2016 NY Slip Op 03037 was decided on April 21, 2016. In this case, the penalty imposed by the Law Judge and the Board Panel was upheld on appeal.
Any person who knowingly and intending to defraud the workers’ compensation system by presenting (or assisting in presenting) an application for benefits, which contains a misrepresentation of a material fact. The penalty: Class E Felony charges. In addition to a Class E Felony conviction, the claimant who is convicted loses the right to all past and future compensation benefits. Fraudsters have to return any money they got through their fraud. WCL § 114. This is contrary to the general rule of law that claimants do not have to pay back money fraudulently obtained.
A claimant who applies for workers’ compensation benefits is required to provide accurate records and truthful statements to the WCB, the insurance carrier, and the employer. However, the law does not require the claimant to give a truthful account of their condition to their medical care provider. The prohibition on false representations appears to only apply to false statements made to get a monetary benefit – it does not appear to apply to medical awards or benefits, since the prohibition on lying applies only to WCL § 15 (indemnity awards) and not expressly to § 13 (medical benefits) or § 16 (death benefits).
An employer has the right to report suspected workers’ compensation fraud to the Fraud Inspector General. However, fraud will actually be inspected by the office of the Workers’ Compensation Fraud Inspector General which is actually staffed by WCB employees. The Fraud Inspector does not prosecute cases – rather, it refers cases to local authorities for prosecution. Continue reading Explainer: Fraud as a Defense in New York Workers’ Compensation Claims.→