Workers’ Compensation – Permanent Total Disability (2003)
Workplace eye injuries are common and can be extremely debilitating. Proper protection is necessary to shield eyes from chemicals and pesticides, tools and tool parts, dust and other airborne particles, flying objects and solar radiation, all of which can injure a worker.
Our client, who was legally blind in his left eye, injured his right eye at work in 1980. He was represented by another law firm, who closed his case in 1987 with a finding that he had a 100% loss of vision in his right eye and an award for that loss.
In 1998, almost eighteen years after the accident, he came to our office. We immediately applied to reopen his case arguing that there was clear evidence before the Board that the accident had left him blind in both eyes, and that as a result he had a permanent total disability as a matter of law.
A Workers’ Compensation Law Judge found in our client’s favor, and the insurance company appealed. The Workers’ Compensation Board upheld the judge’s conclusion that there was a permanent total disability, but limited payment to two years before our application to reopen – denying our client almost 10 years of benefits.
We appealed, and the Appellate Division, Third Department, reversed the Board, writing that it “was obligated to assess the prejudice” in denying our client nearly 10 years of benefits. When the case returned to the Board, the full award was made. This case created a new standard to make sure that workers do not lose the benefits they are entitled to by law simply because too much time has passed.