Jurisdictional Speed Bumps in the Trucking Industry

When are Claims Compensable in New York Workers’ Compensation Law?

Workers’ Compensation claims are usually straight-forward – a claimant is injured on the job and brings a claim for benefits. Sometimes, though, claims are not always that simple at the outset. A claimant may live in one state, and be injured in a different state, while working for an employer whose base is in a third state. These situations can often arise in the trucking industry, and can leave employers wondering where the claimant will be able to recover Workers’ Compensation benefits, and which States’ laws apply.

Jurisdiction can be a convoluted area. Particularly because it is largely a gray area, with no mandatory or fine-tuned criteria. In New York Workers’ Compensation claims, the Board will look to whether there are “sufficient minimum contacts with New York State.”

What is the “sufficient minimum contacts” test?

“Sufficient minimum contacts” looks at each case separately, and considers multiple factors. These factors typically include whether the injury happened in New York; whether the claimant entered an employment agreement in New York; or whether the employer is principally based in New York.

That is not all a Law Judge will consider, though. The Board has also used additional facts to determine whether New York WC Law applies, including whether the claimant planned to return to New York after their employment, or whether they consider New York their “home base.” To add to this, Judges look to where the claimant receives mail, where they treat for their injuries, where the claimant parks their truck in between jobs, or where they cash paychecks. In one case, the Judge even considered that the claimant was recruited via advertising and newspapers that circulate in New York to be a factor in finding New York Law applied.

The Board will also look to the nature and degree of control that the employer has over the claimant, and its’ relation to the state. For example, which office the employer dispatched jobs from, whether the employer provided cell phones and whether the phone number was derived from New York State, whether the claimant delivers in New York, and the amount of those deliveries in comparison to other states.

What steps can employers take to protect themselves?

Since this is such a gray area without hard definitions, the most important thing employers can do is investigate the facts of each case individually, and maintain detailed records. Even seemingly small details when grouped together could sway a WCLJ. Make sure to fully investigate some of these factual issues before the first hearing, since jurisdiction needs to be raised at the outset of the claim. Finally, since these determinations are on a fact-specific basis, employers may need to contact an attorney to help determine their options.

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