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New York State Retirement Disability: What Does, and Does Not, Qualify as an Accident?


Employees of New York State or local municipalities are entitled to coverage under the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). Under normal circumstances, an employee would need to accrue a certain number of service credits before being permitted to retire. Under certain circumstances, however, a worker may be permitted to collect the full amount of their retirement through accidental disability, regardless of when they become disabled.

Accidental disability, in contrast to ordinary or performance of duty disability, is only available where a worker is injured on the job and rendered permanently disabled, physically or mentally, by an unexpected and unforeseen occurrence which would not be considered a predictable risk of the worker’s job, nor a result of the employee’s own negligence. For example, this requirement of unanticipated injury rules out claims by police officers who were shot on the job, as taking gunfire is a risk that police officers should anticipate. However, if a state employee who worked in human resources was shot on the job by someone visiting the office, this incident could qualify the victim for accidental disability.

The stories of denials for accidental liability are numerous. In one case, a prison guard who was tasked with monitoring inmates as they mopped floors made a claim for her injuries received from slipping and falling on the wet floor. Her claim was denied, due to the fact that slipping on a wet floor could be an anticipated form of harm for someone observing an inmate mop. In another case, a security guard’s application for accidental disability resulting from tripping and falling over a crack in the sidewalk was denied, since the fall happened while he was on patrol over a section of sidewalk that had long been part of his patrol route, and was thus not unexpected. Due to the complex factual showing required, it is highly recommended that, in order to obtain this form of disability, you contact an experienced disability attorney to assist you in your application.

Since meeting the standard of what is considered an accident under the law is difficult, a skilled attorney will likely file applications for more than one disability benefit at the same time, or even for service retirement, depending on your eligibility, in order to increase your chances of receiving compensation. NYSLRS will consider applications for multiple benefit types simultaneously when those applications are labeled “file without prejudice.” If more than one benefit application is approved, then you will be permitted to select the benefit you wish to receive. There are a myriad of important timing requirements, as well as a requirement under certain circumstances and for members of certain tiers to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Hiring an attorney to handle your initial application will greatly increase your chances of receiving your benefits, and receiving them the first time you apply.

If you have been rendered disabled by a work-related injury in New York and need help in filing for benefits, contact the experienced and knowledgeable Highland disability attorney Peter M. Cordovano, P.C. at (845) 414-8482.

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