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NYC Teacher Injury Lawyers

New York state school teachers are covered by workers’ compensation when injured on the job. However, this is not the case for New York City teachers, who are instead covered by injury-in-the-line-of-duty benefits provided by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the New York City teacher’s union. 

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This benefit is not as extensive as workers’ compensation, but a key difference is that teachers covered by this program retain the right to recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

The New York personal injury attorneys at Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP can help injured teachers claim fair and just compensation when they are injured on the job.

teacher leaning on wall

Common Teacher Injuries

Working in the classroom can be hazardous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, educators, librarians and training professionals face multiple risks of both fatal and non-fatal injuries.

Transportation Incidents

Transportation incidents are the most common cause of fatal accidents for educators. These incidents occur most often during school-sponsored field trips, such as when teachers accompany students on school buses.

Violence

Violence against educators in the school systems accounts for 27 percent of work-related fatalities among educators and was the second leading cause of fatal workplace injuries. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association:

  • One-third of teachers have experienced threats of violence from students
  • 29 percent reported at least one incident from a student’s parent
  • 14 percent have been victims of physical violence

Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls are the third most common cause of on-the-job fatalities by educators and the most common cause of non-fatal injuries resulting in missed days of work. Wet floors, running children and narrow hallways create a perfect storm for fall risks in NYC schools. Areas that are frequently cleaned like cafeterias and kitchens are especially hazardous.

Overexertion

Overexertion can occur as a result of strenuous activities like crawling, reaching and twisting, or as a result of repetitive motions such as typing, grading papers and writing on a dry erase board. Overexertion can lead to muscle strain and nerve compression. These injuries can be painful and may require surgery, pain relief and other medical interventions.

Contact with Objects and Equipment

The average age of a New York City school building is 70 years old, and many school buildings are poorly maintained and lack proper infrastructure. This, combined with the hard use of the facilities such as slamming doors, creates hazardous conditions for teachers, such as being struck or crushed by such items as falling bleachers and broken door frames.

Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments

Occupational illnesses can be just as debilitating and result in as many missed work days as injuries.

Asbestos

Asbestos exposure has been proven to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. These conditions typically show up decades after exposure. Asbestos was regularly used in insulation, flooring tiles and other building applications beginning in the early 1900s, with its use in schools peaking in the 1970s.

Buildings built during this era may still contain asbestos. As long as the asbestos remains undisturbed, this is not problematic. However, as floor tiles and other components begin to wear, fibers can be released into the air, where they can be inhaled. There are currently no known safe levels of asbestos exposure.

Mold

Mold is an environmental toxin that can be dangerous to inhale. As many as 20 percent of schools fail indoor air quality tests, and the problem is particularly rampant in New York City schools. Mold can grow on nearly any surface but requires oxygen, water and a source of food. In schools, it is commonly found on or near windows, water fountains, walls, ceiling tiles, bathroom tiles, hidden areas and even in books. 

COVID-19

COVID-19 policies in schools are constantly changing, and lawsuits are rampant as UFT and others sue the City for more remote learning, which would protect students and teachers from unnecessary exposure to the virus. As in-person learning increases and mask policies are relaxed, teachers face increased risks of exposure to the virus while at work.

empty classroom

Injury-in-the-Line-of-Duty Benefits

Injury-in-the-line-of-duty benefits include the following forms of assistance when teachers are injured in the line of duty:

  • Medical reimbursement of up to $750 
    • After the teacher’s own insurance coverage has paid 
    • No limit in cases of assault 
  • Property damage reimbursement of $100 
    • Special provisions for eyeglasses damaged during assaults 
  • Sick day reimbursement 
    • Reimbursement of sick days used as a result of workplace injuries 
    • Without the benefit, NYC teachers are provided 10 sick days per school year

Personal Injury Lawsuit

Injury-in-the-line-of-duty benefits may fall short of paying all damages when teachers experience severe injuries or illnesses. A personal injury lawsuit can help teachers recoup the true costs of their damages. Personal injury lawsuits require the plaintiff to prove negligence on the part of the defendant.

Negligence occurs when the at-fault party fails to act in a manner that would be expected of a person of ordinary prudence. To prove negligence, the following elements must exist:

  1. A duty of care
  2. A breach of the duty of care
  3. The sufferance of an injury
  4. Proximate cause

In a personal injury lawsuit against the school system, the defendant is the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE). You can also file a lawsuit against any individuals or outside third parties, such as school vendors.

How much compensation is available in a personal injury lawsuit?

The amount of compensation recoverable will depend on the long-term impact of your injury or illness, the degree to which the negligence contributed to the injury and the available insurance or assets from which damages could be collected.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are verifiable, monetary damages caused by your injuries, including but not limited to the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Lost wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-financial losses suffered as a result of the injury, including but not limited to the following:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Inconvenience
  • Humiliation

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages against individuals may be awarded in cases of malicious or reckless conduct, such as assault. Punitive damages generally will not be awarded against New York City.

What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims against NYC DOE?

Filing a lawsuit against NYC is different from filing against individuals. You must abide by the following time frames to successfully file a claim against the NYC DOE:

  • Within 24 hours of injury: Report your injury to your school administration using the Comprehensive Injury Report.  
  • Within 90 days of injury: Serve a notice of claim upon the City. You must then wait 30 days before filing an action.
  • Within one year and 90 days of injury: The lawsuit must be filed. 
  • Within three years: Actions against individuals or third-party businesses other than the school district

It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your injury to ensure your attorney has early access to supporting evidence and to allow sufficient time for your attorney to investigate and build your case.

How can a lawyer help me with my NYC teacher injury claim?

Occupational injuries and illnesses can cause employees to feel uneasy about their financial futures. This situation can be especially confusing for New York City teachers who must meet multiple procedural obligations and deadlines.

Despite years of loyal service, you may find that the Department of Education is less than helpful with regard to your injuries. Standing alone against the teachers’ union and the city is especially overwhelming while coping with severe injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney can manage these details for you and ensure all filings are completed within specified time frames.

What is the cost to hire a personal injury attorney?

Our firm operates on a contingency fee arrangement, which means you pay nothing unless and until we secure compensation for you.

Why should I choose Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP?

The experienced personal injury attorneys at Meirowitz and Wasserberg, LLP have the resources and proven skills to stand up to powerful entities like the NYC DOE. We have a national reputation as top lawyers who deliver remarkable results for our clients, having been selected for such prestigious designations as Super Lawyers Rising Stars and Top 100 Civil Litigator. 

Our firm provides those who have been unfairly injured by others with all the resources available to large companies while providing personalized, caring service to each client. While we prioritize the building of a strong legal case, we dedicate ourselves to the needs of each client and assist them with finding quality care and other resources to meet their needs.

Below are a few examples of the results we have achieved for our clients:

  • $5.1 million mesothelioma settlement on behalf of a machinist who contracted mesothelioma
  • $1.2 million settlement for a Merchant Marine electrician with lung cancer
  • $675,000 for a woman critically injured when her ignition failed and her airbag failed to deploy
  • $550,000 for a client whose fingertip was severed by a defective beach chair

New York City school teachers who are injured on the job may be entitled to substantial compensation, but they have limited time to act. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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