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Can interns get workers’ compensation in New York?

New York university and college students participate in internships to acquire practical experience and a better understanding of the industry in which they would like to work after graduation. None of them hope that their experience will include a personal injury, but like regular salaried workers, interns can be hurt on the job.

Employers in all states except Texas must provide worker’s compensation insurance to their employees so that the latter are covered if they are hurt at work or their responsibilities cause them to develop a condition or illness. Common examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive motion injuries, and cancer from exposure to toxic chemicals

People often wonder if the same protection is extended to interns, even those who are unpaid. In New York, the answer is yes, especially if any manual labor is involved. This doesn’t mean that they have to be performing physically demanding work, such as landscaping, unloading transport vehicles, or clearing a construction site. Distributing pamphlets and going to pick up a coffee order can qualify as manual labor.

The only interns exempt from mandatory coverage are students providing non-manual labor services to educational, religious, or charitable institutions, as per Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS tax code, although these organizations may opt to provide workers’ compensation coverage.

If you are an intern at (for example) a New York publishing house and hurt your back when you stumble on the stairs to deliver your boss’s mail, then you can file a workers’ compensation claim for medical expenses and, if you are being paid, lost wages.

If you are covered by worker’s compensation insurance, then you cannot sue your employer unless you can prove that your injuries were due to gross negligence on the part of that employer or someone else working for the company. However, if your injuries were caused by a negligent third party, such as one of your employer’s vendors, you can file a claim against them.

New York interns who have been hurt at work should immediately contact their manager or the employer’s human resources department for instructions on how to file a workers’ compensation insurance claim. They should also speak with a New York attorney with a strong background in workers’ comp cases, as it is not unusual for legitimate claims to be denied.

If a third party’s negligence was involved, then an experienced personal injury could help them claim damages that compensate them for their medical bills, loss of income, and other losses. The other party and their insurer will almost certainly try to downplay their culpability, so professional counsel can present an injured intern with the advantage they need for their claim to succeed. Jayson Lutzky is a lawyer with over 35 years of legal experience. He advocates for the rights of his clients if they were injured at work so that they can receive the compensation they need to get back on their feet. Call 718-329-9500 to set up a free in-person consultation.

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