Most individuals go to work and do not expect to have an accident or occupational disease that injures them. The reality, however, is that job-related accidents and occupational injuries are not uncommon. If you have been injured on the job and are unable to work, our experienced attorneys can help you get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve.
Who is covered?
With minor exceptions, all New Jersey workers are covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act’s coverage provisions. For those workers who have not expressly opted-out, their injuries are covered without regard to the negligence of the employer. Employees are not entitled to coverage, however, if their injury is self-inflicted or the result of intoxication. In some limited circumstances, workers may also not be covered if they willfully fail to use personal protective devices.
What types of injuries are covered?
There are two types of claims. The first are traumatic injuries from a one-time accident. The second type of claim is for occupational injuries that result from repeated exposure or repetitive activities.
What types of benefits are provided?
Workers’ compensation provides three benefits:
- Medical benefits;
- Temporary disability benefits; and
- Permanent disability benefits.
Workers who are injured on the job are entitled to receive necessary and reasonable medical treatment for their work-related illnesses or injuries at no cost to the employee. A main feature of the New Jersey workers’ compensation structure is that the employer controls the medical benefits. This means that the employer determines which medical providers will treat the employee. It also means that the employer’s physician determines when the employee has reached maximum medical improvement and therefore no longer needs treatment. Sometimes, the injured employee will want additional treatment, a second opinion, or treatment from a medical provider who is not associated with his employer. For those reasons, it is important that you have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side.
If you are disabled for more than seven days, you are eligible for temporary total disability benefits, which are paid at 70% of your average weekly wage. There are however, minimum and maximum rates set by statute. For example, the 2016 temporary disability minimum and maximum rates are $232/$871. Temporary disability benefits are paid while you are unable to work and under active medical care. They are terminated once you have reached maximum medical improvement, have returned to work, or reached the 400-week maximum.
Workers who have sustained a permanent bodily impairment but who are not totally and permanently disabled may receive permanent partial benefits. These weekly benefits are based upon the worker’s functional loss, and are paid after the period of temporary disability has ended.
If you are unable to return to any gainful employment, you may be entitled to receive permanent total disability benefits. These weekly benefits are paid for an initial period of 450 weeks (over 8½ years), and may continue beyond that initial period if the worker can demonstrate that they remain totally disabled. Like the temporary total disability benefits, permanent total benefits are paid at 70% of your average weekly wage subject to the statutory minimum and maximum.
Can I sue my employer in civil court?
Usually, workers are not permitted to sue their employers in civil court. The only exception to the “exclusive remedy” provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 34:15-8, is called the “intentional wrong” exception. This is an extremely high bar, but there are situations when an employer’s actions are so egregious that they create a substantial certainty of injury to their employees and the circumstances surrounding the injury are not considered part of the reality of everyday industrial life. In those cases, the employee is permitted to file a civil claim against their employer. There are other situations when the injury-causing instrumentality results from another party, so the employee can file a workers’ compensation claim against their employer and also pursue a civil lawsuit against a third party. This is most common in the construction accident context, as there are often many different companies working on the same jobsite. Call one of our experienced attorneys to help you determine if you have a third-party claim.
I was injured at work, what should I do?
- Get necessary medical attention.
- Notify your employer about the accident or illness as soon as possible. You can notify anyone in authority at your employer’s place of business, such as a human resources director, a foreman, or a supervisor. Your notice does not need to be in writing.
- If you need further medical treatment, request it from your employer as soon as possible.
- Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help guide you through the process.