You slip and fall at work in New Jersey Whether it was a power cord at the office or spilled liquid on the restaurant’s floor, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation for medical costs resulting from this fall. For instance, if you injured your neck or badly sprained a wrist trying to break the fall.
These injuries could even keep you from work for multiple days, weeks, or more. Then, you would be entitled to disability benefits under workers’ compensation in New Jersey. However, these injuries were not entirely new. You hurt your neck in a softball game four years earlier or broke your wrist rollerblading last summer and it stayed tender and fragile.
Do these old injuries change anything? If you had a pre-existing condition, of any kind, does it affect your right to workers’ compensation under New Jersey law?
Broad Right to Workers’ Compensation in New Jersey
New Jersey workers’ compensation is available to all employees who suffer a job-related injury. This includes employees who acted negligently. It even applies to incidents that involve the recklessness or negligence of a third party. This policy is not only protective of employees who accept risk of injury as part of their job duties, but keeps employers accountable for training, safety standards, and oversight.
The law in New Jersey even covers exacerbation or acceleration of a pre-existing condition. Employers and insurance companies are prohibited from denying workers’ compensation benefits due to a pre-existing condition. Further, how the original injury occurred is entirely irrelevant for your workers’ compensation claim.
If an employer or insurance provider delays or denies a workers’ compensation claim based on a pre-existing condition, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer in New Jersey to discuss.
What does matter is evidence that the workplace incident worsened the old injury. Insurance providers and the New Jersey Department of Labor will want proof of this fact to assess a claim or settlement. What these parties will look for during a workers’ compensation case is whether the incident and injury were linked. The insurance provider may also be looking for evidence the injury did not worsen while at work.
Always Report Your Injuries, Even if You have a Pre-Existing Condition
A pre-existing condition can make employees leery to report injuries. Even if that injury accelerated or exacerbated an old injury. Even if the workplace injury makes it difficult to do the job. The fear is reporting the injury makes the employee unfit for the role. However, an incident or accident must be reported for an employee to receive any workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey.
An employee should always report a work incident that results in injury or illness. Not only is this notice required by New Jersey workers’ compensation law, it can be extremely helpful if a claim is later disputed by an employer or insurance provider. You do not need to submit notice of the incident in writing, but you should find a supervisor, foreman, or other manager to inform.
As well, having a medical professional evaluate and diagnose your injury is important. The report from a doctor or emergency personnel that the injury you report happened in the manner or circumstances you said provides concrete proof that you are not trying to claim workers’ compensation for an injury incurred in a recreational activity or otherwise outside of work.
Can a Pre-Existing Condition Affect the Compensation Amount?
While a pre-existing condition or old injury does not impede an employee from recovering workers’ compensation, it can affect the amount of recovery. Workers’ compensation is only required to cover the injury sustained at work or in work-related activities. Therefore, the benefit amount in New Jersey can be prorated based on an earlier injury.
For example, an employee injured her neck playing tennis. This injury restricted mobility to her neck. The employee is moving boxed at work, an re-injures her neck. The work incident flares up old pain from the tennis injury, and results in a substantial decrease in mobility. Workers’ compensation will cover costs related to the new pain, loss of mobility, or damage, but does not have to cover the loss of mobility from the initial tennis damage.
To account for the injury at tennis, the settlement amount or claim amount from a trial in New Jersey will be prorated accordingly.
Are there circumstances when a pre-existing injury does not affect workers’ compensation benefits? Yes. Only when the injury sustained at work is wholly separate and different from the pre-existing condition. For instance, you broke your leg jumping out a tree as a kid, but at work you fall and hurt your back. The broken leg and injured lower back are mutually exclusive.
Confused by Employer or Insurance Provider Information?
If you were injured at work, regardless of the circumstances, it can be helpful to speak with a lawyer. When there are facts or information that could affect your claim, it is even more important to receive knowledgeable counsel and advice from a lawyer.
Albert J. Talone has represented workers’ compensation clients in New Jersey for many years. He has handled contentious incidents. In several cases employee were automatically denied benefits by an employer or insurance company. Irrespective of the circumstances of your case, he can help you navigate the workers’ compensation process and ensure your interests are fully protected. Call for a initial consultation at (856)-234-4023.
The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only. This information may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from The Law Office of Albert J. Talone or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.