New Jersey worker’s compensation only gives you 70% of your average weekly wage while you’re recovering from your injuries. Permanent partial and permanent total disability benefits don’t go any higher.
Most people are struggling financially as it is. 70% of most people’s income isn’t enough to meet a lot of people’s bills. So it’s natural that you might ask yourself if you can earn at least a little income while you’re at home and recovering.
You can earn some income while collecting benefits, but you have to be careful. You and your workers compensation attorney should work together to answer the following questions.
Will the work meet your doctor’s restrictions on activity?
Be careful. This issue isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.
Let’s say you put some items up for sale on eBay. Perhaps you even open up a small store. You think: the Internet is doing all the work while I rest. There’s no way this could cause me to break my restrictions.
Then someone makes a purchase and you have to actually ship the package. If this means lugging a heavy item all the way to the post office then you might well run afoul of your doctor’s restrictions, setting yourself up for a situation where you might be accused of workers compensation fraud.
Carefully review your restrictions with your attorney. You may have to have a friend or family member do your mailing for you so that you can remain in bed.
Will the…Read More
Worried about what it will cost to hire a workers compensation attorney?
Did you know you don’t even have to worry about coming up with a retainer or an hourly rate? Workers compensation attorneys work on contingency, which means they don’t even get paid until your case is brought to conclusion.
Here’s everything you need to know about what your lawyer gets paid, and how much.
Who pays the legal fees?
The employer is responsible for paying up to 60% of your attorney’s legal fees if you are forced to take your case into court. The judge also makes the determination as to the percentage of the claim that should be given to the attorney.
Typically the percentage is 20% of the entire workers compensation case award. So if your case is worth $100,000, then your lawyer gets paid $20,000, but only $8000 comes out of your settlement because the employer is expected to pay the rest. You walk away with $92,000.
If you are forced to use the courts to recover benefits that suddenly get off then the employer may further be responsible for the payment of a 20% fee on all back benefits.
Other Legal Costs
The lawyer pays for any costs associated with your settlement. This can include:
- Expert witness fees
- Filing fees
- Investigation costs
- Minor costs for copies, obtaining records, etc.
These are not included in attorneys fees, but are deducted from your settlement all the same.
These fees aren’t as large as you might fear. …Read More
The question of when you are “officially” at work can be very important to your worker’s compensation case. Unfortunately, the answers to when you are officially at work can vary from case to case.
Here are a few examples.
In Your Company Parking Lot
As of this writing you are protected when you arrive at a parking lot owned by your company. But if you have to travel off-premises to get to your work building then you won’t be covered in-between, thanks to the “coming and going” rule. That is, you’re covered if the employer controls a location you’re standing on but not if they don’t. You’d be looking at a personal injury suit against whomever owned the between-spaces.
New Jersey is considering Senate Bill S771, and A6195, which would state that if an employer provides or designates a parking area for use by an employee, when an employee arrives at the parking lot employment starts, and ends only when the employee leaves the parking area at the end of the work period. We will continue to watch this legislation and report on it should it be signed into law.
On Meal and Rest Breaks
If you are on a legally-mandated rest break then you may be able to get workers compensation while on break. This protection generally does not extend to lunch breaks.
However, if you run an errand for your boss or are working over your lunch then you could be covered.
Working from Home
You can …Read More
Your New Jersey workers compensation benefits depend on the fact that you were injured on the job, while working your job. If you can’t prove otherwise, you could be personally liable for your injuries, and, if you don’t have disability insurance, may be left with no way to pay your wages in the event of an accident or illness.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take to help reduce the likelihood of a workers compensation claim dispute.
The first step happens while you’re still at work. Even if you’re working from home, calling your supervisor always needs to be the very next thing you do. You should also contact HR and make sure they get the incident report directly, often via email.
The next step is very like the steps you’d take a car accident. You need to take pictures of the accident site, of your injury, and anything else that might be relevant. It’s also a good idea to note the names of any coworkers who might have witnessed the accident.
Getting medical care should be your very next step. Don’t go back to work or do anything else. Follow all of your doctor’s instructions. If you are required to get follow-up care it is vital for you to attend every appointment.
In a case where you are too injured to take any of these steps there should be even more evidence, as an ambulance is likely collecting you from your workplace and at a specific …Read More
Some work-related injuries are truly terrible, and leave physical scars that will never heal. New Jersey workers compensation law recognizes this fact.
Disfiguring scars can play into a determination of whether a worker has become permanently disabled as a result of their accident. This is true in cases where the scars are permanent, unsightly, or limiting.
The location of the scars can also matter a great deal: scars on the hands, neck, face, or head are treated with more severity than a scar on the shoulder or abdominal area.
No provisions are made for whether the scars cause emotional distress.
What makes scars a special case is that if you can show that your scars meet the “permanent, unsightly, or limiting” criteria then you don’t have to prove any other restriction of bodily function to be awarded permanent disability.
Permanent partial disability benefits are equal to 70% of your average weekly wage, multiplied by the number of weeks correlated to the severity of your injury. Permanent total disability equals 70% of your average weekly wage, not to exceed 75% of the state’s average weekly wage, which means there’s a $921 weekly maximum no matter how severe your scarring or injury.
None of this means that any case involving a scar is going to be straightforward, or that you will be awarded a quick payout. Employers can look right at a scar that is obviously disfiguring and disabling and still try to pull all sorts of tricks to avoid paying your …Read More
Earlier this fall Governor Phil Murphy signed Bill A-2617/S-2998 into law. This short, one page bill is an amendment to existing workers compensation law.
It says, essentially, that employers with 50 or more employees must give “hiring preference” to employees when:
- Those employees have reached maximum medical improvement.
- They are unable to work but unable to return to their old positions, even on light duty.
- The employer has an unfilled position or existing position with a vacancy that the employee can, physically, perform.
While the bill sounds good on paper it has several key weaknesses.
First and foremost, “hiring preference” isn’t defined at all. As JD Supra reports:
“First, such a preference could mean that if all things are equal among candidates, it serves as a tiebreaker. It could also mean that it trumps the higher or better qualifications of other candidates, so if the minimum qualifications are met, the preference controls. Finally it could mean that previously injured employees are automatically placed at the front of the line, and other candidates need not even be considered—employers would have to seek out current or former employees who have reached MMI each time they seek to fill a position. Each interpretation has support.”
There also is no maximum time limit for how long an employee who has reached MMI is eligible for hiring preference.
Hiring practices are so occluded that it would be difficult to tell when an employer had failed to comply with this law. Employees rarely, if ever, …Read More
Vacation, PTO, and sick pay are part of your overall compensation package.
Often in a workers compensation case these benefits get used while you’re waiting for your benefits to start. This would be paid at your regular pay rate. In addition, sick pay, vacation pay, and PTO pay are not counted against your 26 weeks of allowable workers compensation benefits. The disability can’t be moved just because you took vacation or sick pay. Employers may also require you to use up to two weeks of PTO prior to receiving workers compensation benefits.
If you use these benefits and are later awarded workers compensation benefits you can have the PTO refunded to you. When that happens they will take a credit on the pay you received. You should consult your attorney before you do this as it can have an impact on the amount of workers compensation benefits you may receive.
You can’t receive vacation or holiday pay on top of your workers compensation benefits unless you’re part of a union whose collective bargaining agreement has, as part of its contract provisions, the ability to credit your vacation pay against your benefits and the ability to collect vacation pay while on workers compensation.
Your employer’s PTO policy matters.
Employers in New Jersey aren’t required to pay vacation time or PTO, but once they set a policy or offer a benefit they have to stick by it.
That means that the way your company’s policy is set up can impact …Read More
Every day people get assaulted on the job. While it’s rare for coworkers to launch altercations some jobs come with the danger that you’ll get assaulted. There are also random incidents which involve outsiders coming into the workplace and assaulting people when they arrive.
In each of these cases you are entitled to a workers compensation settlement. Thus you will take many of the same steps you’d take during a workers compensation case. In addition depending on the nature of the assault there will be third parties you can sue.
Take These Steps
- Report the assault to your employer.
- Report the assault to the police.
- Get the names and numbers of any coworkers, vendors, or customers who witnessed the assault.
- Take photos of your injury and the conditions at work if possible.
- Get medical care.
- Follow all your doctor’s instructions.
- Consult with a workers compensation attorney right away, as your case is already more complicated than a standard workers compensation case.
Can I sue my employer for being assaulted at work?
Usually you cannot sue your employer directly, you can only make a workers compensation claim. This can cover some of your medical issues and lost wages.
Can an employer fire you for defending yourself?
In general courts in other parts of the country have ruled that employers who terminate employees for defending themselves may be guilty of wrongful termination, but this issue has not yet come up in New Jersey. New Jersey is an at-will employment state. It …Read More
Returning back to work after an injury can be a nerve wracking experience. You know that your employer’s interests and your interests may not be aligned.
Yet if you don’t return to work when you are cleared to do so you jeopardize your job, your workers compensation benefits, and any unemployment benefits you could receive if, for whatever reason, your job disappears through no fault of your own.
Here’s what you need to know.
You have the right to have your restrictions respected.
Talk to your doctor about what your old job entailed so that he can make the most useful list of restrictions possible. We recommend getting a written acknowledgement from your employer to indicate that they understand these restrictions and are able to work with them.
Make sure you get them in writing. Carry copies of the restrictions with you.
Don’t be afraid to hand them to your supervisor whenever you are asked to violate them, and don’t be afraid to document each incident of violation.
You have the right to a light duty posting if one exists, or to reasonable accommodations.
Employers do not have to provide a light duty posting if no light duty posting exists, but if one does or they can reasonably accommodate it than they must do so. There is no guarantee that the light-duty role will be full time or at your old rate of pay, but you must take it or jeopardize your benefits. Sometimes you can receive partial …Read More
Here’s what you need to know.
Do you still report workers compensation on your tax returns?
No. Unless you meet one of the taxable exceptions listed below, you do not even have to report your workers compensation payouts.
It’s always a good idea to speak to an accountant before making assumptions, but you’re not even going to receive a tax form that tells you these benefits have been reported to the IRS.
Are there taxable exceptions?
There are a few taxable exceptions.
For example, some of our clients have ended up with workers compensation claims that were, at first, denied. So they paid their own medical expenses, claimed those on their tax return, and then later got reimbursed.
They will end up having to pay the difference between the taxes they would have paid without the deduction and the taxes they did pay. This is rarely a very large amount.
If you get SSI Sor SSDI in addition to your workers comp benefits then your workers comp benefits can be taxed.
What about lump sum settlements?
Lump sum settlements work in about the same way. They aren’t taxable unless you trigger the specific exceptions above, plus one more.
That is: if you put your lump sum settlement into an investment account and earn interest on that money then …Read More