Any job can put a lot of stress and strain on the body. In both industrial jobs and office jobs, there are opportunities to incur repetitive stress injuries.
Under New Jersey laws these are known as “wear and tear” injuries. While this terminology may make you feel a little bit like you’re being treated like an apartment or a car, the fact is that the law does allow you to receive compensation when work inexorably robs you of your health. It doesn’t all come down to traumatic accidents or chemical exposure.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a well-known example, but there are others, such as rotator cuff injuries. Some of these injuries can have a severe impact on a person’s ability to function in their day-to-day lives.
However, you do have to take the appropriate steps to get the compensation you deserve.
First, you’ll need to provide your employer with written notice, just as if you’d suffered from an accident at work. This can be as simple as a dated letter which says, “I have begun experiencing severe wrist pain on the job, the result of a work-related repetitive stress injury. I would like to start the workers compensation process.”
At that point your workplace should assign you to a doctor or a medical facility who will provide you with a diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to bring a copy of your job description with you to your appointment.
Somewhat suspicious of an employer-run clinic? It’s not a bad idea …Read More
Right now, New Jersey workers compensation does allow for claims related to the Covid-19 virus. There’s just one problem.
In most cases, employers and their insurance companies don’t have to pay the claim if you can’t prove there was a direct line from your job to your infection. Because Covid-19 is so ubiquitous, and capable of spreading through asymptomatic carriers, this can be very difficult.
Currently, many essential workers are having to turn to other New Jersey programs liked paid sick leave to try to bridge the gap. For some, this aid will be enough. For others it won’t, especially if the infection lands them in the hospital.
Many essential workers are uninsured, which means Covid-19 could cost them up to $75,000. Going to the ICU or being put on a ventilator is extremely expensive.
In fact, if your symptoms aren’t severe it’s usually best to just isolate at home, drink lots of water, and wait it out, or to use telehealth or other, less expensive services than the ER if you’re not sure.
Nevertheless, workers compensation was created to help pay for worker medical bills when their jobs expose them to a hazard.
Public safety workers like fire fighters, EMTs, nurses, and medical technicians are protected by a presumption that if they contract Covid-19 in the middle of a pandemic while responding to the pandemic then that relationship exists. They’re entitled to workers compensation benefits without having to offer any other proof that the infection came from their …Read More
Many employers will do just about anything to save a buck, even if it means sacrificing employee well-being. If that weren’t the case, there’d be no need for workers compensation lawyers or lawsuits.
Some tricks are common and even expected. You can watch out for them if you’ve taken the time to educate yourself about New Jersey workers compensation law.
Trick #1: Misreporting
After you report your injury to your employer you should receive a First Report of Injury form back from the insurance company. It’s important to scrutinize this document closely to ensure the facts listed on the document match the facts of your case.
Don’t just look at the injury description, since employers sometimes misreport wages too. This is especially common in cases where employees often work overtime. The employers “forget” to include that overtime when calculating average weekly wages.
Trick #2: Failing to Report the Injury Fast Enough
You are responsible for reporting the claim to your employer right away. Your employer is responsible for making the claim with workers compensation.
Some fail to do so fast enough, delaying the process and giving the workers compensation insurance company leverage to deny the claim. Some fail to do it at all, and claim you never reported the injury to them.
Some will try to convince you they shouldn’t report the injury, assuring you they’ll pay your medical bills out of pocket instead of filing the claim. They may even channel you to on-site clinics with doctors …Read More
Here in New Jersey you’re eligible for worker’s compensation benefits if you contract COVID-19 on the job. That’s the good news.
The bad news? This very sneaky virus doesn’t make it easy to prove transmission. Employers are no more eager to pay for claims than they ever were. Already, employer’s lawyers are advising them on how they can work around having to pay for these kinds of claims.
To keep your case strong, think about sharing certain facts with your attorney.
Precautions your employer too, or failed to take, in response to Covid-19.
It’s incredible, but plenty of employers are failing to protect their employees. Right now Whole Foods and Amazon provide fairly famous cases, but they aren’t the only ones who don’t seem to value their employees enough to take precautions.
Document every instance where employers force you to work without PPE, in conditions that place you less than 6 feet from fellow employees or customers, or in stores, shops, or offices where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19. If employers try to force you to travel during this time or to take other risks, you should document these behaviors as well.
You won’t necessarily use this information unless you contract COVID-19 and your employer starts fighting you on worker’s compensation.
Confirmed cases in your workplace.
Make a note of every confirmed case in your workplace. You should also document any instance in which a customer came in who seemed visibly ill, especially if that customer was …Read More
You may be eligible for workers compensation if you contract COVID-19, or if you’re exposed to it. But where you contract the virus will matter.
You will only be able to use workers compensation if you were exposed on the job. That is, you waited on someone with the virus, or worked with someone who had the virus.
In either case you can use it if health staff told you to self-quarantine as a result, whether you’re showing symptoms of the illness or not. You will have to provide the documentation from the medical doctor who gave the order.
It is also a good idea to be prepared with evidence that the job was the source of the problem. If you were using social distancing off the job, for example, and thus did not come into contact with anyone else, then that would be vital evidence in your COVID-related workers compensation case.
New Jersey is asking you not to apply for benefits if your employer voluntarily pays you during your time off due to COVID-19. Yet you might still need workers compensation for medical care, especially if you end up needing intensive care.
If you were exposed off-the-job there may be other programs that can help you. Earned sick leave, temporary disability, family leave insurance, and the FMLA may all help. If your employer closed due to COVID-19 you should be able to collect unemployment. If there is any way you can work from home the DoL and …Read More
Many workers compensation cases last for a few weeks or months. The worker gets injured, the worker gets care, and the worker returns to work.
When the injury is very minor workers compensation may simply be a matter of getting treatment, getting the insurance to pay for that treatment, and returning to work with some minor accommodations.
There are cases where the worker must be out for more than 7 days with the injury. This is called Temporary Total Disability, and can last up to 400 weeks.
However, there are two other forms of disability which can last longer. The first is Permanent Partial Disability, which can last up to 600 weeks. There’s also Permanent Total Disability, which can last for life.
The maximum amounts you can get to cover your lost income during these periods is capped in New Jersey. On Temporary Total Disability you can earn the lesser of 70% of the gross weekly amount that you normally earned, or $903 per week. Permanent Partial Disability and Permanent Total Disability depend on the scheduled loss chart.
A scheduled loss involves the loss of a limb like arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, ears, or teeth. They “schedule” the number of weeks you can receive wage loss compensation for the injury based on the state-approved schedule and the percentage of the body part you are determined to have lost.
For example, the court might determine you’ve lost 50% of your hand. If you’d lost 100% you would …Read More
Medical marijuana is a hot topic in NJ workers compensation law right now. A recent case in the New Jersey Appellate Division mandated that employers should reimburse employees for medical cannabis use related to a workplace accident.
In the case, Hagar vs. M&K Construction, M&K argued that the Federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a crime to manufacture, possess, or distribute marijuana, and that federal law should preempt the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. They further argued that forcing them to pay for medical marijuana would force them to aid and abet in Hagar’s possession of an illegal substance, and that they should be treated like private health insurers who are not required to reimburse medical marijuana costs.
The court ruled in favor of Hagar. In his opinion, Judge Currier wrote:
“We conclude the order does not require M&K to possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana, but only to reimburse petitioner for his purchase of medical marijuana…we discern no conflict between the CSA and MMA. Furthermore, M&K’s compliance with the order does not establish the specific intent of an aiding and abetting offense under federal law. We also conclude M&K is not a private health insurer. Therefore, it is not excluded under the MMA from reimbursing the costs of medical marijuana.”
“Here, where petitioner has demonstrated the severity and chronic nature of his pain, his attempts to unsuccessfully alleviate the pain with multiple surgeries and medical modalities, and the validated efficacy of the prescribed medical marijuana, we find …Read More
A permanent partial disability status indicates you could do some work, but nevertheless suffer from some partial disability which reduces your quality of life. New Jersey workers compensation laws allow you to receive some compensation for your reduced work capacity.
The Judge of Compensation evaluates your loss of function across all aspects of your life based on medical proof of impairment and your own personal testimony. Your attorney can help you present your case in a clear, concise way which helps you describe exactly how your injuries have impacted your quality of life.
All of this is possible because New Jersey workers compensation law differs from the law in most other states.
Understanding “Scheduled” vs. “Non-Scheduled” Losses
Permanent partial disabilities get divided into two kinds of losses.
Scheduled losses involve:
Non-Scheduled Losses involve everything else. This could include back injuries, heart trouble, brain damage, or lung damage.
Compensating Permanent Partial Disability
You may continue to receive some compensation. The amount paid will depend on the type and severity of the injury. You’ll be paid a minimum of $35 a month and a maximum of $945 a month.
Your injury may be worth more if you received corrective surgery, or if it involved a complete or near-complete loss of function to the body part in question.
The Department of Labor puts out schedules which outline maximum benefits for different disabilities. These can be confusing to read. The bottom line is you can expect to …Read More
Employers aren’t allowed to retaliate against you for claiming workers compensation. The law also prevents them from discriminating against you on the basis of your new disability.
This does not mean you have air-tight protections against getting fired. Indeed, there are several mistakes you can make which will make it easy for your employer to terminate you.
Mistake #1: Failing to Comply With Employer Policies
For most workers compensation benefits the lack of compliance comes from a failure to follow bureaucratic process.
Some employees assume that their employer “already knows” they’re being treated for injuries and that they cannot return to work yet. In truth, you’re required to check in and provide doctor’s notes just as you would be required to check in for regular sick days.
If the doctor says you cannot work for three months you can bring that documentation to your employer and you should be safe. However, you have to bring a new doctor’s note if your doctor extends that time. Many employees make the mistake of assuming the employer knows they’ll be returning to work, or assume that their verbal notification of the doctor’s decision will be enough.
Protect yourself with every bit of documentation you can get. Make sure every doctor’s note that bars you from working is on file with your employer as soon as you receive it. Otherwise your employer will be able to fire you for being a no-show.
Mistake #2: Failure to Report on an Ability to Return to Duty…Read More
First, let’s talk about when you should think about hiring an attorney.
Unless your injuries are minor you should think about hiring an attorney even before shenanigans begin. While you might be in the small minority of people who never have a problem working their way through the process, the truth is you’re far more likely to deal with an employer who is going to try to make life hard for you.
Employers want to fire you quickly if you’re on workers compensation, just as soon as they have a legal reason to do so. They want to pay as little as possible for your injury. If you try to return on light duty there are employers who will ignore the doctor’s instructions and put you on unsuitable tasks in an attempt to pressure you into a “take it or leave it” situation.
In short, employers are not your friends, no matter how nice Bob was at the company Christmas party this year.
It’s also very easy to make mistakes. There are dozens of forms to fill out and mistakes could cost you the entire case.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s talk about the process.
- You and the attorney will have an initial consultation. This is a good time to explain your situation, but also to ask questions. You might ask: will you inform my employer on my behalf if I am hospitalized and can’t make the call? How will you communicate with me, and how