In many ways, a New Jersey workers compensation claim looks and feels just like a personal injury claim. In other ways they are completely different.
In fact, the workers compensation system exists, in part, to protect employers from the kinds of liability that are invoked in a personal injury suit. Employers admit no fault, but take responsibility for the fact that employees do get hurt on the job.
Here are some of the other key differences.
Difference #1 – No Pain & Suffering
Personal injury suits come with pain and suffering damages. In New Jersey, these damages are not capped and can be any amount based solely on the extent to which the victim’s life has changed as a result of the injuries.
As you can imagine these pain and suffering awards can get quite large, and so workers compensation law was written to allow employers to avoid them in return for asking employers to pay for workers compensation insurance. (If yours isn’t, you can report them by using this form).
Difference #2 – Lost Wages
In a personal injury case you can be compensated for 100% of your lost wages, whatever those wages happen to be, if you can’t work while you’re recovering from your injuries.
In a New Jersey workers compensation case, there are caps on the amount of money you can receive each week, regardless of how much you made, though the amount you made will also determine how much you get. The most money …Read More
On its surface, workers compensation is a reasonably straightforward system. If you get hurt on the job, insurance exists to make sure your medical bills get paid. If you can’t work while you’re hurt, that same insurance pays you to stay home and recover.
Sometimes, the system works as its meant to work. This is especially true when injuries are minor or the disability is temporary. It’s not worth your employer’s time to fight these claims in most cases, more is it worth the insurance company’s time. The accommodations you’ll need tend to be cheap and minor in these cases, and everyone is willing to play along as a result.
When injuries are more extensive and expensive, the equation changes.
Let’s assume you’ve done everything right during this process. You reported the injury to your employer, went straight to the correct doctor, filed your claim, and have followed your physician’s instructions to the letter. Why is workers compensation continuing to be such a beast?
Your employer faces rate hikes.
Your employer is worried about their budget just like you are likely to be worried about yours, and every claim can raise premiums.
Here’s a nice example from a construction magazine.
“In this example, the claim-free experience mod is 66 percent, which means the premium for the workers’ compensation policy is $105,600. However, this single claim, where the fracture with direct costs is $50,000, will drive the mod up 15 points. When this claim hits the mod (experience modifications …Read More
On September 14th Governor Phil Murphy signed S2380 into law. This means that every essential worker who has to go into a physical location to do their job now benefits from a rebuttable presumption of worker’s compensation coverage for Covid-19 cases.
The law took effect on the day of signing, and is offering retroactive coverage to March 9, 2020. This means if you got sick while on the job after that date you can now begin your worker’s compensation claim.
Note that the law does outline exactly who qualifies as an “essential employee.” The rebuttable presumption does not apply to everyone who might step into an office and get sick.
According to S380 an essential worker is:
- A public safety worker or first responder, including fire, police, or other emergency responders.
- Provides medical or health care services, including emergency transportation and social services.
- Performs services which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale, and distribution of essential goods like food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies
- Is any other employee deemed essential by the public authority declaring a state of emergency.
Note that the presumption is rebuttable. That means your employer may still have a defense if you contract or contracted Covid-19 on the job. They will have to show “by a preponderance of evidence” that you were at no point exposed to the …Read More
There is a Social Security and Supplemental Security Offset that has to be considered if you receive either form of government aid in addition to your workers compensation. In some cases you may have to pay tax on those benefits in those cases. The specific amount will depend on whether you’re receiving permanent or partial benefits.
In fact, if you’re receiving temporary benefits then the amount you’re paid is equal to the amount you would have typically received after taxes.
Do I still have to file a tax return?
Yes, you will want to file a tax return. This will not create a situation where benefits that aren’t taxable become taxable. It merely reports your individual situation to the Internal Revenue Service. It also accounts for other forms of income that may be taxable, such as W2 income earned earlier in the year, retirement benefits, or capital gains.
In addition, if your payments are delayed, for example, in cases where you receive a lump sum settlement because you and your lawyer had to fight for your benefits, then any interest earned on that sum can be taxable as well.
Can other parties put liens on workers compensation benefits?
Yes. If you owe child support, for example, and that amount is in arrears, then the child support enforcement office …Read More
Every business that has employees, even one, must take out a workers compensation policy. If you’re a small business owner like a sole proprietor, partner, or LLC member then you would generally add yourself to the policy at that time.
You don’t have to, of course. It’s an optional thing, and it’s not done automatically.
Yet you probably should.
After all, you’re just as likely to get hurt on the job as your employees are. In some cases, you may even be a “key” employee, as in your business cannot easily survive without you. While workers compensation won’t help with that (that’s what key employee insurance is for) your duties do help to demonstrate that as a small business owners you may well be taking actions, every single day, that could mean you get hurt.
Even office workers and telecommuters can get hurt on the job, after all.
When you take out the policy you have to use a payroll amount. Payroll can be a little fuzzy for small business owners, but New Jersey law has a solution. You must use a minimum payroll amount of $34,320 for the purposes of calculating both your premiums and your eventual benefits in the event that you get hurt.
Of course, you may not want to use the minimum. You may make significantly more than that.
If that’s the case, the you should know that there’s a maximum payroll of $127,400 for the purposes of calculating premiums. Good news for you if you …Read More
Many people in New Jersey work multiple jobs, or work part time in the gig economy while working full-time at more traditional pursuits. Yet many don’t know that having multiple jobs can complicate workers compensation.
The first thing you have to know is that if you get injured on the job you only get workers compensation for the job you were injured at. This means if you get injured on your part-time job you’ll only get replacement wages for the part-time job, while being forced to quit work at your full-time job.
Life can get even more complicated if your problem is a repetitive stress injury. In that case you might have sustained the injury on both jobs but would have to prove it, with each employer trying to shift the responsibility to the other employer.
Your full-time job will also be under no obligation to hold your job or put you on light duty the way they would if you’d been injured at their workplace.
This means holding on to two jobs provides an additional layer of risk that many people are not aware of.
In addition, if you’re injured on your full-time job you cannot keep working your part time job. If you do, you will be accused of workers compensation fraud. You are also likely to lose your benefits.
These realities can add an additional layer of struggle at a time when families are already struggling, but it’s important to understand them so you don’t threaten …Read More
For many hourly workers, every day that an employee isn’t on the job is a day when that employee is not making money. For employees who live paycheck to paycheck, that money is vital.
Fortunately, in New Jersey you should receive back pay for the days that you missed if you missed more than 7 days of work. The first week is called the “waiting week.” As of right now if your disability is related to Covid-19 the seven-day waiting period has been eliminated.
You’ll be paid back pay for your temporary disability benefits once your benefits are awarded.
What is the maximum benefit for lost wages?
The benefit maxes out at 70% of your average weekly wages, or $945, whichever is smaller. You can receive these benefits for a total of 26 weeks. In some cases you may be able to extend the benefit, but you will need to speak to your workers compensation attorney to find out if it’s possible in your case.
You will usually receive money every week via direct deposit.
How long does it take to get workers compensation?
If you’re getting temporary disability benefits you should start receiving checks roughly two weeks after you become eligible for the benefit. While you’re waiting for money you might want to use your FMLA benefits, if you have them available. There’s no waiting period for FMLA, and it can provide some relief while you’re waiting.
Why does temporary disability get denied?
It’s not uncommon for insurers to …Read More
If you are planning to file for worker’s compensation protection after contracting Covid-19 at work, you probably need to plan on getting an attorney right away. Even workers at hospitals and nursing homes are struggling to get compensation after contracting the virus.
For example, in one New Jersey case the widow of a housekeeper at a nursing home is trying to get workers compensation death benefits. Her husband’s employer gave him no PPE. They refuse to cover her husband’s ICU bill or survivor’s pay.
The state senate recently has passed a bill that provides expanded protection to essential employees, creating a presumption that Covid-19 contracted by essential employees is a work-related injury for the purpose of receiving benefits. The bill has not yet been enacted into law. The bill is currently before the Assembly Labor Committee.
The bill would require employers of essential employees who wanted to fight employees on whether Covid is work related to prove, by a “preponderance of evidence,” that they did not contract the disease at work.
The bill includes other protections. For example, if the bill passes, “the amount of time an essential employee is incapacitated or unable to perform their duties as a result of contracting coronavirus disease 2019, or Covid-19, or exposure to the disease or infection and the required time of hospitalization, time of quarantine, or time of self-quarantine shall be considered as on-duty time, and an essential employee shall not be required to use paid leave or any other contractual time-off …Read More
Right now it’s theoretically possible to claim workers compensation if you contract Covid-19 on the job. The problem is proof…you would still have to prove you got Covid there, and not from your other activities. This isn’t impossible, but is really difficult.
A proposed bill, S2380, would change all that, at least for any worker deemed essential.
The bill would be retroactive to March 9 and would include a presumption that if an essential worker gets sick with Covid-19, it happened on the job.
What if my employer made me sign a waiver?
Employer waivers are gaining some popularity right now, but they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. Employers also can’t really make you sign such documents. Some employees feel forced to because they are aware some employers will find other ways to fire them if they don’t, but even those shouldn’t be too worried.
Employers can’t make employees waive their workers compensation rights. They’re protected, and those waivers will not hold water.
Workers fired for refusing to sign would have a case under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, allowing them to sue their former employers.
What does the presumption mean?
It means instead of you having to prove that you contracted Covid at work, your employer would have to prove that you didn’t.
They would have to do this by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which would be a difficult standard for most employers to meet. At best they could point to safety …Read More
One reason some workers are reluctant to claim workers compensation benefits is they feel as though the accident was their fault. Sometimes anyone can have an off day and work a little clumsily, forget a vital safety precaution, or otherwise create a condition which can lead to an accident or an injury.
Fortunately, New Jersey’s workers compensation system is a no-fault system. For the most part, the only condition you will have to meet to be eligible for benefits is to be injured at work and to report that injury.
What Disqualifies You From Workers Comp?
The first thing that can disqualify you is willful misconduct. That is you were horsing around, abusing alcohol or drugs, or were willfully ignoring or violating company policies. A self-inflicted injury also won’t be covered by workers compensation, i.e., slitting your wrists while you’re in the workplace bathroom.
You can also lose your workers compensation by failing to report the injury in a timely fashion. Some employees do this because they fear retaliation or other consequences. It’s important to remember that retaliating against an employee for claiming workers compensation benefits is against the law.
What is Considered an On-the-Job Injury?
Any injury that occurs while you are working, or while you’re at work. This covers almost any injury that takes place at the workplace location, during working hours, or while performing activities that are within the scope of your employment.
This can even include things you are doing while working from home, so …Read More