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
There isn’t much time before Christmas, but there’s still a lot of holiday partying between now and then. There’s also the New Year.
Both holidays, and other holidays celebrated at this time of year, can mean holiday party invitations start showing up in your inbox.
Thinking about how workers compensation might intersect with your party may not be the first thing on your mind. You’re probably thinking about what you want to wear, or whether you’ll have to buy any gifts.
Still, it’s important to know what happens if you get injured, because in some cases your party attendance could be covered by workers compensation. There are a handful of instances in which parties could be compensatable.
The party happens every year.
Parties that happen on an annual basis are considered to be “regular incidents of employment.” This would cover any party that you can expect to roll around like clockwork, including Christmas parties, company picnics, and other celebrations.
The party is about something other than “morale.”
This is a harder standard to meet unless the party has some clear goal that benefits the company in some way. If your nonprofit employer is running a fundraiser then you would have a party which falls under this particular requirement.
Another example would be parties wherein the end-of-year bonuses or awards are handed out.
Attendance is compulsory, or has the appearance of being compulsory.
Most employers don’t go around screaming that party attendance is mandatory. In fact, it’s pretty rare to get …Read More
Most of the time, New Jersey workers compensation law shields employers from personal injury lawsuits. The idea is the workers compensation insurance takes care of most of the same issues that a personal injury suit would.
Indeed, prior to the establishment of workers compensation law in the state, employees had no choice but to launch personal injury suits if they were injured on the job. Workers compensation was supposed to serve as a trade-off. It’s cheaper for employers to carry workers compensation insurance than it is for them to go to court every time an employee gets injured, and injured employees are more likely to receive compensation, if in lesser amounts than they would have received with a successful personal injury suit.
But what if an employer is grossly negligent, to the point of engaging in heinous behaviour? What if that behavior then leads to the employee’s death or injury?
The Intentional Wrong Exception
Section 34:15-8 of the New Jersey Workers Compensation Law states:
“If an injury or death is compensable under this article, a person shall not be liable to anyone at common law or otherwise on account of such injury or death for any act or omission occurring while such person was in the same employ as the person injured or killed, except for intentional wrong.”
While there are no doubt many employers who engage in intentional wrongs, the precedent from past cases gives employers a lot of leeway to commit wrongs without exposing themselves to liability.
Recent news tells us the State of New Jersey is charging Uber $242 million in back taxes and has ruled that they have misclassified their contractors as employees. Once again, the question of who is or isn’t an employee is on the minds of many workers’ compensation attorneys, as well as many who have been classified as independent contractors in the past.
This gives us a timely opportunity to explore other people who perform labor outside of the traditional confines of a regular full or part-time job with benefits.
At first blush it might seem obvious that volunteers should receive protections for their unpaid labor on behalf of the community. Many volunteers certainly do not stop to wonder whether they’re covered by workers compensation. Human nature ensures most of us don’t think about the worst until it happens. It also ensures a sense of trust, a vague idea that if one gets hurt while volunteering they’ll get taken care of because they are doing good.
In reality, the laws surrounding workers compensation and volunteerism are complex, and leave holes an organization could use to avoid responsibility for injuries taken while performing volunteer labor.
In New Jersey, the question that comes up when attempting to classify someone as an employee is whether they receive and expect “consideration” in return for their work.
Consideration does not have to be money. Precedent has established that room and board can serve as consideration, as can education and training. For example, in the 1948 …Read More
The Portable Benefits Act is a proposed piece of legislation which would make it less profitable for companies to misclassify employees. Employers who use 50 or more contractors in twelve consecutive months must contribute funds to a Qualified Benefit Provider. This would be the lesser of $0.25 for every dollar of consumer sales, or $6 per hour worked by each worker, prorated by minute.
Thus, it may be cheaper to go ahead and hire whoever they want to use full time. Or, depending on the number of independent contractors used, it may be less expensive to classify them correctly than it would be to inflate the numbers.
Portable benefits could also open up new protections for the over 127,000 temporary workers in New Jersey. Temp workers are already entitled to worker’s compensation under New Jersey law—the temporary agency is supposed to take care of it. That doesn’t mean they always receive benefits, and often need to look to a law office like this one to protect their rights.
The bill may also open up new opportunities for workers to form unions. Half the makeup of the people overseeing the QBP must be representatives of the workers, according to the bill.
The bill would help gig economy workers carry benefits over from contract to contract; in other words, workers own their benefits. Gig employees would be able to choose one of the qualified providers.
These plans aren’t unheard of. Construction workers often …Read More
When you’re in the middle of a worker’s compensation case it’s vital to know how to navigate your medical care. Certain missteps can cause you to take on medical bills worker’s compensation insurance would have paid.
In a New Jersey worker’s compensation case, your employer and your insurance company can dictate your medical care, including which doctor you see. If you wanted to use your own doctor, or a doctor from a different insurance network, then you’d have to seek prior authorization from the insurance company. Failing to do so can make you responsible for those bills.
The only exception is the ER doctor you receive when you take the initial injury. That doctor can be from any network or hospital and worker’s compensation would still generally be required to pick up that bill.
Thus, you should not see your own doctor for any procedures or tests related to your injury unless you seek prior authorization.
Of course, this may all strike you as a horrible conflict of interest. It often can be. Consider the story of AmCare, the on-site health provider for Amazon.com warehouses. They handle the worker’s on-site injuries, which should all be covered as worker’s compensation insurance. Instead, reports allege AmCare workers repeatedly put people back on the floor who should not have been there. Going to an AmCare clinic did not “count” as reporting an on-the-job industry according to the Amazon/AmCare set-up. AmCare mostly seemed to be engaged in limiting company costs.
Some of the …Read More
If you read “Does Fault Matter in a NJ Worker’s Comp Case,” then you know worker’s compensation generally will not be awarded in cases where an employee gets injured by violating company policy. This usually includes workplace altercations.
However, there are always some exceptions. One exception came up in a case that was decided by the court of appeals earlier this year: Arvind Bhut vs. Aluminum Shapes.
The case was an unusual one. Two employees got into a tense confrontation where, according to the courts, each felt the need to defend themselves from the other. In the course of the conflict, Arvin Bhut injured his shoulder.
The court ruled as follows:
“The judge of compensation found as fact that neither petitioner nor Stevens intended to hurt the other when they encountered each other outside of the locker room. Stevens’s and petitioner’s actions were merely self-protective. Petitioner swung his arm toward Stevens because he believed Stevens was pushing the pizza box into him, and Stevens grabbed petitioner’s arm because he believed petitioner intended to hurt him. As the judge succinctly stated, “[t]he reactions of both Mr. Stevens and the petitioner were in response to what each felt was aggressive behavior.” Because petitioner was injured as a result of an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment, his injury is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. See N.J.S.A. 34:15-1.”
This case demonstrates that the court can make exceptions for injuries sustained in acts of self-defense. …Read More
In some states, employers and employees can get into protracted battles over whose negligence caused a workplace injury. Not so in New Jersey, which is a no fault state.
This means that in New Jersey, it simply doesn’t matter whether you made an honest mistake which contributed to your injury. You are still entitled to worker’s compensation benefits.
The “no fault” provision benefits employers, too. Employees in New Jersey are barred from bringing a personal injury or negligence suit against their employers. They rely on worker’s compensation instead.
Thus, even if your employer decides to dispute your claim the issues of fact will usually be whether you have a permanent disability, to what degree you’re disabled, and whether you could return to work. In some cases the employer will be disputing where and how you took the injury, claiming it did not happen at work or represents a pre-existing condition they shouldn’t have to cover.
There are a few exceptions.
Employers can deny your claim if they can prove you were injured as a result of willful misconduct, which is different from fault. Willful misconduct covers violations of company policy or “horseplay.”
Safety and Health Magazine offers a good explanation of what might be considered horseplay: rough or rowdy play or pranks, which could involve physical contact, playing around, racing, grabbing, foolish vehicle operation, social pressure to participate in unsafe acts, harassment and unauthorized contests.
Basically, if you were injured while goofing off on the job or blatantly while blatantly …Read More