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
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
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
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
On August 6 of this year, the governor signed off on the new Wage Theft Law. While this law doesn’t mention worker’s compensation directly, it does draw attention to the fact that employers in New Jersey regularly misclassify workers.
The Department of Labor estimates that over 12,000 employees have been misclassified across the state, and that up to 30% of New Jersey employers engage in some form of employee misclassification.
They do this by claiming employees as independent contractors.
In addition to helping them skirt wage and overtime laws, misclassification makes it easier for employers to skip out on paying worker’s compensation insurance for those employees.
And while New Jersey does have an Office of Special Compensation Funds to help employees who weren’t covered by employers, you may find yourself in the position of having to prove you were misclassified if you wait until you need that money. It may be better to address issues of misclassification now, closing both worker’s compensation loopholes and loopholes which impact your pay.
To discover if you’ve been misclassified, you can use New Jersey’s ABC test.
Under the ABC test, you must meet three criteria to be considered an independent contractor.
- You must be free from the control and direction of the hiring entity. The entity might be able to express preferences from a list of service offerings, but independent contractors work when, where, and how they want. They aren’t penalized if they don’t show up according to an employer’s schedule, nor are they
Often, when people start talking about worker’s comp fraud all the focus is on employees who fake injuries, who fail to disclose pre-existing conditions, or who exaggerate the severity of injuries so they can live off workers comp funds without going back to work.
But employers commit fraud as well. And it’s important to realize that filing a claim against your employer can be to your benefit when genuine fraud exists.
They’ve failed to obtain insurance at all.
This form of fraud exposes your employer to criminal penalties. According to New Jersey Law, they can be sent to jail for up to 18 months and assessed a $10,000 fine.
In the meantime, a fund exists to pay benefits if you are a victim of this kind of fraud, through the Office of Special Compensation Funds.
They’ve classified you incorrectly.
In New Jersey employers must obtain worker’s compensation insurance for part time and short-term employees. They don’t have to obtain it for contractors, though, which inspires many employers to misclassify their employees.
But if your employer is your sole source of income, takes up 40 hours of your time, and controls how you do your work then you are not a contractor and should not be working off a 1099. Get an attorney’s help so you can compel the employer to list you as a full-time, W2 employee. If you’ve already been injured, an attorney can also help show why their policy should be covering you.
They make false or misleading…Read More
Third parties are involved in New Jersey worker’s compensation cases more often than you might think. In fact, one of the jobs your New Jersey worker’s compensation lawyer should be doing is identifying any other third parties who might be involved.
For example, if you were driving for work and got into an accident than the third party would be the other driver. If you were using equipment or products on the job and these items injured you because they were defective, the manufacturer of those products is a responsible third party. If a subcontractor failed to follow a safety process and injured you, then the subcontractor becomes the third party. And if you were injured on someone else’s property while working a job for your employer, then the property owner becomes a responsible third party.
This is actually good news, though it can make your case a little more complicated.
You have the right to sue the third party and you never have to choose.
First, let’s talk about what worker’s compensation does.
It is meant to do three things:
- Get you the medical care you need.
- Provide limited financial support for you and your family members while you’re injured.
- Provide very, very limited compensation for your injuries.
It also protects your employer from lawsuits. You usually can’t sue your employer over workplace injuries, even if your employer was grossly negligent and directly contributed to that injury in some way.
But you always have the right to sue the …Read More
One of the most frustrating things about dealing with worker’s compensation is dealing with the insurer itself. It’s not uncommon for your doctor to recommend a treatment, only to have the insurance company deny coverage for it.
It seems intensely unfair. How can an insurance adjuster, who never went to medical school, look at you and your doctor and tell you that your procedure isn’t “medically necessary?“
Or, how can they say the procedure that’s been proposed has nothing to do with the injury you took on the job, when it’s so clear and obvious that it has everything to do with it?
The problem is, insurers stay in business by looking for every reason to deny coverage they can find. They aren’t really concerned with straightforward common sense or fairness. They’re concerned with making a case that allows them to avoid payment.
They may agree to cover a lesser or less effective treatment, or they may deny coverage altogether. Fortunately you have some recourse. You can appeal this decision, and there are ways for you to get treatment in the meantime.
Step 1 – Gather Documentation
Go back to your doctor and have him or her provide full documentation as to why he or she believes this procedure is medically necessary. You’ll need this to refute the insurer’s claim.
Step 2 – Bring the Matter to Your Lawyer
Your lawyer can make a claim on your …Read More