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
Employers don’t love watching their workman’s comp premiums go up. They don’t love holding a job for an injured worker. And insurance companies don’t love paying claims.
So there are dozens of little legal loopholes these entities can slip through.
You can avoid handing them the ability to slip through some of them by avoiding actions which give them an excuse. Here are some of the most common reasons workman’s comp benefits get suspended or denied. Avoid these actions to keep the flow of benefits coming.
1. Failing to report the injury to your employer.
While it seems counter intuitive, it’s important to report the injury to your employer. And you should do your best not to leave the scene of the accident until you’ve done it.
This establishes a few important facts.
- That you were on the job, and not, say, on break, when the injury occurred.
- That the employer is aware of the claim. The employer has no obligation otherwise.
- That you’re taking the process seriously.
- Tells you which doctor to go to, since in New Jersey the carrier or employer can tell you who to see.
Immediate reporting also avoids suspicion that you’re exaggerating the injury.
Obviously if you’re unconscious or being rushed to the hospital calling a supervisor and filling out a form won’t be at the top of your to do list. Just make sure to inform your employer as soon as you can, and add the written justification for the delay.
Don’t just …Read More
NJ workplace injuries can result from carelessness, poor training, or repetitive activities. The nearly endless causes of employee accidents and injuries are often dependent on the type of work environment and duties of an employee. However, there is one cause of NJ workplace injuries that span offices, factories, construction sites, and hospitals, and that is fatigue.
In a hospital, where doctor and nurses are working ten, twelve, and fifteen-hour shifts, it is easy to recognize how fatigue plays a roll in NJ workplace injuries. But accidents arising from fatigue and sleepiness are also common in workplaces where the shifts are shorter and physical demands lower. Here are five ways fatigue is impacting a variety of workplaces in NJ.
#1: Fatigue Isn’t Always Tied to Sleep
We generally connect fatigue with a lack of sleep or rest, but studies have shown that this isn’t always the case when it comes to NJ workplace injuries. Fatigue can be caused by intense physical labor, long hours in front of a computer, an intense mental task, or even social interactions. Environmental factors, medical conditions, and physically demanding work are all underlying reasons for a tired employee.
As well, there is evidence to suggest that it is actually these aspects of the workplace that cause more accidents than sleepiness. Jobs are demanding more of employees outside traditional office hours and requiring a high-level of mental or physical dedication. As more is required of employees outside the office or salaries drive NJ employees to take …Read More
If you look for a list of workspaces and professions with the most workplace injuries, you are unlikely to see jobs like account manager or sales representative make the list. These jobs are frequently done at an office and behind a desk. A seemingly safe workspace compared to construction sites and factory floors. Yet, there are several common injuries that still afflict traditional offices in NJ.
Similar to other workplaces in NJ, a substantial number of common injuries in the office can be easily avoided through training and proper procedure. A separate handful of office injuries are more difficult to tackle because these common injuries are inherent to the work and design of an office. What are the most common injuries in NJ offices and how can you avoid them? Read this post to find out.
#1: Ergonomic Injuries From Sitting and Typing
While the work in your office might not be monotonous, it is very likely your posture and position for completing this work is. Ergonomic injuries, also called repetitive stress injuries, repetitive motion injuries, or cumulative trauma injuries, are incredibly common in NJ offices. In fact, these musculoskeletal issues are the most common injuries in offices. Just as concerning, most people ignore the signs and symptoms of these injuries for a long time.
The risk factors for ergonomic injuries include awkward posture or sitting positions, continuous strain or stress on the neck, back, and shoulders from looking up or down at a screen, and extended periods of …Read More
Employees in New Jersey suffer workplace injuries due to falls, trips, car accidents, and failure to wear protective eyewear. In fact, when you start to categorize the reasons and causes of workplace injury in New Jersey, there seem to be endless risks and hazards. However, some of the state’s most serious workplace injuries involve the use of machinery or equipment.
When one of these grave accidents occurs, both employees and employers will ask a number of questions. We have the answers. In this post, we cover some of the questions most frequently asked of a New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer after a machinery accident. However, it is impossible to cover all the information you want or need here. If you have a complicated question or one particular to your workers’ compensation case, contact our New Jersey office now.
Question #1: How Common Are Accidents Involving Machinery or Equipment?
There are a substantial number of heavy machinery accidents in the United States each year. These accidents occur on construction sites, in hotels, restaurants, and bars, in factories or industrial facilities, and in laboratories. Most statistics place workplace injury by machinery or equipment in the top 10 list of the most common causes of injury.
As well, machinery and equipment injuries could be more common than most people realize. When statistics are reported, the types of workplace injury are often broken down more narrowly than simply “caused by equipment.” Rather, there are multiple ways a worker can be injured by equipment and …Read More
Slip and fall accidents are among the most common workplace accidents in NJ and across the U.S. Each year thousands of employees miss thousands of days at work because they have a broken arm, sprained neck, or another injury from falling at work.
Another important statistic about slip and fall accidents is that they occur in a variety of NJ workplaces and work environments. Offices, industrial warehouses, construction sites, and hospitals are all common locations for an employee to slip and fall. Other accidents occur in restaurants, hair salons, and schools.
Yet, slip and fall accidents are preventable. Very few employees are falling without reason and most slip and fall accidents occur because of a hazard in the workplace. Putting in place alternatives and safety features can reduce the hazards leading to slip and fall accidents. In particular, employers can work to address these five common hazards at work.
#1: Cables and Cords Across the Floors
Employees often don’t notice where their computer or printer is plugged in, until the cord to that power source becomes a hazard in the hallway or other areas of the workplace. In fact, cables and cords that go unnoticed or unsecured on the floor are one of the most common reasons for slip and fall accidents in the office.
However, it isn’t just law firms and business professionals that need to worry about this hazard. Extension cords, power cords, ropes, and other cables are common in warehouses, industrial facilities, and other workplaces …Read More