In some accident and injury cases it is necessary to prove the other party was negligent before you can recover any form of compensation. This is not the case in a New Jersey workers compensation case.
Instead, it is only necessary to prove that the injury or illness arose as a result of your activities and presence in the workplace.
This is part of the bargain that was made between New Jersey workers and employers when the workers compensation system first came into existence. Workers would lose the right to sue employers for negligence and employers would pay for injuries and illnesses sustained at work regardless of whether or not the employee played a role in causing those injuries.
As always when the law is involved, there are of course both complications and exceptions that you should be aware of.
Exception #1 – You Were in Violation of Certain Policies
Employers may deny workers compensation when the employee was found to be in violation of clearly established safety policies that would have prevented the injury.
This includes policies about horseplay and assault. If an employee is engaged in unsafe behavior, is engaged in workplace violence, or is playing around in a way that causes an injury the employer will often have a case for denying workers compensation.
Exception #2 – You Need to Prove a Third Party Contributed to Your Injury
When a third party contributes to your injury you will often be able to launch a personal injury case in conjunction with your workers compensation case. In this case fault and who might have caused the injury are all relevant to the case and these facts will have to be gathered and examined.
This does not mean that fault will have a bearing on your workers comp case, which should proceed regardless.
Complication #1 – You Have Pre-Existing Conditions
If you have pre-existing conditions they can complicate your workers compensation claim.
Your employer is responsible for any pre-existing conditions they exacerbate while you are on the job. However it is sometimes difficult to create a clear-cut line of causality between the exacerbation of a pre-existing activity and your work conditions.
In this case you may have to put together a greater amount of evidence to show that your work activities were responsible for your new medical difficulties.
In addition, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that the exclusive remedy provision that keeps an employee from suing a negligent employer does not apply in cases where the employer fails to make reasonable accommodation for a condition they know about. In Richter vs. Oakland Board of Education a diabetic teacher fainted, fell, and sustained life-altering injuries when she hit her head in the fall because her employer would not accommodate her request for a schedule change that would allow her to manage her blood sugar within reasonable levels. She was able to make a discrimination claim and sue the school district on those grounds.
Complication #2 – Disputes Over the Facts of the Case
While you don’t have to prove your employer was at fault you may have to prove that you did not get the injury while traveling to or from work, while you were at home, or while you were in violation of company policy.
The facts of the case will therefore have to be carefully reviewed and backed by your attorney and the evidence.
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