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 ignoring safety procedures the employer could have grounds to bar your claim.
Employers can also try claiming the injuries were self-inflicted. One recent example of a self-inflicted injury is the recent case of a New Jersey man who threw ice on the floor and faked a slip and fall to collect worker’s compensation benefits. This would also be a form of worker’s compensation fraud, and could mean the employee is also subject to criminal charges.
Finally, if you take an injury on the job while you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, most employers will have grounds to deny your claim. Almost every employer has explicit rules against intoxication on the job. Illegal drug use, of course, shields the employer all the more.
While there are many good and faithful employers in the state of New Jersey, there are plenty who will look for any reason to deny claims, especially if those claims could lead to some sort of permanent disability or payout. They’ll jump on anything they can, right down to a “failure to follow procedure.”
They don’t want their premiums to go up. And in some cases their insurance policies will require them to investigate and battle every claim to the best of their ability.
If you have been injured on the job thanks to a genuine mistake, and are being accused of any of the above-mentioned forms of misconduct, you need a worker’s compensation attorney on your side right away. Together, we can collect the evidence you need to defend yourself against unscrupulous employers who are looking for ways around no-fault laws.