If you’re hurt on the job and unable to go back to work for several months – or even several years – do you understand the intricacies of the workers’ compensation system in New Jersey?
It may seem like a simple matter of filing a claim and getting your benefits, but the truth is that workers’ compensation can be complicated, especially if you don’t have a basic understanding of how the system works. With that in mind, here are some important things to keep in mind about the New Jersey workers’ compensation system.
Workers’ Compensation Defined
The State of New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development defines workers’ compensation as a system that, “provides medical treatment, wage replacement and permanent disability compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses, and death benefits to dependents of workers who have died as a result of their employment.”
All companies operating in New Jersey that do not have coverage through a Federal program are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance or self-insurance. This included any company based out of state that signs a contract in New Jersey, or performs actual work in the state.
If you are injured on the job in New Jersey, the workers’ compensation law grants you benefits whether or not you were at fault. But you cannot file a civil lawsuit against your company for pain and suffering or any other damages, unless you are able to prove that an intentional act caused your injury.
Types of Benefits Available in Workers’ Compensation Claims
If you are injured while on the job, or if someone you love is killed due to a job-related injury, the law allows you to receive five types of benefits:
- Medical Benefits – defined as all “necessary and reasonable medical treatment, prescriptions and hospitalization services related to the work injury…”
- Temporary Disability Benefits – if you are unable to work because of your injury, you are entitled to receive temporary benefits seven days after the injury occurred. The benefit is calculated at 70 percent of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceeds 75 percent of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW), or fall under 20 percent of SAWW.
- Permanent Partial Benefits – if your injury results in partial permanent disability, such as the loss of a hand, finger, leg or foot, or an organ such a lung, you are entitled to receive weekly payments after your temporary disability benefits ends.
- Permanent Total Benefits – if your injury prevents you from returning to work permanently, you are entitled to 450 weeks of weekly benefits at 760 percent of your average weekly wage. After the initial 450 weeks, you must prove that you are still permanently disabled to continue receiving benefits.
- Death Benefits – if you are a dependent of a person who died due to a work-related injury or illness, you are entitled to receive 70 percent of that person’s weekly wage. A judge will determine the benefit amount allocated to all surviving dependents.
What Happens If Employer Denies a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
If your employer denies or disputes a workers’ compensation claim, you can file a formal claim petition, or an application for an informal hearing with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. In most instances, this is the time during which you should hire an attorney to represent your rights as these petitions can become complicated.