- Navigating Worker’s Compensation
- August 8, 2017
As Murphy’s Law states, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” This holds true for nearly every aspect of life. Fortunately, we have the power to keep ourselves protected if (and when) accidents occur — especially at work. Worker’s Compensation exists to assure that employees receive the support they’re entitled to if an accident or injury happens on the job.
What exactly is Worker’s Compensation?
To do business in the State of NJ, all employers must have Worker’s Compensation. This law is designed to provide an injured worker state mandated benefits. There are three types of Worker’s Compensation benefits:
- Medical Benefits — entitling the employee to the payment for all medical benefits necessary to treat their condition until maximum medical improvement is obtained (as defined by Statute)
- Temporary Disability Benefits – in which an employee receives payment for missed time due to an injury or compensable illness
- Permanent Disability Benefits – calculated by a state mandated chart detailing what an injured worker is entitled to if an injury causes functional impairment, in other words, any limitations on the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks because of an injury
Let’s break down what Worker’s Compensation does and does not do for you in more detail:
Worker’s Compensation does:
- Cover all injuries that occur “in the course and scope of employment”, even if your accident or injury occurred because of your own actions. In other words, there’s a “no-fault” element to the law
- Provide benefits for those who are self-employed (if self-coverage is obtained), employed by a corporation or small business and business owners (again, if the appropriate coverage has been obtained)
Worker’s Compensation does not:
- Guarantee your position with your employer in the State of New Jersey. While it does help protect you if injury occurs, it doesn’t necessarily protect the position you hold. These situations are typically outlined in an employment pamphlet or Union-Management Agreement
- Regulate the relationship between you and your employer, that’s done by employment laws
Permanent Disability and Temporary Disability, what’s the difference?
Permanent Disability is determined with a chart used by the Department of Labor and Workforce, which is updated and adjusted every year. Disability can be contested and is often determined by a Judge of Compensation after a filed Claim Petition. These cases are often settled by the parties before a trial, and are overseen and approved by a Worker’s Compensation Judge. A fair determination of disability is reached when each side sends the Petitioner to an evaluating doctor. Once a numeric rating of disability is given, the final decision is often a compromise somewhere in between both doctor’s opinions.
Determining Temporary Disability is a slightly different process. If your doctor declares you, the Petitioner, unable to work, you’ll receive a maximum rate of 70% of your wages (up to a weekly maximum amount). You must already be actively covered by medical care during this time to receive this compensation.
What if I’m totally disabled?If you’re determined to be totally disabled, you can make a claim with the “Second Injury Fund.” This State Fund provides lifelong benefits, due to a combination of pre-existing disabilities, along with the compensable accident which presumably put you over the edge. This fund is helpful because it encourages employers to hire individuals with some level of pre-existing disability, as they won’t bear the full brunt of a small injury making the employee’s condition worse.