A work-related injury can leave you with expensive medical bills and lost income. You may be worried about losing your job or whether your injuries will prevent you from working in the future. Pain and worry over how you will pay bills if you are unable to work make for a stressful recovery, but financial compensation is available for many on-the-job injuries.
State and federal laws provide protection and benefits for workers injured at work. You may be entitled to medical care paid for by your employer, disability benefits, job protection, and even damages for pain and suffering in some cases.
Contacting an experienced New Jersey injury lawyer right away may be advantageous if you were injured at work. While NJ law provides injured workers with valuable rights, you must promptly take the correct steps to ensure protection. The actions you take after an accident could affect your ability to obtain compensation for work-related injuries, and employers or insurance companies may attempt to avoid paying deserved benefits for work-related injuries. A NJ workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer can help you stand up for your rights.
The Right to Workers’ Compensation in New Jersey
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program put in place by the federal government which requires most employers to carry insurance to cover employees injured while performing their jobs.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault program meant to compensate injured workers even if their injury wasn’t anyone’s fault. So, you don’t need to prove that your employer was negligent or otherwise at fault. As an example, an employee can recover for a serious back injury sustained during heavy lifting that is in the normal course of their employment. An employee can also claim compensation if the negligence of an employer or coworker led to the injury.
However, the term “no fault” can be deceiving, and there are limitations on a person’s right to benefits. Workers’ compensation might not be available if the injured employee was willfully negligent or reckless. For example, under New Jersey Statutes §34:15-7, an employee may not have the right to compensation if they were willfully intoxicated on the job or failed to use safety equipment.
As discussed below, employers and their insurance companies may look for reasons to avoid paying an injured worker compensation. If you were injured on the job, an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer could help you protect your rights to valuable benefits.
Benefits Provided by Workers’ Compensation
A work-related injury can impact your ability to keep working, seek future job opportunities, and pay your bills. The amount and types of workers’ compensation you’re entitled to will depend on the extent of your injuries.
Under workers’ compensation laws you may have rights to several types of benefits. First, your employer may be required to pay for your medical care, including doctor visits, prescription medications, and hospitalizations. You should be aware that, except in emergencies, you do not have the right to select your medical provider and will need to seek treatment from the professionals designated by your employer.
You also have the right to temporary disability benefits if you must miss more than seven days of work. Temporary disability pay is available until you are released to work again or have reached “maximum medical improvement,” also known as MMI. Reaching MMI often means that there is a permanent partial, or full disability. If you are declared to have a permanent partial or full disability, you have the right to receive permanent disability benefits.
Standing Up for Your Rights Under NJ Workers’ Compensation Laws
Generally, you should report a work-related injury to your employer as soon as possible. Your employer will notify their insurance carrier, and you may be referred to a medical provider for assessment or treatment.
Unfortunately, employers and insurance companies may not always honor your rights after an injury. If they dispute your injury or fail to fulfill their duties, you may need to file a claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. A skilled NJ injury lawyer can help you fight for your rights after an injury. Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible can improve your chances of winning the compensation that you deserve.
Employers and insurance companies often look for ways to avoid paying benefits. An employer might claim that you failed to use required safety equipment or follow mandatory safety procedures. Sometimes employers fail to follow through with their duties under workers’ compensation laws, forcing employees to obtain their own medical care. If you are forced to seek medical care on your own, you may have the right to seek reimbursement from your employer later. However, it is important to give your employer sufficient opportunity to comply with workers’ compensation requirements, or you may lose your ability to pursue payment.
Additionally, insurance companies sometimes claim that a person’s injury or disability is not serious enough to prevent the person from working. They may also claim that an injured party is exaggerating the severity of the injury or that a preexisting condition was the cause. Sometimes disputes arise over whether an injury is genuinely work-related or whether it was sustained outside of work such as during a sporting accident. Insurance companies sometimes turn to social media or other sources to look for evidence to use against injured parties. The insurance carrier may look for photos showing a person doing activities that it will claim are inconsistent with the injury or show evidence of a preexisting condition. Advice from a qualified lawyer can help you ensure that you are appropriately compensated for your injury.
Protection From Retaliation
Injured workers are sometimes afraid to report an injury or file a claim against their employer due to fear of being terminated. Most employment in NJ is “at will,” which means employers may terminate employees for any reason.
However, New Jersey Statutes §34:15-39.1 prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against an employee due to a workers’ compensation claim. The law also protects workers who testify in workers’ compensation proceedings. Employers who violate this law can face fines and even jail time, and terminated employees have the right to return to their job and to be compensated for lost wages.
Your Rights Beyond Workers’ Compensation
Although the workers’ compensation program offers valuable benefits, it does have limitations. Your rights to select your medical provider are limited, and you cannot recover for pain and suffering. A personal injury lawsuit against your employer can provide additional rights, but these suits are much more challenging to win than a workers’ comp claim.
Under New Jersey law, an injured employee may only sue their employer if certain conditions exist. To win a lawsuit against your employer, you must prove that the employer’s negligence caused your injury. Winning such a lawsuit requires substantial evidence of the employer’s negligence.
Personal injury cases against employers are difficult to win but may be required to protect an employee’s rights in some cases. These suits allow an injured person to:
- Seek compensation for pain and suffering
- Pursue punitive damages
- Retain control over their medical care
If an employer removes safety guards from equipment or otherwise deliberately exposes an employee to unusually dangerous working conditions, a lawsuit may be appropriate. Because these cases are so challenging, you should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately if you believe your employer is at fault for your injury.
The Attorneys at Villani & DeLuca Can Help Protect Your Rights
If you were injured at work, you likely have rights to a variety of benefits. Compensation for your injury can help pay your bills, secure your future, and provide for your family.
Don’t let an insurance carrier pressure or trick you into settling for less than you deserve. Contact skilled lawyers like those at Villani & DeLuca who will work to win the compensation that you deserve.