People who suffer an occupational injury or illness can pursue workers' compensation benefits by filing a claim with their employer’s insurance company.
A workers’ comp lawyer can check the status of your workers' comp claim online through the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website. This site provides regular updates about claim filings, hearing notices, and other case updates in your case.
One of the best ways to ensure a favorable and efficient result in your workers' compensation claim is to retain skilled legal counsel to represent you as quickly in the process as possible.
In addition to checking the status of your case online and keeping you informed of updates regularly, your lawyer can assist you with every step of the claim filing and negotiation process.
Your lawyer can also determine if you can file a third-party claim for additional monetary compensation. Your attorney can answer all your legal questions and secure the best possible result in your workers' compensation or accompanying third-party claim.
Injuries and Illnesses that Workers May Suffer While on the Job
Many workers are prone to injuries while they are on the job. Construction workers and builders, in particular, constantly work around dangerous equipment and machinery, leading to severe injuries. However, even working in an office environment may suffer an injury on the job, such as from a slip and fall accident on the premises.
A worker's injuries and illnesses will depend on several factors, including the type of accident, the amount of force involved, and the workplace setting.
Common workplace injuries that individuals may suffer include:
- Soft tissue neck and back injuries
- Broken bones
- Knee fractures
- Rib fractures
- Traumatic head and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Deep lacerations that require stitches
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from repetitive movement
- Internal organ injuries
- Complications from asbestos exposure
- Irreparable lung and sinus damage
If you suffered any of these injuries or medical complications at work, you should speak with legal counsel right away to discuss your options.
A knowledgeable workers' compensation attorney in your area can explore all of your legal rights with you and determine your eligibility for pursuing a claim. If you can move forward, your attorney can represent you every step of the way and work to secure the favorable benefits that you deserve in your case.
Are You Eligible to File a Workers’ Comp Claim for Benefits?
Workers' compensation benefits are a type of no-fault benefit. Therefore, a worker who suffers an occupational injury, illness, or disease may recover these benefits regardless of what caused their accident, injuries, or illness.
The only requirements for recovering these benefits are that the individual is an employee and suffered their occupational injury or illness while working at their job – and while working within the scope of their appointment.
First, an individual must ordinarily be an employee rather than an independent contractor to recover workers' compensation benefits. This typically means that the worker receives a W-2 form instead of a Form-1099 at the end of the tax year.
In some situations, a lawyer must investigate to determine whether an individual is truly an employee versus an independent contractor. When making these determinations, the Division of Workers’ Compensation will typically look at how the individual receives payment, their work hours, and their degree of control over their work.
In addition to being an employee, an injured worker must also have suffered an injury while on the job and working within the scope of their employment. Typically, this means that when the worker suffered their injury or illness, they were completing a job function or duty.
A skilled workers' compensation attorney in your area can discuss the circumstances of your workplace occurrence with you and determine your eligibility for filing a claim for benefits.
If you can move forward, your lawyer can assist you with every step of the process and help you recover the maximum benefits you deserve.
Recoverable Benefits in a Workers' Compensation Claim
Depending on the circumstances, individuals who suffer an on-the-job injury or illness may be eligible to recover various types of workers’ compensation benefits. First, an injured worker may recover a portion of the income they lost due to not working after their occurrence. In addition, they can recover monetary compensation for all of their related medical expenses.
If the injured worker cannot return to their former job or occupation due to the nature and extent of their injuries, they may be eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation benefits. Moreover, an injured worker may be eligible to recover various types of permanency benefits.
One common type of permanency benefit is for permanent partial disability – or PPD. A worker may be eligible to recover these benefits if a medical provider determines, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that they suffered a permanent injury at work.
A permanent injury is unlikely to get better, even with treatment and time, and will likely cause the worker ongoing pain and symptoms for the rest of their life.
Medical providers express permanency as a percentage impairment. This percentage then translates into a certain number of weeks of monetary compensation, depending on the injured body part(s). When disputes arise regarding the degree of an injured worker’s permanency level, the parties can take their case to a hearing for a resolution.
Settling a Workers’ Comp Claim
In some scenarios, the injured worker and the employer’s insurer can reach a settlement in their workers’ comp claim – especially regarding permanency benefits.
First, the parties may agree on a permanency percentage in the case. This percentage will translate into a certain number of weeks of compensation, depending on the body part(s) the worker injured.
Instead of agreeing on a percentage, the parties may resolve their claim if the employer's insurance company makes a full and final settlement offer in the case.
In this scenario, the insurance company will typically place a lump sum offer on the table, which the injured worker may choose to accept or reject. If the worker rejects the offer, the parties may continue negotiating the settlement amount.
However, before accepting a final settlement offer from an insurance company, injured workers must understand the ramifications. Typically, if they accept a lump sum to settle their case, their case will close, and they can no longer reopen it. Therefore, the injured worker will not be eligible to recover any additional monetary benefits if their medical condition worsens over time.
You should never accept a lump sum offer from a workers’ compensation insurance company without legal guidance. Too many workers with long-term injuries underestimate their future costs and accept an inadequate settlement. This leaves the worker responsible for their medical expenses and other losses if the costs exceed the settlement offer.
Once you accept an offer and spend those funds, you will not have the opportunity to seek more benefits. A workers' compensation attorney can review any lump sum offers in light of your injuries. They can help you decide whether you should accept the settlement from the insurance company or negotiate for a higher amount.
Potential Workers’ Comp/Third-party Claims
In addition to filing a workers' compensation claim for various benefits following a workplace accident, an injured worker may file a third-party claim arising from the same set of events.
Although workers' compensation claims are no-fault-based, third-party claims have a basis in fault. Therefore, the injured worker will need to establish several legal elements of proof to recover monetary damages.
Specifically, the injured worker must show that a third party owed them a legal duty of care they subsequently violated. Next, the injured worker must show that a workplace accident happened as a direct result of this breach, and they suffered one or more physical injuries.
Comp/third-party claims typically arise in the context of:
- Motor vehicle crashes that involve work vehicles, where another driver behaved negligently, and the worker suffered a permanent or disabling injury
- Premises accidents where a third-party owner negligently failed to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for the benefit of workers
- Product malfunctions, where a piece of work equipment or machinery does not operate the way it is supposed to, causing a worker to suffer injuries
- Explosions traceable to a defective product or negligent repair work
A knowledgeable workers' compensation attorney can determine if you are eligible to file a third-party claim, in addition to your workers' comp claim, arising from your workplace occurrence.
If you can move forward with a third-party claim, your lawyer can assist you with every step of the process, including gathering the necessary documents, negotiating with insurance company representatives, and, if necessary, pursuing litigation in court for additional monetary damages.
Pursuing Monetary Compensation in a Third-party Claim or Lawsuit
To recover monetary compensation in a third-party claim arising from a workplace occurrence, your personal injury attorney will need to gather certain evidence to prove the legal elements of your claim.
First, your lawyer may obtain a copy of the incident report or police report detailing the occurrence. Your lawyer can also obtain copies of your medical treatment records, medical bills, injury photographs, property damage photographs, and other documents to use as potential evidence in your case.
Once the at-fault party’s insurance company receives these documents, they will review them and decide whether to accept fault for the occurrence.
If the insurance company adjuster decides to accept fault, settlement negotiations may take place, and the injured worker’s attorney will make an opening demand for settlement, and the insurance company adjuster will respond. These negotiations will continue back and forth until the parties reach a settlement in their case or decide to pursue litigation.
In some situations, insurance companies are unwilling to offer significant monetary compensation after an injured worker has already recovered monetary benefits in their workers’ comp claim.
A personal injury attorney handling your case can help you decide whether you should accept a settlement offer from the insurance company or litigate your case to a conclusion in the court system.
If you decide to litigate your case, you may still reach a monetary settlement with the other side until the time of trial.
If your case must go to a civil jury trial, the jury will determine what, if any, additional monetary compensation to award you for your workplace injuries. However, instead of taking your case to trial, you can pursue one or more types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation or binding arbitration, as a way of resolving your case favorably.
Whatever you decide, your attorney will aggressively fight for your legal rights and interests every step away and zealously advocate for you throughout your case.
Monetary Recovery in a Third-party Claim
If you are eligible to file a third-party personal injury claim in addition to your workers’ compensation claim, you can recover additional monetary damages.
The damages you recover in the third-party portion of your case may depend on the nature and extent of your injuries, the total cost of your medical treatment, and the extent of the intangible losses you suffered as a result.
For example, you can recover monetary damages for all of your anticipated medical costs, inconvenience, loss of spousal consortium, pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of use of a body part, and loss of life enjoyment stemming from your accident.
Call a Workers' Comp Lawyer Near You Today
If you recently suffered an occupational illness or injury, you should involve skilled legal counsel in your case as quickly as possible. Your lawyer can routinely review the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website and provide regular updates on the status of your workers’ compensation claim.
Moreover, your personal injury attorney in New Jersey can assist you with every aspect of the workers’ compensation and personal injury claim processes and work to secure favorable results in your case. Seek a free case evaluation today.