Understanding New Jersey Workers Compensation Laws
The New Jersey Workers Compensation Act, NJSA 34:15-1 was enacted in 1911 and often referenced to as the “Grand Bargain.” Wherein injured workers would give up their right to sue employers for alleged injuries sustained in a workplace accident. In exchange for swift access to medical care and lost wage benefits. New Jersey has a “No Fault” system pursuant to the Workers Compensation Act. NJSA 34:15-1 et seq.
Virtually all individuals who work in the state are covered by the Act; with the exception of long shoremen and employees of the U.S. government.
Volunteer crewmen and rescue squad workers are covered by the Act.
34:15-36 – When Does Employment Begin?
Employment under the Act starts when an employee arrives at the employers place of employment to report for work and shall terminate when the employee leaves the employer’s place of employment, excluding areas not under the control of the employer. Although when required to be away from the normal place of employment and while in the performance of his related work duties, the employee shall be denied being in the course of employment.
Reporting a Workplace Injury or Illness
Compensable Work Claims: Specific & Occupational
The Act branches and coverage and benefits for both traumatic injuries from specific work-related accidents. As well as occupational injuries / diseases which occur over time as a result of the employees work effort, and for exposure to hazardous conditions at the workplace or while in the performance of his work related duties. Example of occupational injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by repetition due to typing, pulmonary disability of a fireman who repeatedly suffered from smoke inhale or a factory worker who experiences hearing loss die to constant loud noises. Back injuries may also be caused by years of heavy labor in the construction industry. Although occupational claims are generally more difficult to prove than specific accident claims.
Evaluating Your Workers Compensation Claim
Timely Notice Requirement
Pursuant to NJSA 34:15-17, an employer (or its insurance company) is not obligated to provide an injured employee with worker compensation benefits until such notice of the injury is given to or knowledge of the injury is obtained by the employer.
Time Frames to Report Accidents
- If an injured employee provides notice of a work-related accident and injuries within (14) days of the accident date, workers compensation benefits will be allowed.
- If notice is given or knowledge obtained within 30 days of the accident, workers compensation benefits shall be allowed unless the employers can prove that they were prejudiced by the delay.
- If notice is given or knowledge obtained within 90 days of the accident date and the injured employee can prove that his failure to give proper notice was due to mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact alleging fraud of misrepresentation an the part of another. Workers’ Compensation benefits shall be allowed unless the employer can show he was prejudiced by failure to receive notice.
- Unless knowledge of an injury can be obtained or notice given, within 90 days after the occurrence of the injury, no compensation benefits shall be allowed.
As you can see, the earlier the notice is provided to the employer, the better the employees’ chances are at recovering workers compensation benefits.
Types of Benefits:
The New Jersey Workers Compensation Act provides injured employees with 3 types of benefits.
- Medical treatment to the work injury
- Temporary disability benefits of up to 70% of wages while out of work under the care of an authorized workers compensation medical provider
- An award of permanent partial or total benefits if there is objective evidence of a permanent loss of function.
NJSA 34:15-15 provides that an employer must provide all medical treatment necessary to cure and relieve the effects of the injury and to restore the functions of the injured member if possible.
The workers’ compensation carrier must pay 100% of all related medical treatment. The injured employee does not owe any co-payment or deductible. However, the treatment must be pre-authorized by the employer’s worker compensation carrier. The drawback for injured workers is that the employer’s carrier chooses the doctor.
Temporary Disability Benefits:
The Workers Compensation Act provides that an employee is entitled to receive 70% of his average weekly wage, subject to the state minimum / maximum rate, for the period that the authorized treating physician indicates he is unable to work and needs active medical treatment.
NJSA 34:15-12(a): For injury producing temporary disability, 70% of gross weekly wages at the time of the injury, subject to the annual maximum rate, shall be paid during the period of such disability, not however, beyond 400 weeks.
When Does Temp End?
The right to collect Temporary Disability ends when the claimant has been released to return to work and/or declared MMI; by an authorized medical provider.
Light Duty Work
Temp will continue if claimant is released to return to work with restrictions and employer is unable to accommodate. Harbatuk v. S&S Furniture Systems Insulation, 11 NJ. Super. 614 (App. Div. 1986). Injured workers is not obligated to search for light duty with a different employer. Williams v. Topps Appliance City, 293 NJ. Super. 528 (1989).
There must be a Bonafede offer of light duty work which petitioner rejects in order to operate to terminate temporary disability benefits; Salmans v. Walmart Stores, Inc. CP: 98-0825 (2000).
Part-time Permanent Disability Benefits
“Disability permanent in quality and partial in character” means a permanent impairment caused by a compensable accident or compensable occupational disease, based upon demonstrable objective medical evidence, which restricts the function of the body of its members or organs; included in the criteria which shall be considered whether there has been a lessening to a material degree of an employee’s working ability. Subject to the above provisions, nothing in this definition shall be construed to preclude benefits to a worker who returns to work following a compensable accident even if there be no reduction in earnings. Injuries such as lacerations, minor contusions, minor sprains, and scars which do not constitute significant permanent disfigurement, and occupational disease of a minor nature such as mild dermatitis and mild bronchitis shall not constitute permanent disability within the meaning of this definition.
N.J.SA. 34:15-12 Schedule of Payments
Following is a schedule of compensation:
For injury producing temporary disability, 70% of the workers weekly wages received at the time of the injury. This compensation shall be paid during the period of such disability, not however, beyond 400 weeks.