New Jersey Attorneys Injured Workers on the Job
Workers’ compensation provides financial compensation to injured workers regardless of their fault. Most of these terms have specific legal meanings, and an experienced attorney can listen to the facts of your particular illness or injury and quickly determine whether or not workers’ compensation benefits are available to you.
Determining availability is only one part of the process. Over the years, the once-straightforward and largely neutral workers’ compensation system has grown into a bloated bureaucracy that, for the most part, is dominated by persons who believe that injury compensation is an unnecessary cost that deters business development. So, many hearing officers are quite receptive to insurance company arguments that the victim’s claim is excessive, especially at the initial review phase.
The experienced attorneys at Hollander, Strelzik, Pasculli, Hinkes, Vandenberg & Hontz, L.L.C. provide invaluable assistance in both these areas. Rather than assuming that the job injury is covered, we take the time to learn the facts of your individual case before making any assessment. Then, we vigorously pursue the claim throughout the workers’ compensation system to ensure the maximum amount of financial benefits for you and your family.
Course of Employment
Sometimes, the illness or injury occurs during work hours at the employer’s physical location, so the incident clearly falls within New Jersey’s “course of employment” definition. Other times, an illness or injury occurs during a ski vacation or holiday party, and the incident clearly does not fall within this definition.
Increasingly, judges must evaluate situations that are less than clear-cut. Over the years, New Jersey courts have developed several doctrines that apply in off-site workplace injuries:
- Coming and Going: Workers’ compensation generally does not apply to motor vehicle crashes and other injuries that occur while an employee is commuting between work and home. That rule is easy enough to apply if the injury occurs on I-95, but what if the employee is hurt in the company parking lot? In situations like these, the more control that the employer had over a given area, the more likely it is that workers’ compensation benefits are available.
- Off-Premises or Remote Employees: If a delivery driver slips and falls while making a pickup or a remote office worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome, the illness or injury is generally considered to be work-related.
- Deviations: What if the delivery driver slips and falls while she is on break, or what if a falling object hits a construction worker while he is eating lunch? Workers’ compensation is available for minor deviations, but not for major ones, and courts are split as to whether things like driving to a deli or checking the mail are major or minor deviations.
- Travel-Time Injuries: If a worker is hurt during a paid travel period, workers’ compensation applies if the victim was performing employer-authorized work. However, these benefits are unavailable if the victim received reimbursement for these travel expenses.
These rules also apply to injuries sustained at employer-sponsored events which normally do not qualify as work related, such as an injury at a company softball game. A few courts have held that such injuries are compensable under workers’ compensation because healthy employees with good attitudes are a benefit to the employer.
In most trauma injury cases, it is rather easy to determine whether or not the victim met the requirements in this area, based on medical records like emergency room admission documents.
But in occupational disease cases, such as hearing loss, these determinations are more complex. Most people do not rush to the doctor at the first sign of hearing loss. Instead, they assume that they are simply getting older, there was too much background noise in the room, that they have excessive amounts of earwax, and the list goes on. Furthermore, once diagnosed with hearing loss, they may not immediately connect their illness with their place of employment, especially if the hearing loss gradually occurred over a period of many years.
Workers’ Compensation System
Partially because of these complexities, many hearing officers deny compensation claims at the initial screening phase. In their defense, it is often difficult to make a determination based only on a paper review of the medical records.
Many workers get discouraged at this point, and so they fall victim to the insurance company’s overtures to settle the case quickly. In most cases, only the insurance company benefits from such a resolution because often, victims settle their cases for less than fair compensation.
It is important to persevere and move on to the hearing phase. At this stage, an aggressive attorney makes a tremendous difference. The insurance company knows this truth, and is therefore often willing to settle the claim on terms that are more favorable to the victim.
This process originated in the early 1900s as part of the Grand Bargain between management and workers. Victims surrendered their right to sue for damages in court in exchange for a no-fault insurance system which provided compensation for:
- Lost Wages: In New Jersey, victims with temporary disabilities usually receive 70% of their average weekly wage for the duration of their disability. Permanently disabled victims usually receive either an annuity or a one-time payment.
- Medical Bills: Workers’ compensation covers all reasonably necessary medical expenses. That includes emergency care, follow-up doctor visits, physical and/or occupational therapy, medical devices, and prescription drugs.
In some cases, the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provision is inapplicable, so victims may file claims in civil court and obtain additional compensation.
Connect with Aggressive Attorneys
The workers’ compensation system in New Jersey is extremely complex, but an experienced attorney can keep your case moving in the right direction. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Sussex County, contact Hollander, Strelzik, Pasculli, Hinkes, Vandenberg & Hontz, L.L.C. today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.