What is Workers' Compensation?

Posted on Thu Jul 26 2012 by Vincent Jesuele

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  • Workers’ compensation is a specialized legal process for handling job-related injuries, and is a compromise between workers and employers.
  • Workers are assured payment of medical bills connected to the treatment of their injury.
  • Workers may also receive temporary disability payments for time missed at work and permanent disability payments for permanent loss of bodily function.
  • In exchange, the worker gives up the right to sue his employer.
  • Awards in workers’ compensation court are fixed by the Legislature and are quite reasonable. On the other hand, the sky is the limit for damages in civil cases. So employers like workers’ compensation because it limits their losses.

How did it start?

Who is eligible?

  • In the State of New Jersey, virtually all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, so you should be covered.
  • The main exception is for partnerships, LLCs, and sole proprietorships who do not have any paid employees besides the partners, members, or sole proprietor, respectively.
  • If you’re self-employed, you may choose to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.

What benefits are available?

  • In general, you can expect to receive payment for medical bills associated with your treatment, temporary disability payment for time out of work at the rate of 70% of your gross weekly wage (subject to a maximum of $810.00 per week at the time of writing), and permanent disability payment for lasting loss of bodily function.

How much will it cost me?

  • Nothing unless you win: your attorney will get a percentage of any award you receive. The attorney’s fee is set by the court, and is typically 20% of the award, paid 60% by the employer and 40% through the award

Can my employer take action against me for filing a WC claim?

  • No — that’s illegal!

How long will it take?

  • Frankly, it varies. However, as soon as treatment ends, the claim can be filed and is typically resolved within months.

Can I reopen my case after receiving an award?

  • Yes. You and your attorney must file a re-opener petition within two years of the final payment of your award

What are typical awards for injuries in 2012?

  • Torn meniscus in knee resulting in arthroscopic surgery - $11,907 to $15,309
  • Torn rotator cuff (shoulder) resulting in arthroscopic surgery - $23,964 to $36,954
  • Sprain of the neck or back with physical therapy - $9,720 to $16,200
  • Herniated disc in neck or back without surgery - $16,200 to $27,882
  • The above are ranges of values. The actual award may vary depending on other factors which would be evaluated at the appropriate time. Here is a link to the 2012 disability schedule: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/forms_pdfs/wc/pdf/2012_schedule.pdf

Can I get an award even if I return to work?

  • Definitely. Whether you return or not, if the injury results in a degree of permanency (i.e. you still feel the effects of the injury after treatment ends), you will be entitled to an award

What if I can no longer do my job due to the injury?

  • This is a difficult question: based on New Jersey law, your employer is not required to retrain you or find you other work. There are resources, however, such as the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) which offers testing, retraining, extended benefits and deferred loans for retraining. In addition, if you are totally and permanently disabled you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits

What if my employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance?

  • In New Jersey, it is illegal for an employer with more than five employees not to have workers’ compensation insurance. There are potential civil and criminal penalties to the employer. There is also a fund called the Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF) which may replace some of the benefits to which you are entitled.

Where will my case be heard?

Do you have a question about workers’ compensation which we don’t answer here? Feel free to:

Vincent Jesuele is an attorney with the firm Kessler, DiGiovanni & Jesuele, LLC in Cranford, Union County, New Jersey. He has been representing plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, automobile accidents, medical and legal malpractice, and other civil matters for almost 30 years.

Filed under Workers' Comp