Articles

A Workers' Compensation Primer

By: Attorney Jeffrey S. Monaghan
Work related accidents can cause significant emotional, physical and financial problems for the injured employee. New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Act is designed to cushion the impact of workplace accidents by providing an injured employee with medical care, lost wages on a temporary basis and a monetary award if the overall effects of the injury have left the injured worker with some type of permanent injury.

Employees injured at work are likely to be compensated without proof of fault on the employer’s part, and regardless of any contributory negligence by the employee. Workers can receive compensation benefits for both specific traumatic injuries, such as a broken ankle, as well as for what are called “occupational related” diseases, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, if they arose out of and in the course of employment.

First, there is the medical treatment benefit. The employer is required to furnish medical, surgical and other treatment and hospital services necessary to cure and relieve the effects of the injury. The employer must cover the cost of medication that has been prescribed by an authorized doctor for treatment of the injury. The caveat is that the employer is allowed to select the medical professionals who will provide and oversee the necessary and related treatment from a work related injury.

The second benefit injured workers are entitled to is a wage replacement benefit called temporary compensation. This benefit is mandated when a treating doctor, authorized by the employer or it’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, has removed the employee from work for a period of time while medical treatment is being provided for the work related injury. Temporary compensation benefits are available when an injured worker has been disabled for more than seven days following the accident. Once the eighth day of the lost time has been reached, the worker is compensated from the first day that he/she became unable to work. Temporary disability benefits continue to be paid until either the injured worker returns to work or until he/she has reached the maximum benefit from the medical treatment being provided.

The weekly temporary compensation rate payable to an employee is an amount equal to 70 percent of the worker’s gross weekly wages received at the time of the accident, subject to a maximum of 75 percent of the statewide average weekly wages.

The third benefit is known as permanent disability. A worker who can prove that a work related injury has left him or her with some type of permanent disability is entitled to a monetary award based on the extent of disability sustained. The injured worker, through his or her attorney, must prove that the injury has resulted in a material lessening of the working ability or, that the injury restricts the individual in performing the regular activities of his or her daily life.

The determination regarding whether there has been a permanent disability and the extent thereof, is made after the medical treatment has concluded. At that time, the employee undergoes an examination by medical experts who specialize in the field of medicine covering the specific work related injuries sustained. These doctors review the medical records and conduct a physical examination of the employee following which the doctor prepares a report containing his or her estimate of permanent disability.

Also, for a period of two years after the conclusion of the initial case, an employee may be entitled to additional medical treatment or monetary benefits if it can be demonstrated objectively that the condition has significantly worsened.

Finally, payments received by way of temporary compensation and or permanent partial or total disability are not subject to federal or state taxes.

Learn more about Workers’ Compensation Law

 

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