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Workers Comp Transcript

What is the law in New Jersey pertaining to a worker’s right to treatment under the Workers’ Compensation Act? How does this impact the patient?

In New Jersey there are three entitlements in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation. Number one is what we call temporary disability benefits. Temporary disability is up to 70% of one’s salary and each year there is a maximum. That maximum goes up every year based on the statewide average weekly wage. But it’s 70% of salary up to the maximum. That money is paid to the injured individual for the time that that individual is deemed unable to work, and that decision is typically that made by the treating physician. It’s not a decision that the injured person makes, it’s not a decision that I would make as his or her lawyer, it’s not a decision that the employer would make or the insurance company, it’s a decision made by the doctor, and when the doctor feels this person is unable to work, they’re paid temporary disability benefits. That’s the first of the entitlements – the so-called Bill of Rights.

Secondly is medical treatment and the statute requires the petitioner be a paid – not so much be paid, but be given all the treatment that is necessary to make that person whole. It’s hard to use words like cured certainly in this day and age, but it’s to make that person as whole as medical science can, to cure him or relieve that person of the effects of the injury. Will they be left with some disability? Probably. But in any event, that’s the second entitlement is medical treatment and I will get into that – a little more detail with that in a moment.

Your third – the third entitlement in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation is what we call permanent disability. Permanent disability are pretty much what the words say. What it means is after that person is able to return to as normal functioning as they can get – back to work or not back to work. They’ve been paid for their time out of work, they’ve received all the treatment medical science can provide. If that person is still left with disability, then they are entitled to be compensated for that, and that’s the third entitlement – permanent disability. What it means is, it doesn’t – many people misunderstand and think well does that mean I’m never going to go back to work? It does not mean that. What it means is that they are left with some loss of function as our Supreme Court has defined it. That they can’t go back to their normal living because they are limited in their function. Limiting can be pain that they experience, inability to do the things they used to be able to do – lifting, turning, squatting, the kind of things that are basic to all our lives either on the job or off the job and when they experience – when the petitioner experiences that sort of thing, that’s when they are entitled to an award of permanent disability.

Why should I hire PR&A as my workers’ compensation attorney?

You come to me and to my colleagues here at the firm because quite frankly, without sounding terribly immodest, I think we’re the best in this area. We have – oh, I don’t know – maybe the second, third, fourth biggest workers’ compensation practice in all of Central New Jersey, and I haven’t taken a poll, perhaps all of New Jersey. We’re one of the bigger hitters and are – the biggest hitters – and are known for that, that’s our reputation. We’ve done it for many, many years and when you hire a firm like ours, you get a lot – you get a lot for that. You get the power of a powerful law firm, a law firm that’s rather large and that – a law firm that is well known and is preceded by its reputation in the courts. The courts know us well, judges know us well. They know the firm, they know us individually. I think judges invariably respect us and sometimes will defer to us in our expertise because they know that – they know us and they know what we do and we’ve done for years. We don’t have to prove ourselves on every case. We’re known entities. We walk into court and we have the ability to get things done quite frankly. The fact of the matter is that I can very often obtain benefits on behalf of my client without having to go to court by writing letters or even picking up the phone and dealing with my adversaries because, as I say, the insurance companies know me, they know my firm and often times I can get where I want to go on behalf of a client without even having to go to the judge. If you can’t, you can’t and then you do go to the court. But I can – as I say, I personally and my colleagues can accomplish these things simply by dint of our reputations quite frankly.

How do workers’ compensation attorneys get paid?

Counsel fees in workers’ compensation cases are, by statute, contingency fees, what we call contingency fees. What that means is the attorney only gets paid if that attorney gains benefits for his or her client. No benefits, no fee. It’s as simple as that. The fee in workers’ compensation unlike, for example, motor vehicle accidents where it’s usually typically one third, as are many other cases in New Jersey or anywhere else in the country, counsel fees in New Jersey in workers’ compensation are up to a limit of 20%. It cannot get higher than that, and so it’s probably the least expensive type of litigation or type of lawsuit that somebody can pursue. It’s as simple as that.

If I am injured on the job, what should I do first?

The first thing you do is to report that injury to whoever is in a position of authority, whether it’s your foreman or your manager or your supervisor or whomever. You want to let them know immediately that you were just involved in an accident and were injured, even if you think it was minor, and a lot of people look I know very well many people pride themselves on saying I’m not a litigious guy or woman. You know, I’ve never, and oftentimes they’ll say I’ve never sued anybody in my life, which is fine. It’s wonderful but you can’t allow yourself to be hurt by that kind of modesty or being stoic. You should report that injury to anybody and oftentimes I’ve had many – thousands of cases over the years where someone says well I got hurt right before break time and I was on the night shift and there was no one around to report it to, so I went home and I was hoping frankly it would go away and I wake up the next more in even more pain and then I say you have to report it, if there’s no one to report it to that night, and the report should be made to a superior, an agent of your employer so to speak. If there’s nobody around, tell a coworker. That isn’t the, the best would be to tell a superior but tell a coworker just so you have a witness who said yes, Joe Jones came to me that night and said a box had fallen on him or he fell off a step and was injured, or if there’s nobody to tell, as I say, the next best thing is the first thing you do the next day is to let them know about it so that an employer I should say is trying his best or to avoid their responsibility isn’t giving the gift of saying well you never reported it. I don’t believe it happened and you never reported it. That happens very often and that’s when a good lawyer is involved as well because then you go to court, you have to prove the case and I take my client’s testimony and if there’s a witness against him, if the employer, well he never reported it to this other person, well then I’m a trial lawyer and I have to prove to the court that it did happen and I do that by taking my client’s testimony and cross examining any witnesses for the employer.

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