By Tanya Phillips
If you are injured at work in New Jersey you are entitled to three workers’ compensation benefits: 1) Medical benefits, 2) Temporary disability benefits, and 3) Permanent partial disability benefits.
Your employer and/or their workers’ compensation carrier are permitted by law to choose the doctor who will treat you. They are responsible for the costs of all reasonable and necessary curative medical treatment for the injuries you sustained in the workplace accident. Once the authorized doctor reports that you will not get any better from additional treatment, they will indicate that you have reached maximum medical improvement.
After the doctor indicates that you have reached maximum medical improvement your employer/workers’ compensation carrier is not responsible for providing any additional treatment. Treatment after you reach maximum medical improvement is usually palliative which means that it makes you feel better but will not heal or help to heal your condition. Any palliative treatment you receive after the authorized doctor releases you is usually your responsibility and will not be paid by the workers’ compensation carrier.
Temporary Disability Benefits (Wage Replacement)
If the authorized doctor keeps you out of work for more than seven days, you are entitled to temporary disability benefits. These benefits are 70% of your average gross weekly wage and there is a maximum amount per week that you can receive. The 2017 maximum temp rate is $896. Your gross weekly wage is calculated by obtaining your average weekly wage for the six months before the accident. This figure should include your overtime. If the authorized doctor indicates that you can perform restricted or light duty and your employer does not have light duty work, then you are entitled to receive temporary disability benefits until the authorized doctor indicates that you have reached maximum medical improvement.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
After medical treatment concludes, you are entitled to a permanent partial disability award. The statute requires that in order to recover these benefits you must prove by objective medical evidence that (1) you have restrictions of the injured body part; AND (2) a lessening of your ability to work OR a substantial impairment of your nonwork activities.
Permanent partial disability in New Jersey is paid according to the disability chart that includes values for all body parts. Normally after our clients finish their authorized treatment they are examined by a medical expert who apportions disability percentages for their injuries. Once both sides have their expert reports, the claim is ready for settlement discussions. If you receive a workers’ compensation it is nontaxable.
Workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy which means that an injured employee cannot bring a civil action against their employer as a result of the accident. They can only file a workers’ compensation claim. However, if an individual or business other than a co-employee or the employer is at fault for the accident, the injured worker may be able to file a civil action against them for damages. This is referred to as a third party claim.
This is a broad overview of the New Jersey workers’ compensation system and each claim must be evaluated on a case by case basis. If you have any questions regarding potential workers’ compensation claims, please feel free to contact us.