By: Michael Brottman
“I was injured at work and my employer is recommending that I apply for Long Term Disability Benefits through its group policy, should I apply?”
As a worker’s compensation attorney I am frequently posed questions like the one above.
The New Jersey Workers Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 34:15-1, et seq., requires employers to provide employees who are injured through the course of their employment with 3 distinct benefits:
- Temporary Total Disability – Employers must pay injured workers 70% of their salary until they return to work or achieve maximum medical improvement. The maximum workers compensation benefit for 2020 is $945 per week.
- Medical Benefits – Employers must pay 100% of the expenses associated with the reasonable and necessary medical treatment to cure and relieve the injured worker from the effects of the work-related illness or injury. The employer has the right to designate which medical providers are authorized to treat the injured worker and is generally not responsible for the costs of non-emergency, unauthorized treatment which is rendered after they have already accepted the claim.
- Permanent Disability-The injured worker is entitled to a monetary award to compensate them for the residual loss of function resulting from their work injury. This benefit is determined only after all of the curative medical treatment has been completed. This benefit does not compensate workers for “pain and suffering” (although they may obtain such compensation through a tort action in the event their injury was caused by a third party) and is only intended to compensate the injured worker for the degree of function lost due to the injury.
In most instances employers and their Workers Compensation insurance carriers will not voluntarily offer a permanency benefit to an injured worker who does not file a formal claim petition, even if they have admitted the compensability of the accident and provided the injured worker with medical treatment and temporary disability benefits. In those rare cases that they do offer this benefit voluntarily, it is usually a fraction of what the injured worker would receive from the court. Therefore, it is generally advisable for an injured worker to retain an attorney who will file a formal claim petition.
Monetary benefits, both temporary and permanent, received by an injured worker pursuant to the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act are not considered income for tax purposes. This provision of the Act is designed to put as much compensation as possible into the hands of the worker who, in most instances, desperately needs it.
Be advised that an employer may care about their own financial well-being more than they do about that of their employees. While this may seem perfectly natural and reasonable under ordinary circumstances, when a worker is injured and is no longer generating revenue for the business, some employers may try to take advantage of the situation and “guide” the unknowing employee on a path that serves the employer’s financial interest at the injured worker’s expense.
Sometimes an employer will recommend that an employee who qualifies for worker’s compensation benefits apply for long or short-term disability benefits through a group policy it offers to its employees. While these policies provide valuable benefits for employees who become disabled as a result of non-work related injuries or health conditions, for employees who become disabled as the result of a work-related accident or illness, these policies generally operate to deprive injured workers of monetary benefits they would otherwise be entitled to receive pursuant to the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act.
If you have a disabling injury or illness related to your employment consult with an attorney before applying for Disability Benefits through your employer’s group insurance plan.
Michael Brottman is a partner with Szaferman Lakind and focuses his practice on worker’s compensation matters. To contact Michael please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 275-0400.
The foregoing is intended for general information purposes and is no substitute for specific legal advice.