Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system designed to compensate New Jersey workers who are injured on the job. Qualified employees may receive workers’ compensation benefits for the medical bills and lost wages associated with their injury or illness, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Nearly all New Jersey employees are covered, with the exception of independent contractors. However, longshoremen, maritime workers, railroad workers, and other federal employees are covered under federal workers’ compensation law.
All New Jersey employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance or face serious penalties. Employers who fail insure workers or knowingly misrepresent an employee as an independent contractor may face criminal charges in addition to hefty fines.
Workers who are hurt in a workplace accident or have been diagnosed with a work-related illness should notify their employer as soon as possible. Though written notice is not required, it is recommended that the worker document as much of the incident as possible, such as where and how the accident happened, who was there, and what injuries were sustained. The deadline for filing a workers’ compensation claim in New Jersey is two years from the date the injury occurred.
Certain injuries are not the result of a single accident or event, but rather develop over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The same is true for certain occupational illnesses. This can make it difficult to determine the exact date for which the clock begins running to file a claim. For this reason and more, workers are advised to report any injuries and illnesses as soon as they are discovered. This will help to ensure the details surrounding the injury are properly documented so that workers can begin receiving benefits as early as possible.
After an employer has received notice of an injury, he or she must notify the company’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier so that a First Report of Injury can be filed with the state. After conducting an investigation, the insurer will either accept or deny the claim. If the claim is accepted, the worker will receive compensation for all injury-related medical expenses, a portion of his or her lost wages, and in some cases, payment for permanent disability.
Claims can be denied for a variety of reasons. Claims that are filed with inadequate or inaccurate information will surely be denied. Another common cause for a denial is when the employer disputes the worker’s assertion that the injury or illness is truly work-related. Workers who have been initially denied benefits are advised to seek the counsel of a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer for help in filing an appeal.
Workers who have been denied workers’ compensation benefits have two options for filing an appeal. The first is to file an informal claim through the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation. A hearing will be scheduled within a few weeks, in which case a judge will review accounts by both sides as well as any documentation such as medical records and witnesses’ reports. He or she will then issue a recommendation, which is not binding. If a settlement is not agreed upon, the worker can then proceed with a formal claim.
Formal hearings can be lengthy and complex. Both sides must prevent evidence and testify under oath before a judge, whose final decision is binding. Workers who wish to appeal the decision must bring their case to the New Jersey Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
If you were injured in a workplace accident or contracted a work-related illness, contact a South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP. We can help you navigate the complex system and obtain the workers’ compensation benefits to which you are entitled. We represent clients throughout South Jersey, including those in Camden County, Burlington County, and Gloucester County. For a free consultation call us at 856-761-3773 or complete our online contact form.