If you are working and get hurt while on the job through no real fault of your own, there is no reason why you should not get compensated. The prospect of your employer paying for your injuries, though, might make you worried. Especially if you have been seriously hurt, the idea that your employer might rather just let you go and find a replacement because it would save them money is a real concern. Additionally, getting compensation for an injury involves a personal injury claim – a lawsuit – and suing your boss while you are still relying on them for work might make you uneasy.
Luckily, the law recognizes this dilemma. There is no reason why you should not be compensated for your injuries. But having to sue your employer to get that compensation is incredibly awkward.
Workers' compensation law rectifies this conundrum by requiring nearly every employer in New Jersey to maintain workers' compensation insurance. The premiums they pay for this insurance are then used to compensate workers who have been hurt while on the job.
Unfortunately, this system is not perfect, and injured workers often still need legal help from a workers' compensation attorney, like those at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen.
New Jersey's Workers' Compensation Program
The New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act was the first of its kind in the United States, passing the state legislature and taking effect in 1911. As the oldest workers' compensation law in the country, it has also been one of the most influential pieces of legislation in the field of workers' rights. The Act requires all companies in the state, whether they are a corporation, LLC, or even just a sole proprietorship, to have some sort of workers' compensation insurance if they have any employees, at all.
Of course, whether you are actually an “employee” of a company can be a serious question that can impact your rights to receive compensation under workers' compensation laws.
Employees and Independent Contractors
New Jersey's workers' compensation law covers employees, but not independent contractors. Unfortunately, the difference between the two is often very nuanced.
Employees are typically salaried workers whose actions are entirely controlled and supervised by their employers. Independent contractors, on the other hand, are often only responsible for the end results of their work, not how they perform them.
In many cases, it is very clear whether you were an employee or an independent contractor. However, there are also a lot of close calls that could go either way. In these cases, especially when the injury you suffered was serious and costly, you can count on your employer trying to avoid paying your workers' compensation claim. Luckily, New Jersey's workers' compensation law is far more willing than other states to see an employer/employee relationship and allow a claim to proceed.
Even if you were an employee, though, the nature of your injury could block your workers' compensation claim.
Injuries Must Have Happened in the Scope of Employment
Not all injuries that someone suffers will be covered by workers' compensation. Instead, the injury needs to arise out of the employment, and happen in the scope of that employment. These two requirements are among the most litigated aspects of a workers' compensation claim in New Jersey.
Just like with the question of whether you were an employee or an independent contractor, there are many clear cases, but also some close calls. If you were hurt in the act of doing something that you were told to do by your boss, and that activity is something that you normally do in your day-to-day schedule, then it is clear that you were hurt while in the scope of your employment. However, if you were doing something that you were not told to do, but which still benefitted the company, it can get a bit tricky.
Nevertheless, there are still many injuries that happen in the course of your employment. These can include:
- Injuries that happen after slipping and falling in the workplace,
- Muscle injuries and strains that happen while lifting something while on the clock,
- Nerve damage that happens from repetitive movements, and
- Long-term medical conditions that stem from exposure to dangerous chemicals at work.
No-Fault Injuries and the Trade-Off that is Workers' Compensation
A crucial point of workers' compensation is that injuries that you suffer that are covered by workers' compensation are considered no-fault injuries: You get compensated, regardless of who was actually responsible for them.
No-fault injuries involve a trade-off: By recovering through the workers' compensation system, you generally cannot sue your employer for negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
However, there are exceptions to this rule, like if your employer intentionally hurts you. Additionally, just because you are not allowed to sue your employer for an injury covered by workers' compensation does not prevent you cannot sue someone else whose negligent actions caused your injuries.
What to Do After Getting Hurt On the Job
If you get hurt on the job, there are some things that you need to do right away to benefit from workers' compensation:
- You need to notify your employer immediately if you have been hurt. This is crucial, even if it does not seem like your injury was serious. Many injuries, especially muscular strains, stay latent for days or even weeks after the incident.
- Fill out the workers' compensation forms that your employer provides. If they do not provide them, then they are refusing to report your injury to the appropriate authorities. You can report your injury on your own by filing your claim directly with the Division of Workers' Compensation.
- Get immediate medical attention. This documents your injuries and lets you know what kinds of actions would make your injury even worse.
New Jersey Workers' Compensation Attorneys
Workers' compensation claims are unlike many other kinds of lawsuits, and so can be confusing for victims. Reach out to the workers' compensation attorneys at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen for the legal help you need. Contact us online or call our New Jersey law office at (908) 852-2600.