A Workers’ Guide to Workers’ Compensation in New Jersey
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ Compensation is a system created by the New Jersey Legislature that provides benefits to workers who are injured or who contract an occupational disease while working. The benefits include medical care,temporary disability payments, and compensation for a resulting permanent disability. In the event of the death of an injured worker, benefits are payable to the family of the worker. Benefits may be paid voluntarily or it may be necessary to apply to the Workers’ Compensation Courts for relief.
Who is covered?
Virtually every worker who performs services for wages is covered by the law, regardless of the number of workers employed by the employer. Under New Jersey law, domestic and farm workers are covered. However, workers considered to be independent contractors, rather than employees, are not covered. Seamen, maritime workers, railroad workers, and federal employees are covered under federal workers’ compensation law.
What must a worker do if injured?
The worker should notify the employer as soon as possible, but not later than 90 days from the date of the accident. The notice may be given to the supervisor, personnel office, or anyone in authority at the employer’s place of business. Notice need not be in writing. If the worker needs medical treatment, a request should be made to the employer as soon as possible.
What if an employer refuses to provide medical services and/or temporary disability benefits?
The injured worker should seek the services of an attorney who will file a formal claim petition and a motion for medical and temporary benefits with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Attorneys are prohibited by law from charging a fee in advance for such services. Fees will be fixed by the court only if a compensation award is made.
Important: There is a two-year statute of limitations. A formal Claim Petition must be filed within two years of the date of the injury or the last payment of compensation, whichever is later. Medical treatment authorized by the employer is considered a payment of compensation.
In cases of occupational illness, the Claim Petition must be filed within two years from the date the worker first became aware of the condition and its relationship to employment. The statute of limitations applies to minors also. An injured worker may also file an application for an informal hearing before a Judge of Compensation. At the informal hearing a representative of the employer or the employer’s insurance carrier is usually present. The suggestions made by the judge at an informal hearing are, however, not binding on either party. The filing of an application for an informal hearing does not stop the two-year statute of limitations from running.
What happens after a claim is reported?
The employer or the employer’s insurance carrier will investigate the claim. If the claim is found compensable, they will pay for necessary and reasonable medical treatment, loss of wages during the period of rehabilitation, and when documented, benefits for permanent disability. Within 21 days of receiving notice of the accident, the insurance carrier should file a First Report of Injury form with the Division. This form gives the Division initial information about the accident and injuries. Another form, called the Subsequent Report of Injury, must be filed with the Division within 26 weeks after the worker returns to work or has reached maximum medical improvement. At that time, the worker should receive a letter from the insurance carrier explaining the benefits paid to date on their claim. The information from these forms helps the Division ensure that workers receive fair and timely benefits for work-related injuries.
Can an employer take action against a worker for filing a claim?
The Workers’ Compensation Statute prohibits the employer from discharging or discriminating in any manner against an employee because the employee has claimed or attempted to claim workers’ compensation benefits, or has testified, or is about to testify, in a workers’ compensation case.
Does the Workers’ Compensation Law give special consideration to minors?
Yes. If a minor, employed in violation of the Child Labor Law, suffers a disability because of a job related injury or illness, benefits will be double the amount ordinarily awarded.