Common Mistakes in Workers’ Compensation Claims—Part One

common-mistakes-in-workers-compensation-claims-part-oneSecuring workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey can be difficult, even when your case seems like a slam dunk. You need to be careful that you don’t make some of the common mistakes that can diminish or jeopardize your claim.

Seeking Treatment Only for Major Injuries

It happens all the time. You suffer a broken arm or some other highly visible trauma and focus all your medical attention on the obvious injury, ignoring the twists, sprains or strains to muscles or connective tissue in your back or neck. Unfortunately, it’s often the less visible injuries that cause more long term problems. When you seek medical care after a work-related injury, be sure to tell the doctor about everything that happened and anything that feels out of the ordinary.

Trying to Be Strong or Brave

When you have been hurt on the job, it’s not the time to show how tough you are. It’s the time to fully acknowledge the extent of your injuries. Don’t brush them off and, most importantly, don’t ignore doctor’s orders. There’s no race to full recovery—you need to take as much time as necessary to fully heal. If you try to do too much too soon, you may risk the loss of benefits, even though you are still injured.

Accepting a Single Medical Opinion

When you seek workers’ compensation benefits, you’ll be required to undergo a physical examination by a company-chosen doctor. That doctor may conclude that you are not prevented from working, or that your injury was not work-related. You don’t have to accept that single opinion. You can obtain a second opinion, or even a third opinion, if the first two are conflicting.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured workers throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

We handle all workers’ compensation claims on a contingency basis. We won’t charge you attorney fees if we don’t recover compensation for your losses.

What Additional Benefits Are Available in a New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Claim?

what-additional-benefits-are-available-in-a-new-jersey-workers-compensation-claimIn New Jersey, when you’ve been injured on the job, you have a right to collect benefits to compensate you for lost income. Once you’ve been unable to work for at least seven days because of your injury, you are eligible for as much as 70% of your gross weekly wage before your accident. If your claim isn’t challenged, your benefits will likely start within a couple weeks, and will be retroactive to the date of your injury.

You are entitled to other benefits when you file a workers’ compensation claim:

  • Payment of medical expenses—Under New Jersey law, if your workers’ compensation claim is approved, you are entitled to reimbursement for or payment of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment. As a general rule, you must obtain pre-authorization for medical care, except in the case of an emergency.
  • Job training or vocational rehab—If your injuries are permanent and will prevent you from returning to your previous occupation, you can obtain financial assistance to help you find a new job or get trained to do other work.
  • Mileage reimbursement—You’ll be required to stay under the care of a doctor and to schedule regular appointments. You can request reimbursement of mileage expenses.
  • Death benefits—If you die in a work-related accident, your surviving spouse and/or other dependents can receive payments at the same rate as if you had been permanently and totally disabled.
  • Funeral and burial expenses—The workers’ compensation laws also provide for payment of up to $3,500 to cover funeral and burial expenses when a worker is killed on the job.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

Work-Related Injuries—Part Two

work-related-injuries-part-twoAs we explained in an earlier blog, to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey, you must meet two requirements—you must have been injured, and that injury must have been sustained during the course of your employment. Clearly, if you are on the clock and performing any of the duties listed in your job description, you’ll likely qualify for workers’ compensation for any injuries suffered. But there are situations where there may be questions about whether your injury was work-related.

In an earlier blog, we looked at whether you can recover workers’ compensation benefits when you are hurt at company outing or because of your own wrongdoing. In this blog, we look at your eligibility if you suffer injury on a break or while traveling for your employer.

Injuries Incurred on a Break

Under labor laws, you are entitled to take regular breaks, including a lunch break. Can you collect workers’ compensation benefits if you slip and fall while punched out for lunch or a scheduled break? Does it matter if you leave the company grounds?

Generally speaking, if you suffer an injury on company property while on a lunch or other break, you will be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. There are exceptions—if you were involved in some time of unauthorized or forbidden horseplay at the time, you may be disqualified. If, on the other hand, you leave the physical premises of your employer for lunch, you generally won’t be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits for injuries suffered at or on the way to or from the restaurant, unless you went to the specific destination to pick up food for your boss or at the request of a supervisor.

Injuries While Traveling

As a general rule, you don’t qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained on your commute to or from work, unless you took a detour to complete a task at the request of a supervisor (your boss asked you to pick up bagels or stop at the post office). If your job requires that you drive to see customers, or if you travel to conferences, workshops or seminars for work, you will generally be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt, unless the activity you were engaged in was wholly or primarily personal. For example, if you are hurt on the way to or from a meal, you are probably covered, but if you go to a night club while at a convention and hurt yourself on the dance floor, that probably won’t be covered.

Contact Taylor & Boguski

At Taylor & Boguski, we have more than 70 years of combined experience representing injured workers across New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us at 856-200-8989.

We handle all workers’ compensation claims on a contingency basis. You won’t pay any legal fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Work-Related Injuries – Part One

work-related-injuries-part-oneIn New Jersey, as in other states, when you suffer an injury at work, you are entitled to pursue workers’ compensation benefits to cover lost wages, medical expenses and other costs. There are only two requirements to qualify for benefits—you must have been injured and your injury must have occurred during the course of your employment. In most instances, there is no dispute that you were injured at work. But there are circumstances where the rules may not be so clear. Here are a couple of those instances.

Injuries Incurred at a Company Event

Suppose your company sponsors an event—a golf outing or a picnic—and you slip and fall at the outing, sustaining injuries that prevent you from working. In most instances, whether attendance at the event was voluntary or mandatory, you’ll have the right to seek and recover workers’ compensation benefits for injuries you have suffered. There are exceptions, however, if your behavior was unreasonable. For example, if you become inebriated at a company event and get behind the wheel of a car, you may be precluded from recovering workers’ compensation benefits if you are involved in a car accident, unless you can show that the company provided the alcohol.

Injuries Caused by Your Own Wrongful Conduct

What if your injuries were caused, in part, by your own negligence or carelessness? Typically, that won’t prevent you from recovering workers’ compensation benefits, as workers’ compensation laws are “no fault” statutes, meaning benefits are available regardless of fault. However, if it can be shown that you intentionally injured yourself to collect benefits or recklessly disregarded company rules, your claim can be rejected.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

We represent clients in workers’ compensation proceedings on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge you attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

Is Workers’ Compensation Your Only Remedy for a Work-Related Injury?

is-workers-compensation-your-only-remedy-for-a-work-related-injurySo you have been hurt on the job. In New Jersey, as in other states, you are entitled to seek workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained during the course of employment. The workers’ compensation laws were enacted to provide a benefit to both parties in the aftermath of a work-related injury. For the worker, there’s the opportunity to start receiving benefits within weeks of the injury, with benefits retroactive to the date of injury. You don’t have to incur the expense of a lawsuit and you won’t have to wait for compensation until the legal process is exhausted. As an employer, you don’t have to worry that a sympathetic jury will come back with a huge damage award. Payments are generally fixed under the workers’ compensation system.

But is that your exclusive remedy in the aftermath of a workplace injury? It depends.

The workers’ compensation laws are intended to compensate a worker for the negligence of an employer or a co-worker. If your injuries were caused entirely by the carelessness of your employer or a colleague, you must look only to the workers’ compensation system for reimbursement of any losses. However, if you can show that your injuries were caused, in whole or in part, by an unrelated third party, you can still pursue damages in a lawsuit against that third party. In fact, you can file a lawsuit simultaneously with a workers’ compensation claim.

So what does a third party claim look like? Some of the more common ones include:
• Injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident caused by a third party
• Injuries suffered as a result of the malfunction or breakdown of tools, equipment or products manufactured or marketed by a third party
• Injuries caused by the negligence of someone on adjoining property

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to men and women throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

We handle all workers’ compensation claims on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.

Workplace Fatalities on the Rise in New Jersey

man with knife

Though deaths on the job remained about the same nationwide in 2015, New Jersey unexpectedly saw an increase of nearly 10% in fatalities in the workplace during the same time period. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicated that 97 New Jersey residents died from work-related accidents, up from 87 a year earlier. Officials could not identify a single factor that contributed to the increase.

Here are some of the findings included in the BLS study:

  • Violent deaths nearly doubled, from 11 in 2014 to 18 in 2015
  • More than a third of the New Jersey deaths—37—were in motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls from heights accounted for 24 workplace fatalities in 2015
  • The construction industry experienced the largest number of deaths—22, and more than half of those (12) were of workers who fell from high elevations
  • The occupation that saw the highest number of deaths was motor vehicle operator, with 15. This was also true with respect to work-related deaths nationwide.
  • More than two-thirds of the workers who died across the country were Caucasian—that statistic was significantly lower in New Jersey, with only 54% of workplace fatalities involving white workers
  • Men are far more likely to die in the workplace than women—nationally, 98% of job-related deaths are of men. In New Jersey, 94% of workplace fatalities are men
  • There’s a lot less risk if you are self-employed—only 14% of deaths nationally were of people who worked for themselves
  • 40% of the deaths in New Jersey involved workers over the age of 55, as compared to 35% across the country.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

Judge Says Workers’ Compensation Must Cover Costs of Medical Marijuana

lady injured

Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2010, but most employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies have thus far refused to cover the costs of medical marijuana when prescribed to treat a work-related injury. That practice has been ruled a violation of law by a workers’ compensation administrative law judge, in a ruling handed down in February, 2017.

In the case before the administrative law judge, a worker at a lumber company sustained an injury to his hand, and experienced ongoing pain. His doctor prescribed medical marijuana and the man filled the prescription at a state-authorized dispensary. His employer and the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider refused to reimburse him for the costs of the drug, so he stopped using medical marijuana and started using Percocet, which he claimed was less effective and had undesirable side-effects. He then brought legal action against his employer and the workers’ compensation insurer, asking for reimbursement of past expenses, as well as a ruling that all future prescription costs would be covered by workers’ compensation.

After hearing evidence from both parties, the judge concluded that the expense of the medical marijuana should have been reimbursed, as it was for prescription medication that was legally dispensed in New Jersey. Citing evidence that indicated that the medical marijuana was not “as debilitating” as the other medications the injured man had substituted, and that the medical marijuana had successfully treated his condition, the administrative law judge also ordered the workers’ compensation insurer to cover all future prescriptions for state-sanctioned medical marijuana.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured workers throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

We handle all workers’ compensation claims on a contingency basis. We won’t charge you attorney fees if we don’t recover compensation for your losses.

Scheduled and Non-Scheduled Losses in a Workers’ Compensation Claim

leg-injured

When you’ve been injured on the job in New Jersey, you have a right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. There’s a good chance, once your claim has been filed, that you’ll hear the terms “scheduled” and “non-scheduled” losses. If you’ve never been involved in a workers’ compensation claim before, you may be uncertain what those terms mean and how they might apply to your case.

Scheduled Losses

A scheduled loss derives its name from that fact that it’s a loss that is specifically listed on a state-approved “schedule” of the kind of injuries for which compensation is available. Furthermore, that schedule identifies a specific number of weeks of benefits for each type of injury. For example, an injury to your hand will allow you to recover for a certain number of weeks, but an injury to your knee or ankle may qualify you for a different number of weeks.

So-called “scheduled” losses typically involve appendages, including arms, legs, shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, wrists, ankles, fingers, toes, as well as ears and eyes. It important to understand, though, that scheduled loss payments are only available for what are perceived to be permanent injuries. If your injury is temporary, you will only be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for the period during which your injury keeps you from working, or until you have reached what is known as “maximum medical improvement.” If your injury is deemed to be permanent and it’s to a body part that is listed on the schedule, the amount of weeks you would receive benefits is calculated by looking at the degree of your disability and your “scheduled” number of weeks. As an example, if your injury entitles you to 150 weeks, but the medical opinion is that you only have 30% loss of use with the foot—you’d be entitled to 45 weeks of compensation.

Non-Scheduled Losses

Non-scheduled losses involve injury to other parts of the body, including internal organs or your spinal cord. As with a scheduled loss, you will probably get a disability rating from the treating physician, who will estimate the degree of your disability. The number of weeks you’ll be able to recover benefits (at a rate of up to 70% of Average Weekly Wage) will be the percentage of your disability times 600—the maximum number of weeks you can recover benefits.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to men and women throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

We handle all workers’ compensation claims on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.

Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits Taxable?

Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits Taxable?

tax

So you’ve been hurt on the job or you’ve developed an illness or disease because of exposure to hazardous or dangerous substances. Maybe it’s just caught up to you after a while—performing the same task over and over has led to carpal tunnel or some other form of repetitive stress injury. You notify employer, a claim is filed and approved and you start receiving benefits. If you look closely at your payments, you’ll notice that there are no taxes taken out. Does this mean you’ll have to pay them yourself? How are workers’ compensation benefits treated for tax purposes?

In New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits are not considered taxable income by either the state of New Jersey or the federal government, as long as they are paid through or in accordance with New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws. Survivor benefits paid to loved ones after a death in the workplace or from an occupational disease are also exempt from taxation. The exemption, however, does not apply to any payments from company sponsored retirement plans, even if the retirement was in part a consequence of a work-related injury or illness.

There may also be limited circumstances where workers’ compensation benefits are taxable, if the beneficiary is simultaneously receiving Social Security disability benefits. For example, if you are receiving Social Security disability benefits and you file for and receive workers’ compensation benefits, the total amount you receive cannot exceed 80% of your “average current earnings ” before you were disabled. To the extent that it does, you may be required to offset, or reduce, the amount of SSD benefits you receive.

Contact Us

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

We represent clients in workers’ compensation proceedings on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge you attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

What to Do When Your Employer Won’t Submit Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

What to Do When Your Employer Won’t Submit Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

claim

You’ve been hurt on the job and you’ve notified your employer as soon as possible. But your employer is just sitting on it, refusing or simply failing to pass your claim on to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. You need the benefits, as you can’t work. What are your options?

Obviously, one of the most beneficial things you can do is hire an experienced and aggressive workers’ compensation attorney. But there are things you can do before or after you’ve retained counsel:

  • Contact the workers’ compensation insurance company directly—Put together all medical records, get statements from witnesses, make copies and send everything to the workers’ compensation insurance company. Notify them of the date of the accident and the date you notified your employer. Follow up with a phone call and keep calling until someone takes action.
  • Contact the state of New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation—If you don’t want to have to deal with your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company, you can contact the state workers’ compensation office directly. You’ll need proof that your company had workers’ compensation insurance—this proof is required to be posted in a prominent place at your workplace. If you can’t find that, contact the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau. Bureau officials will be able to tell you if your employer complied with the law (requiring workers’ compensation insurance), as well as what company is providing the workers’ compensation coverage.

Contact Taylor & Boguski

At Taylor & Boguski, we have more than 70 years of combined experience representing injured workers across New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us at 856-200-8989.

We handle all workers’ compensation claims on a contingency basis. You won’t pay any legal fees unless we get compensation for your losses.