common-mistakes-when-filing-for-workers-compensation-part-twoIf you’ve been hurt at work and had to pursue workers’ compensation benefits, you know that the process can be long and difficult, even when it seems like you have an open and shut case. You don’t want to make some of the common mistakes people do, errors that can delay your receipt of benefits or even disqualify you. We’ve talked about some of the medical issues, such as failing to get a second opinion or failing to follow doctor’s orders. Here are some of the more fundamental mistakes that can jeopardize your right to benefits.

Waiting to Notify Your Employer

You should let your employer know of your injury as soon as possible. Remember, your employer and the workers’ compensation insurance company have a vested interest in paying as little as possible (or nothing, if they can get away with it) to settle your claim. The longer you wait, the greater the risk that your employer or the insurance company will make one or both of the following arguments:

  • Your injury wasn’t really that serious, or you would have notified your employer immediately
  • Your injury was caused by some intervening event (another accident, unrelated to work)

Waiting to File Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

There’s a time limit for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you don’t submit your claim within the required period of time, you stand a good chance of losing any right to benefits.

Trusting that Your Employer Will Take Care of Everything for You

Don’t operate under the mistaken assumption that your employer will acknowledge your injury and help you get the benefits you need. By the same token, don’t try to handle the workers’ compensation claim on your own. Your employer and/or the insurance company will likely have your claim reviewed by legal counsel, and may actually employ attorneys to try to deny or diminish your claim. Hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected.

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.

FELA vs. Workers’ Compensation

Workers in most industries are insured for work-related injuries under state workers’ compensation laws. Railroad workers, however, are covered by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Both systems were established as progressive measures to compensate workers for on-the-job injuries and work-related illnesses, and to promote safety measures on the part of employers. FELA was passed by Congress in 1907. In 1911, New Jersey was one of twelve states to pass workers’ compensation legislation (at that time referred to as workman’s compensation). Beyond the industries affected, distinctions between the programs include the bases for claims, the role of fault in determining an award, the court where the case is handled, types of damages, and the contemporary philosophy underlying the legislation.

The basis for a claim: FELA requires a railroad worker to prove an on-the-job injury was, at least in part, the result of negligence on the part of the railroad (or a railroad employee, agent, or contractor). In contrast, New Jersey Workers’ Compensation law, like that in other states, does not require proof of negligence, and requires an employer to compensate a worker for any work-related injury or occupational illness.

The role of negligence in a claim: Workers’ comp does not require any evidence of negligence on the part of the employer, and negligence on the part of the employee will not reduce the amount of the claim. FELA observes the doctrine of contributory negligence, a fault-sharing system where an employee partially responsible for his or her on-the-job injury will receive an award reduced in proportion to that responsibility. Determining the percentage of fault in a FELA case is highly subjective; as a result the decision of a court used to the traditional personal injury system may be hard to predict.

Where the claim is tried: An injured railway work may file a FELA claim in a New Jersey State or Federal court, and is entitled to a jury trial. A worker injured in another industry will file a claim with the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. In the event of a dispute, the worker may file a claim petition or application for an informal hearing with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation. The case will then be assigned to a state judge and district based on the county where the worker lives or is employed.

Types of damages available: Both FELA and workers’ comp claims provide damages for past and future wage loss and medical treatment. FELA provides damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress; workers’ compensation does not. Each plan provides some compensation for permanent partial or total disability, and workers’ compensation has a payment schedule to compensate for the loss of use of a limb, hearing, vision, or other function. The way damages are calculated differs significantly between the plans.

Why two systems? The railroad industry has repeatedly lobbied Congress to repeal FELA or replace it with a system similar to workers’ compensation; Congress has resisted. Supporters of FELA cite it as more than a railroad workers’ compensation plan, providing critical encouragement to the railroads to curb unsafe practices and improve dangerous work environments.

In the event of a work-related accidents

The railroads and other employers will attempt to minimize costs resulting from an on-the-job accident or work-related illness. Supervisors are trained to immediately collect information and evidence to support the employer’s defense against any claim for damages. To preserve the right to FELA or workers’ compensation benefits, an injured worker should report the accident or illness, but not make any statement until after consulting with a workers’ compensation or FELA lawyer or with a union representative. The worker should immediately record the names and contact information of any witnesses, and write out a private record of any events surrounding the accident.

Contact us for a free attorney consultation, or visit our Practice Areas page for more information about Taylor & Boguski.

Amputation Claims, Settlements and Awards

A woman crossing the street in Paterson New Jersey was struck by a bus. Her injuries required amputation of her left leg above the knee, and amputation of part of her right foot. New Jersey.com news reported that more than two years after she filed a claim, she reached a $7.7 million settlement with the transit agency.

A 24-year-old man entered the emergency room after the tip of his finger was severed in an accident. In a paper presented as part of the New Jersey Medical School Interesting Case Series, authors Hahn and Travato suggest that treatment options might vary depend on, among other things, the patient’s age.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission toddler chair was recalled after two cases of finger amputation or severe finger injury.

What is the value of an amputated leg, finger, or arm?

A person who loses a limb as the result of the negligence or intentional act of another is legally entitled to compensation. What wisdom do the courts and insurers employ to determine the value of a toddler’s finger or an athlete’s leg?

The first and foremost concern of an insurance company is keeping the award low. Typically, the insurer will offer a quick, simple settlement for an amputation injury. A victim is advised to consult with a personal injury attorney before speaking with insurance company representatives about the accident or any settlement. There will be no legal fees for a consultation. The lawyer, experienced in dealing with insurers, will handle the claim while the amputee deals with pain, recovery, and grief over the loss. An appropriate personal injury law firm will have a proven record of successful representation, and have the resources to arrange for investigations, medical and rehabilitation evaluations.

A broad range of factors may affect the outcome of an amputation claim. The judge, jury, or insurance adjuster awarding damages or negotiating the settlement will consider circumstances surrounding the accident, age of the victim, any permanent loss of function, cosmetic effects of the amputation, cost of future treatment, disability accommodations, and any other issues brought to light at trial or in negotiations. The quality of legal representation is critical—insurance companies have entire legal departments employed to contest claims.

A personal injury attorney will file claims for damages against all negligent parties. Causes of accidental amputation and related liability claims may include dangerous conditions on property (premises liability), defective toys, tools, auto parts and other manufactured products (product liability), doctors’ errors and hospital negligence (medical malpractice), construction accidents, and all types of motor vehicle accidents.

If the amputation was due to a work-related injury, the state of New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law provides a schedule that outlines in specific detail compensation for loss of an eye, loss of the thumb to the first joint, loss of a tooth, amputation of a leg at the knee, and other amputations. Compensation is defined in terms of weeks of work.

Contact us for a free attorney consultation, or visit our Practice Areas page for more information about Taylor & Boguski.

Construction Accidents, Third Party Liability, and Workers’ Comp

Mount Laurel Third Party Construction Accident Attorneys

While workers’ compensation covers medical costs for work – related construction accident injuries, it doesn’t always cover lost wages or pain and suffering. That’s important to remember in cases where construction accident injuries involve negligence on the part of a contractor or subcontractor other than your employer. In fact, it’s not uncommon for painters, electricians, carpenters, drywallers, and concrete workers to come and go, each working for a different employer. As a result, it’s not uncommon for certain safety violations to occur, resulting in construction site accident injuries that incur costs beyond what workers’ compensation can cover.

Third Party Liability and Construction Site Accidents

If you’ve been injured due to negligence on the part of a contractor or subcontractor, your employer’s worker compensation should cover most of your initial medical costs. However, if your injuries are serious and result in partial or long-term disability, workers’ compensation may only cover a portion of the total financial impact of your injuries. For instance, serious head trauma, spinal cord injuries, burns, or amputations often involve pain and suffering and long-term costs that exceed what you can recover through workers’ compensation benefits.

Holding Third Parties Legally and Financially Liable for Your Injuries

A negligent electrician, backhoe driver, crane operator, welder, or carpenter isn’t going to volunteer information regarding their negligence. As a result, you’ll need to work with an experienced construction accident attorney who has access to the necessary investigative resources needed to expose OSHA violations and departures from New Jersey state law governing everything from the use of ladders, scaffolding, asphalt, electrical work, drywall, concrete, and heavy equipment at construction sites. This involves collecting eyewitness statements, reviewing company records, collecting evidence from the scene of the accident, and reconstructing what happened.

Contact Mount Laurel Construction Accident Attorneys at Taylor & Boguski

If you’ve been injured in a construction site accident, there may be other considerations beyond what your workers’ compensation benefits will pay. If your injuries were caused in part by the actions of a third party, you may be able to collect additional compensation to offset the long-term financial consequences of your injuries.

To discuss your case and learn more about our personal injury practice and how we can help you, contact Mount Laurel construction accident injury attorneys at Taylor & Boguski today.

Workers’ Compensation Claims – Do I need to See My Doctor?

Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, your employer’s worker’s compensation insurer will likely ask you to see one of their doctors to verify your injuries and condition. While this may seem reasonable and simply part of the worker’s compensation process, don’t assume the doctor who exams you is primarily interested in making sure you are okay and being taken care of. A doctor that works for an insurer is interested in determining if your injuries are due in part to a prior condition or as serious as you claim.

In this capacity, an insurance doctor is in part an agent of the insurer and has an incentive to protect the interests of the insurer. As a result, the severity of your injuries may be questioned or downplayed while your length of recovery shortened by recommendation of the doctor.

Consult Your Doctor | Protecting Your Interest after a Work – Related Injury

Under New Jersey’s worker’s compensation laws, an employer (or the employer’s insurer) can select the doctor you have to see. However, you can elect to consult your own doctor if you tell your employer (or their insurance carrier) that you are under the care of a particular doctor. If your employer requires you to see a particular doctor you should be able to see your own doctor after a certain amount of time has passed or to get a second opinion. However, you may be responsible for any expense incurred in seeing a doctor of your selection.

Getting a Second Opinion | Disputes and Worker’s Compensation Claims

When you see the insurance doctor, you’ll likely be asked a series of questions about your medical history and the accident that injured you. If the insurance doctor has reason to believe your injuries are due completely or in part to a prior condition, you benefits may be reduced or denied altogether.

For example, suppose you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome after being on the job for a year and a half. The insurance doctor might ask if you’ve ever had trouble with your wrist or arm before. Suppose you play guitar and tell the doctor that you’ve struggled on and off with pain and soreness for a few years. He might conclude that your injury is due to your guitar playing and constitutes a prior condition.

At this point, if your claim is denied or you contest the benefits offered, you’ll have to file a Claim Petition or Application for an Informal Hearing with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Being prepared with a second opinion from your doctor may provide grounds for honoring or increasing your claim if the court is persuaded by the facts.

Contact Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Taylor & Boguski

Employers don’t always inform their employees about their rights, nor do they always treat them fairly when it comes to protecting their job and returning to work. If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s important to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure your rights are protected. To learn more about your rights under New Jersey workers’ compensation laws, contact Mount Laurel workers’ compensation attorneys at Taylor & Boguski.