Work injuries are all too common. In fact, more than 40 people are injured every day in New Jersey work-related accidents. After an accident at work or if you develop a work-related illness, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, approval of your workers comp claim is not guaranteed, and the process of actually obtaining benefits can be challenging. In this article, we review the requirements for a workers comp settlement in New Jersey and the average settlement amounts.
How Does Workers Comp Work?
Workers’ compensation is intended to provide several benefits such as payment of hospital and medical bills, as well as lost income during the period in which the employee cannot work. Most every employer is required to carry workers compensation insurance which universally covers employees in the event of an accident. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning workers can collect benefits regardless of who was to blame for the accident.
While some workers' comp cases are simple and can be resolved quickly, other times the employer or insurance company will argue that the injury is not as severe as you believe or that it is not related to work. Because many scenarios are not straight-forward, you may need to obtain the help of a workers compensation lawyer in order to get to an agreeable settlement.
Building a Strong Case for Your Workers Comp Settlement
In order to maximize your settlement and avoid a claim denial, it’s important to build a strong case that links the severity of your injuries to the workplace and follows the process and timelines.
Make sure to seek medical treatment immediately and report the accident and your injuries to your employer. Your medical record will be an important piece of evidence to build your case for a workers compensation settlement. You may be required to get an independent medical exam (IME) by the insurance company or your employer.
New Jersey has a very short timeframe for workers to report their injury to their employer in order to be eligible for workers compensation benefits. It's critical to follow the workers compensation process and be aware of the time limits. You don’t want your claim to be denied just because you missed a deadline.
Average Workers Comp Settlements in New Jersey
First, it’s important to understand that workers compensation benefits have caps or maximums they will pay out. These amounts are established annually by the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor. Additionally, certain types of injuries, such as when the worker loses (or loses the use of) major members of the body like eyes, arms, hands, legs and feet, are pre-defined with schedules of benefits for partial and permanent disability claims with workers comp.
When there is a disagreement between the worker and employer or insurance company about the extent of medical treatment needed, whether or not the injury is work-related or the payment of benefits, the worker can then file a claim with the New Jersey Division of Workers Compensation. The claim is then litigated through a settlement process or a trial, if no agreeable settlement can be reached.
The severity and permanency of your injuries have a direct effect on how much you can get in a workers comp settlement. Some factors that go into the settlement amount include:
- Severity of your injury. Simply put, a broken arm is far less severe than losing a limb in a horrible accident. You may be out of work temporarily while your arm heals but you eventually could likely work again. Your compensation should cover the time period during which you were recuperating from the injury but would far less than what’s needed to heal and care for a catastrophic injury.
- Permanency of your injury. For example, if you are totally disabled due to a work related injury with no expected improvement in your condition and cannot work at all, your settlement should compensate you for your ongoing future lost income.
- Pre-injury wages. Benefit amounts are based on your weekly income before the injury occurred. The more you were making, the higher the settlement amount would be.
- Strength of your evidence. If there is conflicting evidence about whether or not your injury is related to work or, for instance, a pre-existing condition, it may be more challenging to achieve a higher settlement amount.
In cases of severe injury or qualifying for permanent total disability benefits, the injured worker must wait until he or she reaches the maximum medical improvement (MMI). Medical professionals must make the determination that there is no other treatment, therapy or procedure that could improve the condition. Short term disability and other workers compensation benefits may pay for medical expenses and lost wages up until this point, but it’s generally not possible to start permanent total disability benefits until MMI has been achieved.
Help with Your Workers Compensation Claim
You have the right to file a claim for benefits after suffering a work-related injury; however, insurance companies may try to deny or devalue your claim. An experienced workers comp attorney can handle your case and make sure you get the benefits you need to heal from your injury and take care of your family.
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we are dedicated to assisting clients throughout New Jersey and New York with their workers’ compensation cases. We have years of experience and the extensive resources you need to secure a fair case result. If you’ve been injured or your claim has recently been denied, contact us immediately to understand your options.