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Here is what you should do if you have been hurt at work.

Report your accident

Immediately tell your supervisor or safety director about your accident, even if you do not think you need immediate medical attention. You never know when something small will turn into something big and it is better to be safe than sorry. You or your employer will then complete an incident report making a record of the event. Failure to report an injury in a timely manner could result in the denial of benefits.

Continue Reading First 3 Steps to Take After Getting Injured at Work

New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits are governed under N.J.S.A. 34:15 et seq. There are three benefits you are entitled to when you get hurt at work in New Jersey: payment of medical bills, payment of temporary disability benefits or wage replacement and payment of an award of permanent disability. I will address each of these in a series of blogs.

This is the third in a series of three blogs. The previous blogs can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.

This blog will focus on the benefit known as permanent partial disability. After medical treatment has been provided and the authorized doctor tells you there is nothing more he can do, you may be entitled to a monetary award even if you have returned to work full duty (see prior blogs). This benefit is payable if the injury has a permanent impact on your life.

Continue Reading New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Benefits Unraveled – Part 3

New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits are governed under N.J.S.A. 34:15, et seq. There are three benefits you are entitled to when you get hurt at work in New Jersey: payment of medical bills, payment of temporary disability benefits or wage replacement and payment of an award of permanent disability. I will address each of these in a series of blogs.

This is the second in a series of three blogs. Blog one can be read here: Part 1.

When you are hurt at work and the authorized doctor (see previous blog) indicates that you must be out of work to recover from your injury, you may be entitled to receive a portion of your wages. The law in New Jersey entitles you to 70% of your gross weekly wage. However, if you earn in excess of $1,221.50 per week, you can never receive more than $855.00 per week.

Continue Reading New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Benefits Unraveled – Part 2

New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits are governed under N.J.S.A. 34:15 et seq. There are three benefits you are entitled to when you get hurt at work in New Jersey: payment of medical bills, payment of temporary disability benefits or wage replacement and payment of an award of permanent disability. I will address each of these in a series of blogs.

This is the first in a series of three blogs. With regard to the payment of medical bills, the statute requires the employer to provide medical treatment that is reasonable, necessary and related to your accident and that is designed to cure your condition. You are NOT permitted to seek treatment with your primary care doctor or specialist without the prior consent and approval of your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier. Your employer is also obligated to pay 100% of the bills. There are no deductibles, co-pays, or out of pocket expenses, including prescription medications and any other medical devices prescribed by the authorized doctor. Absent any obvious broken bones or other critical medical conditions, your treatment will generally begin with conservative treatment which might include rest and prescription medications. If your symptoms do not improve, you may be referred for diagnostic tests to help the physician arrive at a diagnosis. You may also be referred for physical therapy to help alleviate your symptoms. If that fails, you may then be referred to a specialist. This process could take weeks or months.

At some point in the process the authorized doctors will indicate that your condition is as good as it is going to get or maximum medical improvement. When this happens, the carrier’s obligation to you ends, even if you are not back to normal. You are not entitled to additional treatment that is not designed to cure your condition, even if that treatment might make you feel better. However, there are some limited circumstances under which you may be eligible for ongoing medical care and you should seek legal advice to determine if you fall within those exceptions. If you are still having complaints and problems, you will then be entitled to additional benefits which will be address in this blog series. At Stark & Stark, our experienced attorneys and legal staff can help you understand your rights. Please call us to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

Understanding workers’ compensation can be tricky enough for the average person, but determining how this interacts with your social security disability can be even trickier. Many often ask me: “Can I work while collecting social security disability benefits, and how does this affect my New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits?”

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is slightly more complicated than that. The U.S. Social Security Administration has special rules which make it possible for people receiving disability benefits to work and collect their monthly benefits. Under most circumstances, you can work part-time and earn up to approximately $750 per month, and still maintain your SSD and Medicare benefits.

If you find that you are able to work in excess of part-time, you may be eligible for a “Trial Work Period” regardless of much you are earning. A TWP allows you the opportunity to test your ability to work. Be aware that the TWP applies to any nine months in a 60 month period. You must report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment to qualify for continued benefits during a TWP. If the TWP ends unsuccessfully, your benefits can be reinstated without the need to file a new application, as long as it occurs within 36 months of the end of the TWP. In addition, Medicare benefits will continue for at least 93 months (7+ years) for most persons with disabilities.

The SS rules allow you to work while you are totally and permanently disabled within the above parameters. However, be aware that if you have also been found totally and permanently disabled under the NJ workers’ compensation statute, you are absolutely prohibited from working despite the more liberal SS rules.

If you have been hurt at work and unable to return to work, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.

After you’re injured in a work related accident, there are many steps that you need to take. You’ll need to arrange doctor’s appointments and potentially schedule physical or occupational therapy sessions to determine the length and severity of your injuries. After the accident, you may also need extra accommodations once you return to work, which poses a difficult but important question: what should I do if I have permanent restrictions as a result of a work related accident, but my employer will not accommodate me?

For those unsure or unaware, the benefits payable under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation include payment of medical bills, temporary disability benefits while the worker is recovering from an injury, and permanent disability benefits, which are subject to a schedule of benefits. This is all available so an injured worker can be compensated for the ways in which the injury will have a permanent impact on their life. For some, this impact may mean that they not physically capable of returning to their former job. When this happens, they may need training to re-enter the workforce; however, this is not something that workers’ compensation is obligated to provide.

Continue Reading Understanding Work Related Accidents & Workplace Accommodations

A work-related injury can have a devastating effect on a family physically, financially, and emotionally. Sometimes a family cannot recover from these stressors and they find themselves in family court facing a variety of unexpected issues. This blog will address both child support and equitable distribution, some of the most frequently asked questions.

Child Support

When you are out of work due to a work-related injury or illness, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits. In New Jersey, the law provides that you receive 70% of your gross weekly wage subject to a statutory maximum benefit in 2015 of $855 per week. Benefits are paid directly by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to the injured worker.

This can cause a problem if your child support payments are paid directly out of your regular paycheck. The fact that you are not receiving your regular paycheck does not suspend your obligation. It is your responsibility to pay your weekly obligation out of your workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits. You may pay the support directly or ask the judge of Compensation for court order reducing your weekly workers’ compensation benefit and paid by the carrier to the probation office. However, because benefits are only a portion of your regular wages, many obligors fall behind on their payments when they have be out of work while recovering from an injury. Under these circumstances, the past due benefits continue to accrue and you will go into arrears. These arrears are still your responsibility to pay and will be deducted, at least in part, from any award you receive for permanent disability.

Continue Reading The Most Common Family Law Issues in Workers’ Compensation

The Seattle Times recently published a five-part series entitled “Loaded with Lead” regarding the dangers of lead poisoning from shooting ranges. The series was researched over a one year period of time and studied private shooting ranges in nearly all 50 states. In the study, only 1 private range in NJ was inspected, but out of 17 violations, 14 of them were lead related. While the study was with regard to private ranges, the concerns are the same for New Jersey’s police and corrections officers.

New Jersey police and corrections officers spend many hours at shooting ranges to hone the skills necessary to serve and protect our communities. Exposure to lead can occur when they fire guns with lead-based ammunition spreading lead vapor and dust which are inhaled and stored in the body. In order to protect officers from becoming ill, the range must be properly ventilated or the concentration of lead can become very dangerous. In addition, exposure occurs when dust accumulates on surfaces. These surfaces should be regularly cleaned to eliminate the risk of exposure. NJ Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health is responsible for enforcing the standards at indoor firing ranges for public employees like police and correction officers. The New Jersey Department of Health also takes this issue seriously and has provided warnings for shooters.

The health risks for adults from exposure to lead include: high blood pressure, abdominal pain, constipation, joint pains, muscle pain, declines in mental functioning, pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities, headache, memory loss, and mood disorders, reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm, miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women and even death. Most of these symptoms do not occur until the levels of lead are already very high. If you believe you are at risk for lead poisoning, you should seek medical attention. A simple blood test is all that is necessary to make a diagnosis. Treatment can be as simple as removing all sources of contamination. In more serve cases, treatment includes drug therapy.

At Stark & Stark, PC we have experience in representing New Jersey’s public employee workforce and the issues specific to them including occupational illnesses due to exposure to toxins at work. Please call us today for your free, no obligation consultation.

Veterans service-connected disability benefits are often denied or awarded at the incorrect rating or date of disability. If you find yourself in this position, you have the right to an appeal and you increase your chances of winning if you are represented by an attorney.

You can find a list of VA accredited attorneys here. An accredited attorney has been screened by the VA for character and fitness, has been trained to represent disabled veterans, and is required to engage in additional training to maintain accreditation every two years. Because appeals can take 3 ½ to 4 ½ years to process, attorneys fees are based upon benefits they obtain on your behalf and paid out of your past due benefits.

Continue Reading How Do I Appeal the Denial of Military Service Connected Disability Benefits and Do I Need an Attorney?

Permanent partial and permanent total disability benefits in New Jersey are considered to be wage replacement benefits, so they are paid in the same manner as wages, which is weekly.  These benefits accrue from the date of the last payment of temporary disability benefits.  In many cases, the entire award has not accrued at the time of the settlement hearing and the injured worker will receive payments weekly until the award has been paid in full.  Once the award has been entered, the benefits are due and payable to the injured worker or his dependents should he die during the period of the payout.

In certain rare circumstances, an injured worker may petition the court requesting that all or some of the award be paid in a lump sum.  This process is called a “commutation”.  If the commutation is approved, the benefits are subject to a 5% discount.  It is uncommon for this type of request to be granted.  The standard for granting such a request is if it is in the best interest of the injured worker.

In a recent Appellate Division decision, Jenkins v. LA Fitness, Docket No. A-3570-12T2 (February 4, 2015), such a request was denied.  In that case, the injured worker wanted to expand a food service business.  However, after a hearing, the judge of compensation determined that an acceleration of payments was not in his best interest and denied his request.  The Appellate court affirmed that the commutations are only allowed when it clearly appears that an unusual circumstance warrants a departure from the normal manner of payment.   It is strictly prohibited that a payment would be made to satisfy a debt, or to make payment to physicians, lawyers or others.

If you have concerns about your workers’ compensation benefits, our experienced attorneys and legal staff will be happy to answer your questions.  Please call us today for your free, confidential consultation.