On April 4, 1911, Governor Woodrow Wilson signed the law adopting an “Act prescribing the liability of an employer to make compensation for injuries received by an employee in the course of employment.” Who would have thought that a “no-fault” system for workers’ (then called “workmen”) compensation would have been adopted so early on, and last for so long. Of course there have been numerous changes to the law along the way, but the basis concept of a “no-fault” system for injured workers is alive and well in New Jersey. Nowadays, medical treatment costs exponentially more than the $21.17 per claim in 1911-1912, and the maximum rate for temporary disability in 2011 is $792.00 per week, compared to $10.00 per week 100 years ago.
Among the hoopla, the Gala Celebrations and such, let’s be reminded that for the most part this system works the way it is supposed to work. In exchange for guaranteed medical care and temporary disability benefits, the injured worker gives up the right to sue the employer. Many of my clients are shocked when I tell them that fault on the part of the employer is NOT a factor that is considered in a workers’ compensation case. This part of the law has been in effect for 100 years, and most workers are not aware of its existence. Fault on the part of the employer only comes into play in the rarest of circumstances; and only where it is possible to prove that the employer acted with intent to harm.
A recent independent study looked at New Jersey, and several other states to determine the effectiveness of their workers’ compensation systems. At a May 20, 2011 New Jersey State Bar Association Seminar, the Director and Chief Judge of New Jersey’s Division of Workers’ Compensation, the Honorable Peter Caldarone, advised those in attendance that New Jersey ranked high in that recent study because our system is proven to be highly effective for both the employer and the employee. Employers win because they get to designate medical care, thus keeping their costs down — and employees win because they get benefits quickly, and can obtain experienced legal counsel when necessary.
If you are not getting the medical benefits, temporary disability benefits or partial permanency benefits that you are entitled to receive under our current Workers’ Compensation law, please give me a call to discuss your options.