If you were doing something, however slight, to cause an injury at work be sure to let your employer know all of the facts when you report the injury. As the case below verifies, if you are just walking at work and feel a “pop” in your back, you will probably be denied workers’ compensation benefits. Just being present at work does not automatically make an injury work related. The injury must arise out of the employment duties, and you must be careful to report the duties that you feel caused your injury.

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When an injury occurs on the job, you are usually covered under the workers’ compensation insurance policy paid for by your employer. You are also typically required to visit a physician selected by the insurance company to assess your condition and get treatment. But what if you don’t agree with the doctor’s assessment or treatment plan? Can you go somewhere else for a second opinion? In New Jersey, the answer is almost always “No.” You can request it, but are not “entitled” to get it. The insurance company has the right to decide whether or not a second opinion is warranted.

There are two common situations that prompt patients to seek a second opinion in workers’ comp claims:

  • When the doctor says you no longer need treatment and you don’t agree with him/her; and,
  • When the doctor recommends surgery or an invasive procedure and you want to be sure it is the best option.


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On June 2, 2016 I attended an extremely interesting presentation given by the law firm of Costello & Mails about the employer’s duty to provide a safe work place for employees. There are many State and Federal laws that address this issue, as will be explained below. As a workers’ compensation attorney I found the information invaluable since the workers’ compensation statute is a no-fault statute that does not require an employer to maintain any level of safety for workers. The trade-off makes an employee eligible for certain limited benefits regardless of whether the employee or the employer is at fault. An employer at fault for an employee’s injury does not mean that the employee will get any more or any less benefits than an employee who was at fault for his or her own injury at work. The benefits discussed at this recent presentation were over and above any compensation an employee might be entitled to under the workers’ compensation law.

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CRPS stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and is sometimes referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD. CRPS is a rare but serious form of chronic pain resulting from nerve damage that generally affects arms or legs after trauma to that part of the body. CRPS arises most frequently as a result of a traumatic workplace injury involving damage to a nerve root, or as a result of one or more surgeries to repair a fracture, burn, or some other injury.

One of the most common traits of CRPS is that pain appears to be greater than what would be expected for the injury or as a result of normal activities. Symptoms of CRPS include severe swelling, a “waxy” appearance, discoloration, unusual temperature changes, and/or unusual hair growth to the extremity. There is no decisive test to confirm CRPS for an injured worker. However, some tests do provide guidance. One is a bone scan, which may indicate a degree of bone loss associated with CRPS. Another test is to prescribe nerve blocks and then evaluate how the extremity responds.


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Sometimes, injured workers have questions regarding authorized or unauthorized medical care. N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act provides that, “The employer shall furnish to the injured worker such medical, surgical, and other treatment, and hospital service as shall be necessary to cure and relieve the worker of the effects of the injury.” The case of Benson vs. Coca Cola Co. addresses the issue of unauthorized medical care.

In the Benson case, the employee was examined by the workers’ compensation carrier’s physician. The employee subsequently sought out medical treatment from another physician, without the workers’ compensation carrier’s authorization, and then sought reimbursement from the carrier for the medical expenses. The workers’ compensation court found against the employee, holding that N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:15-15 did not give discretion to the injured employee to seek independent medical assistance, thus the outside medical treatment and hospitalization was unauthorized.


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On December 4, 2015, the Appellate Division decided the can of Rose Fonrose Louis v. Burger King Corp, and held that the petitioner’s sole remedy for sexual harassment at work was in the Workers’ Compensation court. The case arose during Petitioner’s employment at Burger King in the Monmouth Mall. During the length of employment, Petitioner was sexually harassed by an assistant manager who made inappropriate sexual advances while they were both in a walk-in freezer. While the harassment was occurring, the store manager opened the door of the walk in freezer, looked at both employees, and closed the door.

Testimony revealed that while the manager had the door open, the assistant manager stopped his harassment. Later the same day, the assistant manager again made inappropriate sexual advances toward the petitioner while both were working. Petitioner did not report the incidents, however the following day her husband called to complain to the manager about how his wife was treated and he also made a visit to the store to follow up. At that time, Burger King had a written policy prohibiting workplace harassment, and that policy had been issued to all employees.

In following and consistent with the harassment policy, the manager reported the incidents to the district manager, who initiated an investigation and transferred the offending assistant manager to another store. Several days later, the petitioner also filed a complaint with the police department, who charged the assistant manager with fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.


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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

A particularly noteworthy case was recently decided by the Appellate Division on November 20, 2015. This case, Colleen Fitzgerald v. Walmart, is so interesting because the Court found that the worker’s injured condition did not qualify as a work related injury simply because she felt a “pop” in her low back while walking at work.

The Petitioner, Colleen Fitzgerald, filed a claim for an accident that occurred on April 26, 2010, while she was working for Walmart. She stated that she was merely walking in the store and felt a “pop” in her low back. While at the time of the claim Ms. Fitzgerald said she felt the pop she was not doing anything other than walking, later testimony revealed that at some time prior to the incident she had been doing some lifting at work in her position as a zone merchandise supervisor.

She reported the accident to her manager, and after seeing her family doctor who diagnosed her with protruding lumbar discs, she took FMLA for 12 weeks and a leave of absence while she received treatment. She did return to work at Walmart for a period of time, however because she then had another non-work related slip and fall accident where she broke her elbow, she was ultimately terminated from her job at Walmart. There was never any authorized treatment provided by the Workers’ Compensation carrier for Walmart.


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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.


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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.


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