I frequently hear people talk about dealing with their workers’ compensation case on their own. In a perfect world, this would be a simple process, but in reality it can be a tedious and frustrating process that you will need guidance for.
- In most cases you will not be entitled to a cash settlement without seeing a lawyer and filing an Employee’s Claim Petition with the New Jersey Department of Labor. While in some limited circumstances the workers’ compensation carrier will pay you a voluntary offer of settlement, you likely will only get about one-quarter of what your case is actually worth without having a lawyer represent you. You are suing your employer by filing a workers’ compensation claim. You are just getting the benefits you are entitled to under the law.
- You do not know the law and need someone who does so that you can maximize the amount of weekly benefits that you receive after you are injured at work. You are entitled to 70% of your average weekly wages (up to a yearly maximum) from the workers’ compensation carrier as weekly benefits if you are kept out of work by an authorized workers’ compensation doctor for more than 7 days. Without a lawyer checking up on the workers’ compensation carrier, you may receive less that the 70% you are entitled to under the law. This is because your lawyer can make sure that the carrier includes overtime wages when they calculate your average weekly wage.
- You need help getting all of the medical care that you are entitled to under the law. While yes it is true that the carrier has the absolute right to dictate medical care under the workers’ compensation statute, they try to take the cheap way out when they think they can get away with it. The workers’ compensation carrier is allowed to pick your “authorized” doctor, but along with that comes the responsibility to provide everything that “authorized” doctor prescribes. The carrier cannot tell you they will not provide a medication or a referral that the authorized doctor prescribes. They must provide everything their doctor prescribes. If not, a lawyer can file a Motion with the Workers’ Compensation court to get the treatment authorized.
- If you file an official Employee’s Claim Petition with a lawyer and receive a settlement for a percentage of partial disability you will have future rights in your case. You will have two years from the last settlement check within which you can reopen your case if your condition worsens. It generally takes about a year to get to settlement once you complete treatment. If you do NOT file an Employee’s Claim Petition, your claim will close two years from the last date of treatment or the last payment of weekly benefits, whichever is later. If you do file a claim you will have two years from the last settlement check to reopen you claim if your condition worsens (in most cases). The settlement process extends the statue of limitations to reopen in most cases.
- The workers’ compensation carriers often tell injured workers that if they aggravated a prior condition at work their injury is not considered covered under the workers’ compensation law. This is completely false. With the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer you can fight this denial of benefits and get what you are entitled to under the law.