One of the main reasons you work is to pay your monthly bills and hopefully one day retire with some financial security. An injury can derail these plans quickly and leave you with the type of uncertainty you worked so hard to avoid. If you can never go back to work again as a result of a work injury, it’s important to what benefits are available.
For starters, being totally disabled is not a cake walk. Someone who is so severely injured that he or she qualifies for total disability under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws will have very little quality of life. It’s not a permanent vacation, it’s trying to get through each day knowing your pain and level of function may never improve.
There are a few benefits that may be available to you, consisting of workers’ compensation Total Disability benefits, Social Security Disability, and Private Supplemental and Long Term Disability Insurance.
If you are unable to perform work of any kind, you may qualify for weekly Workers’ Compensation benefits. As long as the work injury causes your total disability or it is the last cause when combined with any pre-existing disabilities, you are eligible for Total Disability. This is a weekly benefit (up to $843 per week in 2014) payable for life by the workers’ compensation carrier. If you can’t return to your prior job, but can still do some work, don’t worry, there will likely still be money available to compensate you for your permanent partial disability impairment. However, if you can return to work, it is highly unlikely you’ll qualify for workers’ compensation Total Disability.
You should apply for Social Security Disability benefits if you become disabled before you reach retirement age. Even if you have reached 62, and can collect an early retirement benefit, applying for Social Security Disability will usually result in a higher monthly rate. The standard used to determine whether you are totally disabled is not as strict as the New Jersey workers’ compensation rules, meaning that you can still have the ability to perform some work, but it is a long process and you’ll likely be turned down at least once.
Finally, I strongly recommend all workers carry a supplemental disability policy to make up the difference between the workers’ compensation rate and what you’re actually earning. Your workers’ compensation rate is 70% of your salary up to a maximum of $843.00 per week in 2014. So if you take home for than $843 per week, you need a supplemental disability policy that will make up the difference. All too often clients come to me about this issue after an injury, but at that point it’s too late to make up the difference with supplemental disability insurance because the injury already happened.
At Stark & Stark, we have many years of experience obtaining total disability benefits for clients who can no longer work. We realize that this is a very stressful and difficult situation and will work to obtain the financial security you will need if you can no longer work due to your injuries. Call us if you’d like to discuss your options.