New Jersey workers’ compensation is a three prong system that entitles injured workers to 1. payment of their reasonable, necessary and related medical bills, 2. temporary disability benefits as a wage replacement while they are out of work recovering from the injury, and 3. total disability or a monetary award for ways in which the injury has a permanent impact on the workers’ life.
Permanent disability can be either partial or total. Most awards fall into the partial category which means that the injury has a permanent impact on your daily or working life in one way or another. It does not mean that you can never work again. In fact, most workers are able to return to their regular job. If you have injured the same part of your body before, the overall disability is calculated and the workers’ compensation carrier pays for the part of the injury that they caused taking a credit for that prior loss of function. This often works to your benefit as the rate at which benefits are paid increases as the disability increases.
Total disability means that not only are you unable to do your regular job, but you cannot do any job. It entitles you to lifetime benefits as long as you are disabled. Total disability can be as a result of an accident that causes significant injuries, for example, paraplegia. However, if you had a combination of pre-existing disabilities (work related or not) in combination with the last work accident, you may also be eligible for total disability. The difference is that in the former scenario, the lifetime benefits are paid directly by the workers’ compensation carrier and in the later, the benefits are paid by the workers’ compensation carrier for a designated period of time and then the benefits are paid the State of New Jersey, Second Injury Fund.
It is extremely important that you provide your attorney with an accurate history of all of your medical conditions and injuries so that they can make a determination as to how to pursue total disability benefits on your behalf. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, broken bones and any surgeries are all conditions that could be considered to contribute to your overall disability. The most important factor is that the condition must have been diagnosed and treated before the work accident.
At Stark & Stark, we represent injured workers. Our attorneys have successfully handled minor injuries to total disability claims and everything in between. If you have been injured at work and have questions about the benefits you are entitled. Please call us for your free, confidential consultation.