Does Your Status as an Independent Contractor Prevent You from Filing for Workers’ Compensation?

Employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies both have a vested interest in minimizing the amount paid out for work-related injuries. Employers must pay higher premiums if there are more claims against them, and workers’ compensation insurance companies maximize their profits by minimizing the compensation they pay to injured workers.

A common ploy by employers and insurers is to deny coverage by alleging that you were not an employee, but an independent contractor. This strategy is used in a wide range of industries, covering a broad spectrum of workers, from sales people to construction workers. It’s important to understand, though, that many of the bases that companies and insurers use to deny coverage are without merit:

  • You don’t have to be on the company payroll to qualify for workers’ compensation
  • You don’t have to have payroll taxes withheld on your behalf to receive workers’ compensation
  • It’s not necessary that you have an office or a locker at any company location to be considered an employee for purposes of workers’ compensation

Here are some of the other tests for determining whether an employee is actually an independent contractor, and not eligible for workers’ compensation.

  • The worker must be able to act independently, free of any direction or control by the company paying the bill. The more control exercised, the greater the likelihood of an employer-employee relationship.
  • The worker is typically paid for the job, not by the hour or by salary
  • A person who provides his or her own equipment is typically considered an independent contractor
  • A person is not an independent contractor simply because there’s an agreement designating him or her as such. The nature of the work and the relationship will take precedence over what is alleged in writing.

Contact Us

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Consequential Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Benefits

When you’ve been hurt on the job, there’s an inclination to believe that your injury must be serious and catastrophic, and must be readily apparent, for you to be able to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. There are times, though, when a seemingly minor injury can become quite serious and can keep you off work for weeks, months or years.

What are Consequential Injuries?

Consequential injuries are those that arise because of an earlier injury, but which may not be visible or apparent in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Often, soft tissue injuries, such as muscle pulls, sprains, strains or even trauma to connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) take a period of time to fully manifest. Just after the accident, before nerves become inflamed, you may be able to move about without much restriction. You may initially make small adjustments in how you walk, stand, sit or lie down, though, and those small adjustments can have a significant impact over a period of time. As a result, you may discover that 2-3 months after your accident, you experience excruciating pain engaging in the most routine daily tasks.

As another example, suppose you sustain a small cut to your finger—maybe from a paper cut—and you experience minimal discomfort for a few days. But assume that the cut gets infected. It could cause you to experience limited use of a hand or arm for a while, or it could lead to infection throughout your body. You may not think it’s worth it to file a workers’ compensation claim for a paper cut, but it could be the reason you can’t work.

Contact Us

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Administrative Law Judge Says Work Comp Must Pay for Medical Marijuana

New Jersey has allowed medical marijuana for more than seven years, with the sale of the drug permitted in January, 2010. However, even though the drug is considered legal in the state, many employers have refused to reimburse injured workers for the costs of the drug. A decision last month by an administrative law judge may make it more difficult for employers to refuse to reimburse such costs in the future.

In the case before the administrative law judge, the injured party had been prescribed state-sanctioned medical marijuana after hurting his hand while working at a lumber company. He initially purchased the prescription drug, but stopped doing so when his employer refused to cover the costs. He opted, instead, to use prescription opiates, such as Percocet, to manage his pain. He ultimately sought a ruling from the administrative law judge that he be reimbursed for the costs of medical marijuana he had already purchased, and that the judge rule that future purchases of prescribed medical marijuana be covered under his workers’ compensation benefits.

After hearing all the evidence, the judge concluded that the expense of the medical marijuana should have been reimbursed, as it was based a prescription that was within the boundaries of the laws of New Jersey. Finding that the medical marijuana was not “as debilitating” as the Percocet and other opiates the injured man had resorted to, and that his use of the medical marijuana had been successful, the administrative law judge also ordered the workers’ compensation insurer to pay for any future prescriptions for state-sanctioned medical marijuana.

Contact Us

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Different Types of Benefits Available through a New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Claim

When you have been hurt on the job in New Jersey, you have the right to seek certain benefits. It’s all a part of what’s known as the “grand bargain,” designed to benefit workers and employers. Workers who qualify can often start receiving benefits within a few weeks of an injury, and employers don’t have to worry about exorbitant awards from a sympathetic jury. Here are the different types of benefits available.

Medical Benefits

After a workplace injury, you are entitled to reimbursement or payment of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses, including treatment, prescriptions and hospital services. Your employer retains the right, though, to choose your primary caregiver.

Temporary Total Benefits

Total benefits are payable if you cannot work at all because of your injury. You won’t be eligible for these benefits until you have been unable to work for more than seven calendar days. Payments, though, will be retroactive to the date of your injury. The amount payable is based on your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your injury. You will be entitled to up to 70% of that average weekly wage.

Permanent Partial Benefits

If you have a temporary disability that involves some degree of permanent bodily impairment, you will be entitled to weekly payments for the permanent disability, once your temporary disability ends.

Permanent Total Disability

If you cannot return to work, you will be entitled to total disability benefits (up to 70% of AWW) for up to 450 weeks. Benefits may continue after 450 weeks if you can show that you are still totally disabled.

Death Benefits

Surviving family members may have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits for the statutory period (up to 450 weeks) after a worker’s death. There’s also a right to reimbursement for death and funeral expenses, up to $3,500.

Contact Us

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

What Are an Employer’s Responsibilities with Respect to Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

In New Jersey, all employers are required to either carry a valid policy of workers’ compensation insurance or obtain state approval to be self-insured (to pay claims directly). There are other requirements as well.

The Notice Requirement

Under New Jersey law, an employer must post and maintain a specific form mandated by the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance. The notice must be conspicuously displayed in the workplace, and must notify employees that the employer has either obtained a policy of workers’ compensation insurance or has successfully obtained permission to be self-insured. The notice most identify the name of workers’ compensation insurance provider, as well as information as to how to contact that provider.

The Establishment of Clear Procedures

The employer must also communicate to any worker, upon hire and on a regular basis thereafter, the nature of the workers’ compensation benefits available; how to report an injury and initiate a workers’ compensation claim; and where the employee must seek medical care in the event of a work-related injury. This requirement can be met by obtaining a brochure available from the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.

Reporting a Work Accident

An employer must immediately notify the workers’ compensation insurance carrier after learning of any workplace injury. The carrier must then submit a “First Report of Injury” to the state of New Jersey. After the injured worker has returned to work or has reached what is known as “maximum medical improvement,” the workers’ compensation insurance provider has 26 weeks to file a “Subsequent Report of Injury.”

Contact Our Office

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

What Are Scheduled and Non-Scheduled Losses?

If you have been hurt at work, it’s possible you’ve heard someone say something about “scheduled” and “non-scheduled” losses. Just what do those terms mean? What are the implications in your case?

A Scheduled Loss

A scheduled loss is one that is listed on a specific state schedule. These types of injuries typically involve readily identifiable body parts, including arms, legs, shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, wrists, ankles, fingers, toes, ears and eyes. If you suffer a permanent disability to a body part that is listed on the schedule, the amount of weeks you would receive benefits is calculated by looking at the degree of your disability and your “scheduled” number of weeks. For example, your injury may be listed as entitling you to 300 weeks, but the medical opinion is that you only have 25% loss of use with the foot—you’d be entitled to 75 weeks of compensation.

A Non-Scheduled Loss

Non-scheduled losses are those tied to other parts of the body, such as internal organs or your spinal cord. As will a scheduled loss, you will probably get a disability rating from the treating physician, which will estimate the degree of your disability. The number of weeks you’ll be able to recover benefits (at a rate of up to 70% of Average Weekly Wage) will be the percentage times 600 weeks.

Contact the Law Offices of Voorhees Law, LLC

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Expect that the Workers’ Compensation Insurer Will Try to Deny Your Claim

Two people playing tug of war

When you’ve been injured on the job and it’s obvious that the injury was caused by some careless or negligent act by your employer or a co-employee, it can come as a shock to have the workers’ compensation insurance provider initially reject your claim—but it shouldn’t. Insurance companies make their money by minimizing the amount they have to pay out to satisfy claims against their policyholders. They also understand that, if they deny your claim, you’ll have to incur the time and expense of hiring an attorney to get the benefits to which you are entitled. Often, they are gambling that you won’t do that.

The most common strategy used by employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies is to contend that your injury really didn’t happen at work, even if there were a number of witnesses who saw the accident. If there’s any evidence of any similar pre-existing condition, they’ll attempt to attribute any limitations on your ability to work to that pre-existing injury. In fact, don’t be surprised if the workers’ compensation insurer asks for a copy of your medical history and seeks to attribute the injury to some incident that happened years ago. Maybe you were in a car accident when you were young or hurt your back playing sports. It’s not uncommon for a workers’ compensation insurance company to try to blame any pain or discomfort have on a condition that has long-since healed.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

When a Seemingly “Non-Work-Related” Injury Can Be Work-Related

Hurt hand and work injury claim form

In earlier blogs, we’ve talked about the requirements for qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits—you must have been hurt and the injury must have been “job-related.” In many instances, particularly if your injury stems from a work accident, it’s pretty easy to show that the injury was caused by your job. There are situations, too, where you can’t point to a single incident, but you can provide evidence that suggests that your work caused the injury—repetitive stress injuries or occupational illness fall into this category. There can also be instances where it doesn’t appear, at first blush, that your injury was work-related, but a careful investigation and analysis can lead to a causal connection.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose you suffer a stroke or a nervous breakdown while at home. You weren’t at your place of employment and you weren’t working on anything tied to your job, so it seems unlikely that you’d have any chance of securing workers’ compensation benefits.

But what if you could show that you’d been under an inordinate amount of stress at work? Maybe you’ve had unending production deadlines, or maybe it’s just the nature of your job…suppose you work as a paramedic, a firefighter or a police officer, and you are exposed to trauma on a daily basis. Could you make the argument that the stress caused by your job had a negative impact on your blood pressure, causing the stroke?

Successful workers’ compensation claims have been made by attorneys for clients who suffered heart attacks and other health problems because of work-related stress.

Contact the Law Offices of Voorhees Law, LLC

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all workers’ compensation cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Can Your Employer Terminate Your Health Insurance Benefits If You Are Collecting Workers’ Compensation Payments?

Health Insurance Benefits

Under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws, you are entitled to payment of all “necessary and reasonable medical expenses” resulting from a work-related injury, including medication and hospitalization, as well as payment based on your disability. If you have job-related health insurance, can your employer terminate that insurance during any period when you are unable to work?

Unfortunately, there are no provisions in the New Jersey workers’ compensation laws that require your employer to keep your company health benefits in force while you are collecting workers’ compensation payments. That does not mean, however, that your employer won’t have to pay for any medical expenses that you have. But it can mean that any coverage provided to your dependents through the company-provided health insurance policy will be discontinued. Though surviving spouses and dependent children may be entitled to disability benefits in the event of your death from a work-related accident or illness, there is no provision for them to receive any medical benefits and no requirement that your health insurance covering them remain in effect.

You may be able to get some limited benefits or protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (the FMLA), a federal statute that protects employees who need to take time off from work for health reasons. Under the FMLA, you can have up to 12 weeks unpaid leave with full benefits. You must, however, apply for leave and your benefits will only be available for that three month period.

Contact Us

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all personal injury cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

What are “Supplemental Benefits” under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Laws?

Supplemental Benefits

If you suffered an injury in the workplace, and you are awarded permanent total disability benefits, will those benefits be fixed for the rest of your life? What happens as the cost of living increases? Is there any adjustment for inflation or other increases in the cost of care or living?

Fortunately, under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system, there are “supplemental benefits” that may be paid in addition to the basic weekly disability payments. These supplemental benefits are designed to compensate disabled workers for any changes in the cost of living. An annual assessment of the cost of living is conducted and weekly benefits may increase if there’s an acknowledged increase in the cost of living. It’s also important, though, to understand that supplemental benefits may be reduced if a worker qualifies for Social Security, Black Lung or employer-provided disability pension payments.

Unfortunately, the right to supplemental benefits is extremely limited, though. Under the New Jersey law, supplemental benefits are available only to totally and permanently disabled workers whose date of injury was prior to January 1, 1980, and to dependents of individuals who have died in a work-related accident or from a work-related illness before that date. Surviving dependents of a person who died from a work related accident after 1979 may still have a claim to supplemental benefits if they can show that the death was caused by an injury suffered before January 1, 1980.

Contact Us

To arrange a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-200-2297. Evening and weekend meetings are available upon request. We take all major credit cards.

We handle all personal injury cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.