Can My Employer Terminate Me While I Am Trying to Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Employer Terminate

You’ve been hurt on the job and you’ve filed for workers’ compensation benefits or are actually receiving payments on an approved claim. Can your employer terminate you while you are off the job because of a work-related injury? The answer is “it depends.”

Under New Jersey law, an employer is only prohibited from firing an injured employee if the termination can be shown to be in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim or for testifying at a workers’ compensation proceeding. Because New Jersey is an “at will” employment state, an employer may terminate an employee at any time for any reason, provided the termination is not in violation of a valid employment contract, is not in violation of the law, or is not contrary to public policy.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated because of a workers’ compensation claim, you can initiate a discrimination complaint through the workers’ compensation system. To be reinstated, or to recover compensation for wrongful discharge, you will have to show, however, that you were able to perform the essential duties of your job.

If you can’t show that your employer fired you because of your participation in a workers’ compensation claim, you may still have legal recourse, if you can show that you are actually disabled. Your employer may have to make reasonable accommodations for you in the workplace and you may potentially have a claim for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) if you are treated differently because of a disability.

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.

Do I Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

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In New Jersey, as in every state, you have a right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits when you are injured on the job. However, before you start receiving benefits, you must meet the specific criteria set forth in the statutes. Here are the requirements.

The Injury Must Be Job-Related

Workers’ compensation benefits are payable only for injuries sustained during the course of your employment. If you suffered injuries outside of work that prevent you from doing your job, you may be eligible for New Jersey State Temporary Disability benefits or Social Security disability benefits if your medical conditions are expected to keep you from working for more than 12 months. To succeed with a workers’ compensation claim, though, you must show a work-related injury that can be proven by medical evidence. It’s not necessary that you be engaged in the specific tasks related to your job. For example, if you were traveling for work and got hurt in a motor vehicle accident, you can seek workers’ compensation benefits for those injuries.

You Must Have Been Working for the Person or Company from Whom You Seek Benefits

The workers’ compensation laws in New Jersey tend to be liberally interpreted when it comes to defining whether a worker was an employee. If you are salaried or hourly and receive a regular paycheck, you meet this test. However, you may be what is normally considered an “independent contractor” and still qualify. New Jersey courts tend to look at how much control an employer had over the conditions of your work and the relative nature of the work performed. If the employer exercises a lot of control over how you plan and perform during working hours, you may be considered an employee. Furthermore, if the work is an integral part of the business, the person performing it may be construed as an employee.

The Company Must Have Had or Been Required to Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance

In New Jersey, all employers, whether corporations, partnerships or sole proprietorships, must either have a valid policy of workers’ compensation insurance or be approved for self-insurance.

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.

Making the Best Impression at Your Workers’ Compensation Hearing

Workers' Compensation Hearing

First impressions are lasting, and the same holds true in workers’ compensation hearings. If you need to attend a hearing, here are some things to avoid.

Don’t Be Late

Plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time for your appearance. You can never incur the wrath of the court by being early.

Dress Appropriately

workers’ compensation hearing is a serious matter. Take the time to ensure that your attire is appropriate. You don’t have to wear a suit or a dress—that may be overdoing it—but don’t come in shorts and a t-shirt. Take the time to groom yourself and make certain that your clothes are clean and wrinkle-free. You want to give the impression that you take the proceedings seriously. Another bit of advice—leave the gaudy jewelry and fancy watches at home. They don’t leave a good impression with the judge.

Be Honest and Responsive in All Exchanges

Tell the truth and don’t embellish. The workers’ compensation insurance provider will be represented by counsel. If you exaggerate in an attempt to get your claim approved, you will likely be exposed in a not too positive light. Don’t act as if you are owed something, either. Let the facts speak for themselves.

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 Your Attorney Needs to Prepare for a Workers’ Compensation Hearing

Attorney Needs to Prepare for a Workers' Compensation Hearing

If you have been injured on the job, your first step will likely be to file an application for workers’ compensation benefits. Don’t be surprised, though, if what seems like an open and shut case doesn’t end up that way. Many workers’ compensation claims are initially rejected, for a variety of reasons. If your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company challenges your claim, for any reason, you’ll need to present your claim to a judge. Here’s what your lawyer will need to prepare for that hearing.

To recover workers’ compensation benefits, you need to show that you suffered an injury on the job. Your attorney will want:

  • Medical records regarding your injury—To succeed in your claim, you’ll need to show that you sustained injuries that can be proven by objective medical evidence. You will most likely be required to submit to a physical examination by a company-chosen doctor. Make certain you tell your doctor about anything that’s out of the ordinary after the accident and get the doctor to document everything in writing.
  • Evidence indicating your wages for the last year—The amount of benefits paid may be based on your average weekly wage for the last 26 weeks immediately before the accident. Pay stubs or a W-2 may supply this information.
  • Evidence that the injury occurred at work—If there were witnesses to your injury, your lawyer will want to interview them to gather evidence to prove your case.

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 on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

The Social Security Disability Death Benefits

Social Security Disability Death Benefits

If you are a surviving family member of someone who qualified for or was receiving Social Security disabilitybenefits, you may qualify for death or survivor benefits.

Surviving Spouses

To qualify for benefits as the widow/widower of an SSDI recipient, you must have been married to the beneficiary for at least nine months before his or her death. This requirement may be waived, however, if you are the biological parent of your deceased spouse’s child. In addition, you will only be entitled to benefits if your spouse was fully insured under the Social Security disability program.

If you are also disabled, you can qualify for disabled widow benefits if you meet each of the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 50 years old
  • Your disability must have begun after you reached the age of 50, but before you became 60
  • Your disability must have begun before the death of your spouse or within 7 years after his or her death
  • Remarriage will terminate your eligibility in most instances

 

  • If you are not disabled, you cannot receive survivor benefits as a spouse until you are 60 years old.

 

Surviving Children

Children of a fully insured Social Security disability recipient can receive benefits until age 18 or until they complete elementary or secondary education. To receive benefits, the child must not be married. Benefits are not limited to biological children—adoptees, stepchildren and grand children may qualify. In addition, a child who is or becomes disabled before age 22 is entitled to benefits without regard to age.

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 Social Security disability cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

Reasons Your Social Security Claim May Be Denied

Social Security Claim May Be Denied

If you have an illness or have been injured (in an accident unrelated to your job), you may qualify to receive Social Security disability income benefits. There are, however, a number of specific reasons why your claim may be denied:

  • You have too much earned income – You can receive income from other sources and still qualify for Social Security disability benefits, but there’s a cap on how much other income you can earn. In 2016, the ceiling for earned income is $1,130 per month. This does not include income from investments – only work related income counts.
  • Your disability is only temporary – You won’t qualify for Social Security disability or SSI benefits unless you can show that your condition will keep you from working for at least 12 months or will cause your death.
  • You can’t be found by the Social Security Administration – Before you can receive benefits, the Social Security Administration must be in contact with you to approve your application. If you don’t have a good address or phone number with the SSA, or don’t have an attorney who can be contacted on your behalf, your claim can be denied.
  • You don’t follow doctor’s orders – If, as a part of your claim, you are prescribed certain medications or treatments, you must comply or risk the denial or termination of your claim. There are limited exceptions to this rule, but you need to communicate any difficulties to the Social Security Administration.
  • You fail to cooperate with the Social Security Administration – As a part of the application process, you may be required to submit to a physical examination by a doctor chosen by the Social Security Administration. If you fail to do so, your claim may be denied.

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 Social Security disability cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

The Different Types of Benefits Available Under a Workers’ Compensation Claim

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When you are injured on the job, your primary (and often only) recourse for benefits is through a workers’ compensation claim. Here are the types of benefits you may be eligible for under the New Jersey workers’ compensation laws.

Medical Benefits

If your claim is approved, you have a right to reimbursement or compensation for all necessary and reasonable medical treatment, including prescriptions and hospitalization services. Your employer has the right to choose the treating doctor for any work-related injury, but if the employer wrongfully denies coverage for medical treatment or there’s an emergency, you can pick your own physician.

Temporary Total Benefits

If your injury keeps you off the job for more than 7 days, you will be entitled to temporary total disability benefits, paid during the period you cannot work and are under medical care. The benefits to 70% of your average weekly wage for the last 26 weeks but cannot exceed A maximum rate that is set by law.

Permanent Partial Benefits

If your injury is permanent in nature, you will qualify for what are known as “scheduled” or “non-scheduled” losses. A scheduled loss involves legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers, toes, eyes, ears or teeth. A non-scheduled loss involves a permanent injury to any other body part.

Permanent Total Benefits

If your injuries/disability keep you from ever working again, you can receive a permanent award of up to 70% of your average weekly wage subject to a maximum rate set by law. The initial award, though, will be for a maximum of 450 weeks. After that time period has elapsed, you may still receive benefits, provided you can show that you are still unable to work.

Death Benefits

A surviving spouse and natural children can obtain weekly workers’ compensation payments when a person is killed in a work accident or dies because of a work-related injury or illness. The monthly payments are 70% of the average weekly wage subject to a maximum rate set by law. Children will be eligible for payments until age 18, or until age 23, if a full-time student.

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.

The Responsibilities of Employers and Employees after a Work-Related Injury

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In New Jersey, as in all states, when you have been hurt on the job, your primary source for recovering benefits for your losses in through a workers’ compensationclaim. Here are the specific responsibilities of both employees and employers after someone suffers an injury on the job.

The Employee’s Responsibilities

When you have sustained a work-related injury or illness, you need to notify your employer as soon as possible. There’s no specific requirement as to how that notice must happen—it can be in writing or orally. The person you notify, though, must be someone in authority at the business, such as a supervisor, HR person or owner. If your injury requires medical care, you will also need to request that your employer cover costs of such treatment. Typically, the employer will send you to a doctor chosen by the company or by the workers’ compensationinsurance provider.

The Employer’s Responsibilities

Upon learning of a workplace accident, an employer must immediately notify the workers’ compensation insurance provider. A First Report of Injury form will then be completed and submitted to the state. The workers’ compensation insurance company will then evaluate the claim to determine if it qualifies for payments. If the claim is approved, the insurance company must authorize the injured employee to receive any required medical treatment. If the employee is unable to work for more than seven days because of the injury, the insurance company must provide temporary disability benefits while the worker is in rehabilitation.

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.

How Social Security Disability Claims Are Decided

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If you are hurt or sick and cannot work, you may be considering or have already filed a claim for Social Security disability benefits. There are specific steps the Social Security Administration will take when assessing your claim. The agency needs to confirm that your disability is of such a nature that you cannot work. Here are the questions that will be asked.

Are You Currently Working?

The agency will first determine if you are currently working or have been engaged in “substantial gainful activity” since you filed your claim. You can still receive Social Security disability benefits if you are earning other income, but there’s a limit to how much you can make and still get Social Security disability payments. Currently, that amount is $1,130 per month.

How Serious Is Your Disability?

The Social Security Administration may simply review your medical file or may send you to a medical consultant to determine the degree of your disability. If the medical professional or the SSA official finds that your disability does not significantly limit your ability to work, your claim will likely be denied.

Do You Have an Acknowledged Impairment?

The Social Security Administration maintains an official list of impairments that qualify individuals for Social Security disability payments. The claims examiner will compare your medical condition with that list to see if your impairment qualifies you for benefits. It’s not just about whether your impairment appears on the list. The severity of your impairment will also be taken into account.

Can You Perform the Tasks of Your Former Job?

Even if your impairment is not on the list, the examiner may still find that qualify for benefits if it prevents you from performing any job that you’ve had in the past.

Can You Work in Any Capacity?

Even if you cannot perform any prior job, you can still be denied benefits if the Social Security Administration determines that you can be gainfully employed in another position. That job does not have to provide equal pay, require equal skill or be near where you live.

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 Social Security disability cases on a contingency basis. There will be no attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

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