Lieberman, Ryan & Forrest, L.L.C.
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You're seriously hurt at work. Are you eligible for workers' comp?

Unfortunately, workplace injuries and occupational illnesses aren't all that uncommon. Most people have the basic idea of what workers' compensation is: insurance that pays out if you get hurt or sick at work. But what is it, really?

Workers' compensation systems exist in every state, but they vary widely in regards to which employers have to provide it and how much coverage must be provided. That said, the basic idea behind all workers' comp programs is that they are "no fault" -- it doesn't matter whether the employer or the employee was at fault.

That's right: Any employee who is injured or sickened at work gets workers' comp benefits without having to prove that their employer's negligence caused their condition. In exchange, employers are virtually immune from personal injury lawsuits over workplace injuries and cannot be required to pay damages for pain and suffering.

The New Jersey workers' comp system furnishes medical benefits and replaces about 70 percent of your wages if you can't work for more than seven days. When an employee dies as the result of a workplace accident or injury, it also provides death benefits to certain family members.

The workers' comp wage-replacement benefits go by these names:

  • Temporary Total Benefits: You are totally disabled from work, but only temporarily and still under active medical care.
  • Permanent Partial Benefits: You are only partially disabled from work, but that disability is permanent.
  • Permanent Total Benefits: You are totally disabled from work and it appears this will be permanent.

There are situations in which a workers' comp claim might not be paid; mostly this is because the insurer questions or challenges whether your claim meets all of the eligibility requirements. They may claim that you're not actually an employee of the insured company -- that you're an independent contractor, for example. Or, they may argue that your injury or illness didn't come from performing your job duties. They might also challenge the seriousness of your injury or illness.

No matter what happens, your employer cannot retaliate against you for filing a workers' comp claim, for providing testimony in a co-workers' workers' comp case -- or for talking to a lawyer about your situation.

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