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What rationale is guiding workers' compensation in New Jersey?

New Jersey law requires all employers who are not covered by federal programs to have workers’ compensation coverage. Alternatively, an employer might also qualify for self-insurance. Either way, state lawmakers recognize the importance of providing medical treatment, wage replacement and/or disability compensation to employees who are injured in work-related accidents. 

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website emphasizes that workers’ compensation is a type of insurance program that does not require a showing of fault. This is important, as proving negligence can be both costly and time consuming, not to mention difficult. Indeed, a recent article discussing the settlement between General Motors and the U.S. Department of Justice noted that proving intentional disregard or fraud regarding safety regulations is often difficult. 

In GM’s case, the automaker was accused of hiding an ignition defect from safety regulators for several years. Notably, various federal laws provide for criminal prosecution of executives in cases alleging that the willful violation of safety rules resulted in employee deaths. However, one commentator observed that the law is weak. Such litigation risk may explain why federal authorities agreed to settle their investigation of GM with a $900 million fine.

Yet even a no-fault approach may sometimes involves disputes over entitlement to benefits. Accordingly, the law also provides for a formal claim petition or an informal hearing process with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. We are a law firm that has helped many injured workers seek adequate benefits after a work injury. We emphasize the importance of having legal representation throughout the claims process.

Source: Washington Post, “Why General Motors’ $900 million fine for a deadly defect is just a slap on the wrist,” Drew Harwell, Sept. 17, 2015

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