Concussions are common injuries that can result from a broad range of job-related accidents. If you have been diagnosed with a concussion following a collision, fall, or any other accident, you should speak with an attorney about filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
Concussions are common work-related injuries. As knowledge about the prevalence of concussions and risks associated with these traumatic brain injuries (TBI) grow, more workers are seeking medical treatment for concussions, and more are seeking workers’ compensation for their injuries as well. In some states, the number of workers’ compensation claims related to on-the-job concussions has increased by as much as tenfold over the past 10 to 15 years.
Four Considerations for Seeking Workers’ Compensation after Being Diagnosed with a Concussion in New Jersey
So, can you file a workers’ compensation claim for a concussion in New Jersey? The short answer is, “Yes.” However, as with all job-related injuries, your eligibility to receive benefits is contingent upon a number of factors – from your employment status to the specific cause of your Traumatic Brain Injury.
1. Are You an Employee or an Independent Contractor?
In New Jersey, you must be legally classified as an “employee” in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you are an independent contractor, then you are ineligible to file a claim. However, as we discuss below, both employees and independent contractors can potentially seek compensation by filing a fault-based claim for personal injury damages.
2. Did You Suffer Your Concussion Within the Scope of Your Employment?
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, an employee must suffer his or her concussion “within the scope of employment.” All non-job-related accidents are excluded (e.g., if you are unable to work because you fell and hit your head at home on a Saturday), and certain job-related accidents are excluded as well. For example, if you got hurt because you were drunk at work, your injury probably will not be covered. Most, but not all, commuting accidents are also ineligible for workers’ compensation.
Critically, the requirement to suffer your injury within the scope of employment does not mean that you must be injured in the course of doing your job. For example, if you fell down the stairs walking between the floors of your office building, your injury should still be covered.
3. Did You See Your Employer’s “Company Doctor”?
One of the more frustrating aspects of New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system is the requirement for injured employees to see a “company doctor.” In New Jersey, employers can limit their employees’ options for seeking treatment, and they can even hire an in-house doctor to diagnose and treat employees’ job-related injuries. Employees who do not see their employer’s company doctor can lose their claim for benefits.
4. Do You Still Have Time to File Your Claim?
In order to preserve your legal rights, you must notify your employer of your concussion within 14 days of your accident and you must file your claim within two years. If either of these deadlines have passed, then you may be ineligible to file a claim.
Could You Be Entitled to Additional Compensation?
As a general rule, job-related concussions should not happen. There is no job in America where the acceptable level of risk includes the potential for a traumatic brain injury. Companies have a legal obligation to provide reasonably-safe work environments, and all individuals and businesses in New Jersey owe a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring others.
While workers’ compensation provides limited “no-fault” benefits, injured workers who are eligible to file personal injury claims can recover full compensation for all of the financial and non-financial losses they suffer as a result of their concussions. This includes full coverage for their lost wages (as opposed to the partial disability benefits available through workers’ compensation), pain and suffering, and other losses. Although employees generally cannot sue their employers for negligence (this does not apply to independent contractors), workers who have suffered concussions will often be able to pursue personal injury claims against:
- Contractors, subcontractors, tool and equipment manufacturers, and other third-party companies
- Owners of office buildings, shopping malls, construction sites, and other places of business
- Negligent drivers (and their employers or insurance companies)
How Much Are You Entitled to Recover for Your Job-Related Concussion?
Like other workplace injuries, a traumatic brain injury suffered at work would entitle you to all workers’ compensation benefits. The medical benefits of workers’ compensation are intended to cover doctor visits, medication, and surgeries related to identifying and treating your injury or illness. Should you need special therapy or equipment to deal with your injury, workers’ comp will cover these costs as well.
Disability benefits are meant to compensate you for wages while your injury or illness makes it impossible for you to work.
- Temporary Disability Benefits – You are entitled to up to 400 weeks of tax-free temporary disability benefits, based on 70% of your wage for any medical condition that is either caused or worsened by your employment.
- Permanency Benefits – There are additional workers’ compensation benefits known as “permanency benefits”, which are awarded by a Judge of Compensation based upon medical evidence supporting a measurable loss of physical function. Most work-related surgeries, fractures, dislocations, tears, disc bulges, protrusions, and herniations qualify. These benefits can be pursued up to two years from the last date of medical treatment, even if the person has not pursued workers’ compensation benefits or even if the person no longer works for the employer where the original accident occurred.
- Total Disability Benefits – When your work injury permanently limits the kinds of work you can do or your ability to earn a living, you would receive total disability benefits.
If your injury or illness falls into one of these categories, your disability benefits will be based upon the amount you were earning prior to your injury – typically, two-thirds of your regular wages. You will not have to pay income tax on the benefits you collect.
To learn more about filing a claim for workers’ compensation (and to find out if you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim), please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation. To speak with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers in confidence as soon as possible, call us or tell us about your accident online now.