Once your workers’ compensation claim is closed, you may think that you cannot reopen it and seek further compensation – but that is wrong. You do have the right to reopen your claim, but there is a time limit. Therefore, the best thing you can do is contact a workers’ comp attorney in New Jersey to help you see if you qualify and to get the process started to avoid allowing the clock to run out.
When you reopen a claim in New Jersey, you are asking the workers’ compensation court to determine whether you are entitled to increased permanent disability benefits as a result of a material worsening of the compensable condition. These increased permanent disability benefits are accompanied by an additional monetary award. In order to prove that you are entitled to an increase in permanent disability benefits, you must prove that there has been a material worsening of the compensable condition, and that the worsening continues to be due to the original work-related accident or injury.
Just because a workers’ compensation claim is closed does not mean that you are without any options. However, not all cases can be reopened. That is why you should speak with an attorney to see if your case qualifies.
While you wait for your consultation, here are a few things to know about reopening a closed workers’ compensation case.
What Qualifies for Reopening a Case in New Jersey?
The first thing to do is determine whether your claim can be reopened. Only claims where there is an award of permanent disability benefits can be reopened. If you received a lump-sum payment under “Section 20” of the Workers’ Compensation Law, then you will not be eligible to reopen your claim because that type of settlement is a “full and final” dismissal of the claim.
If you received the qualifying type of workers’ compensation award, you will need to show the court that your compensable condition has worsened enough to warrant an increase in your permanent disability benefits. This worsening must be due to the initial injury that led to your workers’ compensation claim. For example, if you develop an unrelated condition, it generally cannot be included in a reopened claim. You would instead need to explore opening a new claim for that new condition, if it is related to your job duties.
Other Factors to Consider when Reopening the Claim
- Do you require medical treatment? This is the biggest question that you should ask yourself when reopening your claim. In order to prove a compensable worsening, and thus, entitlement to additional permanent disability benefits, you must prove this worsening by “objective medical evidence.” This means more than you reporting to the court that your compensable condition feels worse. You must be able to demonstrate a worsening of the condition using objective medical records such as x-rays, MRI studies, CT scans, operative reports, and other medical documentation. When you reopen a claim, you will need to return to authorized medical treatment to assess the worsening of your condition. Importantly, if you do not feel that you need additional medical treatment, it will make it very difficult to show to the court that there has indeed been a worsening of the compensable condition. A skilled New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate questions that you have regarding further medical treatment.
- Has the worsening condition impacted your ability to seek employment or earn wages? If the change was significant enough to alter your income abilities, then you may have grounds to reopen that workers’ compensation claim. If you no longer can work, or if the condition is so severe that you are permanently disabled, your attorney will want to explore getting lifetime disability benefits by reopening your claim.
- Did you aggravate the injury or condition as a result of performing subsequent work activities for either the same or a subsequent employer? If you returned to work and you aggravated the condition as a result of a new injury, then even if the body part involved was subject to a prior workers’ compensation award, you will most likely not be successful in a reopened claim.
- Did you sustain a new injury to the same body part outside of work? If you worsen your compensable condition as a result of a new injury outside of work, such as performing yard work at home, or in a subsequent motor vehicle accident, then you would likely not be successful in proving a causally-related worsening of your compensable condition, and thus the reopened claim would likely not result in an award of increased disability.
You Still Have Time Limits
You cannot go back and reopen a 20-year-old workers’ compensation case. Just like any other claims process, there is a time limit. In New Jersey, you have two (2) years from the last benefit received in connection with the original award of compensation to formally reopen the claim.
It is important to consider that monetary benefits are only one form of workers’ compensation benefit that count for this two-year “statute of limitations.” New Jersey permits that two-year window to run from medical benefits received after a permanent disability award is entered. For example, if you receive a permanent disability award, and are returned to medical treatment on an authorized basis by the workers’ compensation insurance company after your monetary benefits stop, the two-year period would run from the end of the medical treatment.
This is only one example of how the “statute of limitations” can be extended. A skilled New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate these issues to avoid allowing the two-year window to reopen your claim to close.
Hiring an Attorney in New Jersey to Start the Process
You have read some of the reasons that qualify for reopening, and you are still receiving payments; therefore, you may assume that you can easily reopen your worker’s compensation claim. While this might be the case, you should never try to do this alone.
The procedures for reopening these types of cases are extremely complicated, and the laws are continually changing. Therefore, you need someone that can review your existing or closed claim, the terms of any agreements, and your current medical condition while comparing that to the most recent legislature. Furthermore, your attorney may want to get an affidavit from your physician stating that there was a significant change, which you will need to reopen your claim anyway.
Likewise, your attorney will know if there are restrictions on which doctors can write these reports, so your attorney will know if your state has special rules about which physician can sign these.
Contact a Compensation Attorney Now
If you were seriously injured at work, and you had finished the claims process but now you need to reopen your claim and possibly increase the compensation you receive, do not try to go at this alone. The workers’ compensation process is hard, but even more so when you try to reopen older claims.
At Petro Cohen, P.C., our workers’ compensation team has more than a 100 years of combined experience successfully handling all types of workers’ comp claims, from first time case, to reopener cases, to WEAR and TEAR injury cases. We have the knowledge, expertise, and experience to ensure you receive all of the medical benefits you need and the compensation you deserve.
We have four office in southern New Jersey, including Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, and Hamilton, which are all open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:430 PM. In addition, our Live Chat services on the PetroCohen.com Web site allow you to reach out to us 24/7 to ensure your questions are answered and your concerns are assuaged.
Whether you have a potential reopener work injury case or a new workers’ comp claim, speak with a knowledgeable attorney at Petro Cohen, P.C. today during a no-obligation case evaluation. Call the office today at 888-675-7607 to get started or contact our office online to learn more about how we help injured workers receive the compensation they deserve after an injury.