Who has the burden of proof when a New Jersey worker is injured at work? Does the employee have the burden to prove that a work injury happened? Or does the employer have the burden to prove that a work injury did not happen? What even does “burden of proof” mean?
In any legal matter or litigation, including a New Jersey workers’ compensation claim, the party bringing the claim has the initial burden or responsibility to demonstrate that they have met the requirements of a valid claim. To meet the burden, the party bringing the claim has to produce credible and competent evidence showing proof.
Under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act an employee is entitled to recover for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment. Most of the time, this is accomplished fairly easily since most work injuries are pretty obvious. Once the employee has established their burden, then their employer’s workers’ comp insurance company will pay for the claim. The insurance company will pay for the medical bills and, if the employee is off of work due to the injury, the insurance will pay for lost wages as well. The injured employee will also be entitled to a monetary permanency award if the employee can demonstrate that he or she has suffered a lasting loss of function as a result of the work injury.
The employer then has the burden of proof in a workers’ compensation case in New Jersey to demonstrate one of the few defenses that are allowed under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation law. The law describes this burden in Section 34:15-7 of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act. Under this section, the employer can attempt to prove the following defenses that the law allows:
- The injury was intentionally self-inflicted;
- Impairment due to alcohol intoxication caused the accident;
- Impairment due to the unlawful use of dangerous controlled substances as defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, P.L.1970, c. 266 (C. 24:21-1 et seq.) caused the accident; or
- A willful failure to use reasonable and proper personal protective devices or devices furnished by the employer caused the accident.
For this last item, the employer must have clearly required the devices and uniformly enforced this requirement. To succeed on this defense, the employer must have properly documented that, despite repeated warnings, the employee failed to use the equipment properly.
The burden remains with the employer, thereafter, unless it is shifted back to the worker by way of proof that the employee was faking or malingering.
Complicated Workers’ Comp Cases
Most work injuries resolve themselves fairly quickly and easily. An employee clearly gets hurt at work, gets treatment, gets better, and returns to work without any issues. These easy claims are usually paid out and taken care of without the need to get workers’ comp lawyers involved. But some cases are more complicated than that. Sometimes there are factual arguments that a work incident even occurred. Sometimes there is a dispute between the medical experts. It’s these complicated cases where you definitely need to hire a skilled and experienced New Jersey workers’ comp lawyer to fight for your rights. Get the financial help you need after a workplace accident.
Call the Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorneys at Petro Cohen
Petro Cohen, P.C. is recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading workers’ compensation firms. The firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department has more than 100 years of combined experience, among Department Head Frank Petro, Partners Suzanne Holz Meola and Terri Hiles, and attorneys Daniel Rosenthal and Sam Scimeca. Working together with you, they will ensure you receive the medical treatment you need the compensation you deserve. Petro Cohen, P.C. has offices to serve you in Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, and Hamilton, NJ. To determine if you may have a potential workers’ comp and/or personal injury case, schedule your free and confidential consultation with our legal team. You can contact us through our online form or via 24/7 live chat at PetroCohen.com.