If you are suffering from a job-related WEAR and TEAR injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or a disc abnormality in your neck or back, understanding your legal rights can be complicated. While doing your job is painful – or perhaps impossible – you are not totally disabled, and there are certainly some types of jobs that you could perform pain-free. So, can you file for workers’ compensation? Can you work at another job and receive benefits? If so, what do you need to do in order to file a successful claim?
Here are some important things to know.
Five Important Facts about Workers’ Compensation for WEAR and TEAR Injuries
1. Regardless of the Effects of Your WEAR and TEAR Injury, You Can Seek Medical Benefits.
Regardless of any job-related tasks you may or may not be able to perform, if you suffered your WEAR and TEAR injury on the job, you are entitled to medical benefits under New Jersey law. Medical benefits include coverage for, “[a]ll necessary and reasonable medical treatment, prescriptions, and hospitalization services related to [your] work injury.”
Importantly, in order to retain your eligibility, you will generally need to see a doctor who has been pre-approved by your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer. When you notify your employer of your injury, your employer should provide you with a list of doctors to choose from. If your employer refuses to provide this list or denies that your WEAR and TEAR injury is job-related, then you may be allowed to see your own doctor. However, since you will be liable for your medical expenses if you see your own doctor when you are not permitted to do so, you should consult with a lawyer before making an appointment. In addition, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help compel treatment recommended by a physician that you chose in the event that your claim – or even further treatment – is denied
2. Your WEAR and TEAR injury will likely be denied.
Although the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law carves out a special type of injury for those sustained as a result of “occupational exposure,” or WEAR and TEAR, most employers will not voluntarily accept those injuries. This is because unlike “traumatic” injuries that occur on a specific time, date and location, WEAR and TEAR injuries generally develop slowly over time. Employers are able to then say that they are not sure whether the WEAR and TEAR injury happened at work versus as a result of the natural aging process.
If your WEAR and TEAR claim is denied – do not fear! An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you convince a judge of compensation that your WEAR and TEAR injury is related to work, and potentially entitle you to treatment, temporary benefits, and permanent disability benefits.
3. You May Also Be Eligible to File for Permanent Disability Benefits
Permanent disability benefits are available to employees who can prove by “demonstrable objective medical evidence” a disability that restricts the function of its body, members or organs, accompanied with a lessening to a material degree of his working ability or a showing that the disability is significant and not the result of a minor injury. In a WEAR and TEAR case, you must also show that your repetitively stressful job activities were at least a material contributing factor to the causation, aggravation, acceleration, and/or exacerbation of the disabling condition.
As with a traumatic injury, WEAR and TEAR injuries can result in disability that may either be partially permanently disabling, or totally permanently disabling. If you have permanent residuals, but are able to work, then you are partially permanently disabled. If you have permanent residuals that result in an inability to perform any type of work, then you are totally permanently disabled.
Injuries causing a partial permanent disability that are deemed related to work will result in the award of a “percentage of disability” or a “disability rating” pursuant to the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law. As explained by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD):
“When a job related injury or illness results in a partial permanent disability, benefits are based upon a percentage of certain ‘scheduled’ or ‘non-scheduled’ losses. A ‘scheduled’ loss is one involving arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, ears, or teeth. A ‘non-scheduled’ loss is one involving any area or system of the body not specifically identified in the schedule, such as the back, the heart, the lungs.”
4. Calculating Permanent Partial Benefits Is Complicated under New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation System.
If you found this explanation from the DLWD confusing, you are not alone. Calculating permanent partial benefits is complicated, as there are standard benefit rates that vary based upon the type of injury. All permanent partial benefit awards are calculated based upon the injured workers’ usual and customary wages, subject to maximum and minimum limits.
Once again, an experienced attorney can help navigate these waters to ensure that you are receiving everything that you are entitled to under the law. In addition to determining the amount of compensation to which you are entitled, your lawyer will also be able to deal with your employer and its insurance company for you so that you do not have to worry about having your claim wrongfully denied.
5. You may be eligible for a “Section 20 Dismissal.”
In the event that you are not able to prove that your WEAR and TEAR claim was the result of your employment activities, then you still may be able to receive a one-time lump sum payment in exchange for a full and final dismissal of your claim. Section 20 of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law permits this type of settlement in cases where there are genuine issues as to causal relationship or liability. Unlike a permanency award, a Section 20 dismissal means that your case is closed forever. As with the above, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you decide whether this is in your best interests, and negotiate this type of settlement on your behalf.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation at Petro Cohen, P.C.
Do you have questions about seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a WEAR and TEAR injury? If so, we encourage you to contact Petro Cohen, P.C. for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights under New Jersey law.
Our Workers’ Compensation Department is headed by founding partner Frank A. Petro. Mr. Petro is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Workers’ Compensation Law Attorney and has held this certification since its inception in 1998. This is the highest specialty certification available to New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers.
He has been named in Best Lawyers in America® since 1995 and is the only attorney in the Atlantic City metro area who has this distinction. Mr. Petro also has been selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyer® list for 15 consecutive years, an honor that no more than five percent of the State’s lawyers receive. In addition, Mr. Petro has an “AV” rating from the world’s leading lawyer referral service, Martindale-Hubbell, as well as a Superb rating on Avvo, an online legal services marketplace.
Along with Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, and Daniel Rosenthal, our New Jersey workers’ comp attorneys having successfully handled thousands of litigated workers’ comp cases throughout New Jersey, including hundreds of WEAR and TEAR cases. We encourage you to read what our clients have to say about their experience with Petro Cohen, P.C. by visiting our Client Testimonial page.
For your convenience, there are four Petro Cohen office locations in southern New Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Hamilton, Northfield, and Cape May Court House. All of the offices are open 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM daily, with evening and weekend appointments available upon request.
We understand that you work hard; now let the hard working attorneys at Petro Cohen, P.C. go to work for you. To speak with one of our experienced attorneys in confidence, call us at 888-675-7607 or request a free initial consultation online today.