New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system is multipurpose in that it aims to provide protection to employees injured on the job, while at the same time protecting employers from litigation resulting from every workplace injury. So, what does this really mean? It means that almost all employers must obtain and pay for workers’ compensation insurance. Therefore, if an employee is injured on the job, he or she may bring a workers’ compensation claim against the employer/workers’ compensation insurance company and potentially receive workers’ comp benefits. It also means that the injured employee does not have to prove the employer was in any way negligent in order to receive benefits.
How does this benefit employers? The flip side to paying expensive workers’ compensation insurance premiums is that injured workers (generally) cannot sue their employers for work-related injuries. The theory behind the workers’ comp system is that workers will receive benefits for injuries sustained on the job without having to bring a lawsuit and, in turn, prove negligence. The tradeoff is that injured employees generally are limited to the remedies provided by the workers’ comp system, and not those of the civil court system.
What Are the Differences in the Remedies Provided by New Jersey’s Workers’ Comp System and the Civil Court System?
New Jersey’s workers’ comp system provides that insurance companies must pay for your related medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and a percentage of lost wages due to the work-related injuries. You also may receive a lump sum settlement that takes into consideration any temporary or permanent partial or total disability suffered. However, unlike in personal injury lawsuits brought in the court system, workers’ comp benefits do not compensate employees for the pain and suffering incurred. In a typical personal injury lawsuit, the amount that a defendant pays for a plaintiff’s pain and suffering may be quite significant.
Is There Any Way I Can Bring a Workers’ Comp Claim and a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
As discussed, an injured employee cannot sue his or her employer for negligence generally. However, there may be some situations where a personal injury lawsuit may be warranted against a party other than the employer. These types of lawsuits commonly are referred to as third-party lawsuits because the employer is not the defendant; rather, a third party is the named defendant.
An example of a third-party personal injury lawsuit arising from a work-related injury is where an employee suffers injury due to a defective product, such as a power tool. Even though the employee may not be able to sue the employer for negligence, the employee may have a possible third-party claim against the manufacturer of the power tool, if it was in fact defective.
If an injured party can (sufficiently) demonstrate that a third party was negligent in some way, and that the negligence caused your injuries, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim – in civil court – to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained.
Additionally, under New Jersey’s law (NJSA 34:15-8 ), an employee may actually bring a case against his or her employer if the employer’s conduct rises to the level seen by the Court as an “intentional” wrongdoing. There must be a “substantial certainty” that the employer’s behavior will result in a workplace accident or exposure. Therefore, the mere knowledge and appreciation of a risk would not be an intentional wrong, and even if the risk is reckless or wanton, it is not considered intentional wrong.
Both third-party civil action and intentional wrong cases resulting from work-related injuries are difficult to prove, which is why it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
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The workers’ compensation and personal injury teams at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo have more than 150 years of combined experience. We have established ourselves as one of the leading law firms in New Jersey by successfully handling tens of thousands of workers’ compensation and personal injury cases both in the Atlantic City area and throughout the state.
If you or someone you love would like to receive more information on workers’ compensation settlements, wage loss, workplace injuries, wage claims, and how to receive workers’ compensation benefits, contact our professional attorneys as soon as possible at (888) 675-7607 to schedule your free consultation. We can answer your questions and determine the most efficient way to proceed in order to help you and your family obtain the compensation that you deserve.