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Injured on the Job and Unable to Return to Prior Employment?

As you may have read in the past, should you be injured on the job, by way of causation, aggravation, acceleration, or exacerbation, you are entitled to benefits under the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act.

Initially, an injured worker, after properly reporting a claim, is entitled to medical benefits that are reasonable and medically necessary and curative in nature, paid by the employer's workers' compensation insurance company. That is, the injured employee is entitled to medical treatment aimed at getting him or her better, but may not be entitled to medical treatment that is solely aimed at alleviating pain without having curative effects. In addition, as the workers' compensation insurance carrier for the employer is paying for the medical treatment, the carrier also has the opportunity to direct the treatment, or pick the physicians and facilities at which the injured worker is permitted to treat.

In addition, should the injured worker be deemed temporarily medically unable to return to work by the authorized physicians, the injured worker is entitled to temporary disability benefits of seventy percent (70%) of his or her gross weekly wages, up to the statutory maximum. This is a non-taxable benefit. Temporary disability benefits terminate upon the injured worker's release to work. At this point, the injured worker may still be entitled to and receiving medical benefits, which will continue in accordance with the physician's recommendation for continued curative care.

Upon the authorized physician's indication that curative care is exhausted, the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier may discontinue medical care. In most cases, the injured worker can return to his or her job capacity consistent with prior to the work injury, and may have already done so. However, in some instances, this is not the case.

In the event that permanent residuals are suffered by the injured employee, there are additional benefits that he or she may be entitled to. In the event that the injured employee is unable to return to work in any capacity, he or she may be entitled to total disability pursuant to the New Jersey Worker's Compensation Act, and may even elect to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.

Unfortunately, in some instances, an injured employee may be medically released to return to work, but in a limited capacity. This may create a difficulty for receipt of total disability benefits pursuant to the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act and Social Security Disability. However, the prior employer may not be willing to accommodate the injured employee, as he or she is unable to perform the job duties for which he or she was hired.

If this is the situation, available to the injured employee is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, within the New Jersey Department of Labor. This organization has offices throughout the State, locally located on Hooper Avenue in Toms River. It is designed to assist disabled persons to competitively return to the work force.