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Workers’ Compensation Basics

In New Jersey, if you sustain an injury arising out of or in the course of your employment, you are entitled to certain benefits under the law. This is more specifically set forth in the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act.

Primarily, should your injury require medical attention, the Workers' Compensation carrier for your employer is to provide this to you. The insurance carrier pays for reasonable and necessary medical care until you reach a medical plateau. In turn, however, the insurance carrier does have the right to direct your medical care. In other words, the insurance carrier has the opportunity to choose the physicians with whom you treat, as well as the facilities where any treatment or therapy are administered.

In the event that your injury is such that you are medically unable to work for more than seven (7) days, the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act provides that the insurance company is to pay temporary disability benefits. This entitles you to seventy percent (70%) of your wages, up to the statutory maximum for the year in which you sustained the injury. These payments continue until the authorized physician permits you to return to work or until you reach a medical plateau, whichever is sooner.

Should permanent effects of your injury remain after achieving a medical plateau, you may be entitled to benefits to compensate for those permanent effects. This is based on a statutory value determined according to the part of your body which was injured and the permanent residuals of your treatment and injury. This process progresses after your physician has returned you to gainful employment. In the event that you are deemed medically unable to return to work, you may be entitled to total disability benefits.

The questions often arises, "What happens if I am injured during the course of my duties as a volunteer?" It has been determined that volunteer firefighters, first aid or rescue squad workers, ambulance drivers, forest fire wardens or firefighters, board of education members and auxiliary or special reserve police officers are provided for within the Workers' Compensation Act in New Jersey.

Although, as a volunteer as listed above, one would not have been compensated for the acts performed within the scope of that position, if injured while performing those duties, and medically unable to work, you would be entitled to compensation at the maximum rate for the year of that injury. Furthermore, the injured volunteer is entitled to reasonable and necessary medical treatment as if an employee. In the event that the volunteer suffers permanent residuals from the injury in question, the volunteer would also have the right to seek payment for those residuals, the same as if a paid employee.