New Jersey Workers’ Compensation
When a wage earner is hurt or injured on the job while an employee acting within the scope of his or her employment, he or she is entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits including lost wages through temporary disability payment of medical bills and an award for permanency depending upon the nature and extent of the injury. Workers are prone to injure their neck, back, shoulders, discs, arms, legs, or other body parts during a routine work day.
The scope of workers’ comp is such that all body parts may be considered for disability purposes. New Jersey Law is unique in that Awards are entered for permanent total disability or a percentage of total and permanent disability depending upon the body part. The injured worker will also receive a percentage of their salary up to the maximum amount set by the Division of Workers’ Compensation which is paid as temporary disability for the period of time missed from work. The amount is usually 70% of your wages not to exceed the maximum amount set by the Division for the year that the injury takes place.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation – Fellow Servant Rule (When You Can Recover for Negligence of a Co-worker)
The Workers’ Compensation Law in New Jersey contains a restriction that you cannot sue a fellow employee who may have caused injuries to you, if you are both in the scope of your employment. This is known as the fellow servant rule. However, intentional acts are generally exempted from the fellow servant rule. Below is an example of how the intentional acts exception works.
A police department of a local township was conducting training exercises for a SWAT team. A group of police officers divided into good guys and bad guys conducted a drill and training exercise. Real weapons were used with wax tip bullets instead of blanks or paint pellets. The participants used the wax tip bullets so they would know if they were hit. The wax in the bullet would clearly not pierce their skin or clothing. However, the Plaintiff was unfortunately struck in the eye causing a total loss of vision in his right eye. The eye is essentially an optic nerve which indeed is susceptible to injury by foreign objects even in the form of wax. Plaintiff received 100% workers’ compensation for the loss of one eye which at the maximum amount on the chart was $40,000.00 at this time.
Clearly, this is not fair and just compensation for an injury involving loss of vision in the eye of the victim. Since Plaintiff could not file a lawsuit against a fellow officer for negligence, a suit was filed on the basis of the purported intentional act of the fellow officer in firing a weapon at my client. Intentional acts are not subject to the bar of the fellow servant rule. The Jury did in fact find that there was an intentional act and awarded a far more significant amount of money to the injured Plaintiff. The case was appealed.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation – Liability of Other Parties
There are also occasions when the worker may have an additional right against a party who is not their employer. These cases again have to be investigated at an early stage in order to protect the injured worker’s rights.
For example, this office was involved in extensive litigation involving several employees involved in using a product on the job which was manufactured by a chemical company and used to seal and repair underground pipes. Workers on this crew using this product developed serious skin reactions resulting in the workers developing a condition known as photo sensitivity. The condition prevented the workers from being able to continue to work. The individual litigants were young men with spouses and children who were dependent upon them. Even though they received a 100% total award under workers’ compensation, the amount of money awarded even at 100% was not nearly enough for them to live and support their families.
After an extensive investigation, it was determined that the sealer used for the pipes caused the condition of this photo sensitivity. Suit was brought against the chemical manufacturer after we received supporting expert opinions from chemists and dermatologists who supported our position. If the investigation and supporting proofs had not been developed, then the workers would have not been able to economically survive.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Case Summaries, Representation by the Law Office of Philip Ciprietti
The Law Office of Philip Ciprietti has represented many workers in workers’ compensation matters. Below is a summary of just a few matters and the nature of the injuries involved.
1. Car Accident While on the Job
Petitioner was involved in a motor vehicle (car) accident during his course of employment. His injuries include:
- post traumatic headache;
- cervical segmental spinal dysfunction with cervical spine strain and sprain;
- thoracic segmental spine dysfunction with thoracic spine strain and sprain;
- lumbar segmental spinal dysfunction with lumbar spine strain and sprain;
- bilateral shoulder strain and sprain with myofascitis, trapezius;
- muscle spasms and myofascitis pain syndrome;
- disc bulges at L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1 that abuts and flattens the thecal sac and also both S1 nerve roots; impingement syndrome, left shoulder;
- acromioclavicular joint arthrosis of the left shoulder; and
- broad herniation across the disc margin at C3-C4.
2. Shoulder Injury Sustained from Heavy Lifting
The Petitioner was lifting heavy boxes and began experiencing pains in her right shoulder. Her injuries include:
- acute and chronic cervical strain and sprain;
- aggravation superimposed upon pre-existing asymptomatic degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine;
- post-injury right cervical brachial radiculopathy;
- acute and chronic strain and sprain, right shoulder;
- post-injury rotator cuff tear, right shoulder;
- post-injury impingement syndrome, right shoulder;
- status-postoperative state arthroscopic surgery with arthroscopic repair of the rotator cuff and arthroscopic subacromial decompression, right shoulder;
- acute and chronic lumbosacral strain and sprain.
3. Groin Injury From Heavy Lifting
The Petitioner was lifting 60 pound bags of rice and injured his back down into his groin area. His injuries include:
- acute lumbosacral strain and sprain with aggravation and superimposed upon pre-existing lumbar degenerative arthritis and lumbar disc disease with disc bulging;
- cervical strain with spermatocele/epididymitis and post residuals left orchiectomy.