New Jersey Work Accident & Injury Lawyers

Workers’ Compensation – Not the Only Type of Legal Claim Available

Time and time again, injured union workers and laborers in New Jersey believe that they are only eligible to make workers’ compensation claims. This is entirely untrue. Workers injured in New Jersey can file claims against parties whose negligent conduct contributed to a work injury or accident. This applies to all types of industries, from construction to warehousing and everything in between.

A common example involves a factory worker in NJ who suffers a work injury due to defective equipment, such as a punch press. The worker may be able to file both a workers’ compensation claim AND a claim against the punch press manufacturing company. The claim against the punch press manufacturer is effectively a products liability or defective product claim. These types of claims are commonly referred to as third party claims.

Don’t Look Only for a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in New Jersey

However, the problem is that oftentimes, workers and laborers will look for a “workers’ compensation lawyer.” After all, many unions provide access to specific workers’ compensation lawyers. However, this is a mistake for two reasons. First, workers’ compensation lawyers usually do not handle complex tort cases, like the one discussed above. The reality is that third party work injury claims are often very complex and typically involve multiple defendants and a variety of claims.

Second, the success of a third party work injury claim often depends on the ability to investigate the accident as soon as possible. Valuable evidence may be lost in the days and weeks after an accident occurs. For instance, in a scaffold collapse case, it will be important to have the scaffold examined to identify the cause for the collapse. If weeks or months go by, it may become difficult if not impossible to have the scaffold properly examined. This in turn affects the injured worker’s ability to pursue a legal claim.

The reality is that many workers’ compensation lawyers lack the experience to identify these claims at the outset, when time is of the essence. That’s why it’s crucial for injured workers and laborers to seek advice from a work injury and accident lawyer as soon as possible.

Related: Legal Rights for New Jersey Forklift Accident Injuries – Can Workers Receive Compensation?

Workers’ Compensation in New Jersey – Limitations for Full Financial Recovery

The workers’ compensation benefits system in New Jersey isn’t designed to provide full recovery to an injured worker. Rather, the system is designed to provide the minimum amount of benefits necessary to get the worker back on the job. That’s why the system provides medical benefits and only a portion of lost wages. Under the NJ workers’ compensation system, an injured worker or laborer only receives a percentage of their average weekly wage, usually around two-thirds. The payment amounts are set by statute. If the system provided 100% of an injured worker’s lost wages, the worker would be more inclined to stay out on comp for as long as possible.

In addition to the wage loss limitation, there is no room in the NJ workers’ compensation system for pain and suffering compensation. In other words, injured workers and laborers in NJ cannot make workers’ compensation claims for pain and suffering. 

Lawsuits Against Employers in NJ – Work Injuries & Accidents

Many injured workers and laborers often want to know whether they can sue an employer for causing an accident. The answer is usually no. Under NJ law, injured workers are generally unable to sue employers for negligence in causing a work accident or injury. That’s the trade-off of workers’ compensation. In exchange for providing workers’ compensation benefits to their workers, employers are generally immune from negligence lawsuits when work injuries occur. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Related: Workplace Accidents in Pennsylvania & New Jersey – Violation of OSHA Regulations

One of the most widely used exceptions is the intentional wrong exception, i.e., did the employer engage in fraudulent, wrongful conduct which caused the accident? If so, the employee may be able to bring a lawsuit against the employer. It’s important to note that the conduct must be particularly egregious. Courts in New Jersey use a pretty high standard to determine whether an employer’s conduct qualifies as an intentional wrong. An example of conduct which meets the intentional wrong standard involves a situation where an employer disables safety devices and lies to federal workplace safety investigators.

Third Party Cases (Lawsuits)

Even though employers are generally immune from lawsuits, other parties are not, such as:

  • contractors,
  • subcontractors,
  • building/property maintenance companies,
  • landlords/building owners, and
  • product manufacturers and retailers.

In New Jersey work injury lawsuits against these types of non-employer parties, injured workers and laborers may make claims for financial damages (medical bills, lost wages and out of pocket expenses). In addition, claims may be made for non-financial damages or pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering injury claims often depend on the severity of the injuries and how the injuries affected the individual and their ability to enjoy life. Given that workers’ compensation claims exclude pain and suffering, third party lawsuits can provide injured workers with financial relief.

More: Lessons from a New Jersey Construction Collapse Case – Tropicana Garage Collapse

About Our NJ Work Injury Law Practice

Our law firm has multiple offices in New Jersey and focuses on representing workers in NJ who are injured in work related accidents. Our work injury lawyers have obtained over $150 million on behalf of injured workers.

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Page last updated: July 25, 2016