Many employees don’t know their rights when they get injured
Employers are required by law to provide certain benefits if you are injured on the job. But did any supervisor ever sit you down to explain those benefits and how workers’ compensation works?
Typically, people work for years without a job injury until one day it happens. Then they realize they only have a fuzzy understanding of workers’ comp. What are my rights? Should I file a claim? Could I get fired?
The basics of workers’ compensation benefits
In any given year, about 1 percent of all workers will suffer a work-related injury or illness serious enough to miss work. You could go your whole working life without a workers’ comp claim. Or it could happen tomorrow.
In a nutshell, if you become injured or ill in a work-related capacity – regardless of fault – the employer is obligated to provide:
- Free medical care – You are entitled to all “reasonable and necessary” medical treatment. This might include ambulance transport, emergency room care, and all follow-up: doctor consultations, surgery, medications, wheelchair, physical therapy, etc. There is one catch: you must see the employer’s designated doctors.
- Lost wages – The employer must pay replacement wages for however long you are off the job. (The median for all workers’ comp claims is 9 days of lost time from work.) New Jersey workers’ comp pays 70 percent of your regular wages, up to a maximum of $903 per week.
- Disability benefits – If you can no longer work at all, you are entitled to permanent total disability benefits. These continue indefinitely unless you negotiate a lump sum payout. If you suffered a disfiguring injury or permanent damage that does not prevent you from working (loss of fingers, hearing damage, burn scars) you are entitled to permanent partial disability compensation. Disability payments are based on the nature and degree of the injury.
- Vocational rehabilitation – If your work-related injury prevents you from returning to your old job, you may need to transition to a different type of work. New Jersey workers’ comp provides free vocational rehabilitative services – such as skills training, resume writing, job placement, supported employment, disability accommodations, and counseling – to get workers back on their feet.
Workers’ compensation also provides death benefits to spouses and dependent children of workers who die from a work-related accident or illness.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development