As an employer in New Jersey, you understand the importance of keeping your employees safe. But even with the best precautions, workplace accidents can happen. When they do, you might face a worker’s compensation claim.
While New Jersey’s no-fault system makes it easier for injured workers to receive benefits, this does not mean you have no defenses against a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ Compensation in New Jersey
The Division of Workers’ Compensation in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development oversees the state’s workers’ compensation system.
Most employers in New Jersey must have Workers’ Compensation insurance for their employees, unless they are exempt under Federal law or approved for self-insurance. This insurance protects you from being sued by an injured employee for negligence.
The Most Common Workers’ Compensation Employer Defenses
One critical step in protecting your business is understanding the potential defenses available to you. It is important to consult with an experienced workers comp defense attorney to determine which defenses are applicable in your specific case and how to effectively assert them.
Your lawyer can raise several possible defenses to reduce your financial burden and protect your business from unnecessary liability.
Employee Misconduct or Disobedience
This defense applies when the claimant’s own actions or behavior caused or contributed to their injury. Some examples of employee misconduct or disobedience include:
- Violation of company policy. If the employee broke established safety rules or procedures, their claim might be invalid. However, the employer must show that they enforced the policies consistently.
- Intoxication or drug use. If the employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they got injured, their claim may be invalid. However, the employer must have solid evidence of intoxication and show that it was the only cause of the injury and that they could not have foreseen or prevented it.
- Horseplay. Employees may lose their benefits if they engage in non-work-related or reckless behavior. This defense requires clear evidence of the incident and how it had nothing to do with the employee’s job.
- Intentional misconduct. If the employee deliberately caused their own injury or someone else’s, they won’t be eligible for compensation. This is a rare defense that carries significant weight if proven.
Workers’ comp does not cover injuries that result from self-harm, willful negligence, or misconduct.
Injury Did Not Arise out of Employment
This defense challenges the connection between the employee’s injury and their work. It claims that the injury was not caused by or related to the employee’s job duties or work hours. Some examples of injuries that may not arise from employment are during personal errands, horseplay, or non-work activities.
If your employee has a pre-existing medical condition before being injured at work, it may affect their eligibility for New Jersey Workers’ Compensation payments.
You may be able to contest their claim if you can demonstrate that their pre-existing condition was the primary cause or a significant factor in their workplace accident. This could lead to the dismissal of their claim.
The Statute of Limitations
Employees must file a workers’ comp lawsuit within a certain time limit. Otherwise, a court can decline to hear the claim. In New Jersey, a claimant has two years from the date of the accident or the last compensation payment to file a lawsuit. The claim will most likely be dismissed if the claimant misses this deadline.
Improper or Lack of Notice
New Jersey law requires employees to promptly notify their employer of work-related injuries. This defense applies to traumatic injury claims, where the claimant must notify the employer orally or written of the injury within 90 days of the accident.
The notice can be given to any person in authority in the employer’s business. It must inform you of the time, place, and nature of the injury. The claim may be denied if the claimant fails to give proper notice.
This defense challenges the claimant’s status as an employee as defined under the Workers’ Compensation Act. An employee is typically someone who performs a service for an employer for financial consideration or remuneration.
However, some workers, such as casual employees or independent contractors, may not qualify as employees. A claim may be denied if you can prove that the claimant was not your employee. However, this may expose you to a lawsuit instead.
What Does a Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney Do?
A workers’ compensation defense attorney focuses on handling workers’ compensation claims lawfully and efficiently. They can assist you with various aspects of the process, such as:
- Evaluating the claim, including medical records and accident details, to assess the claim’s validity and potential flaws;
- Investigating the accident to collect evidence, interview witnesses, and reconstruct the accident scene;
- Developing a defense strategy based on their findings to contest the claim and reduce your financial exposure;
- Negotiating with the claimant or insurance company for a reasonable settlement on your behalf, avoiding expensive litigation; and
- Representing you in court hearings, presenting evidence and arguments to protect your interests.
A workers’ compensation defense attorney can save you time, money, and stress by handling the workers’ comp claim professionally and effectively. They can also help you prevent future claims by advising you on how to comply with the law and improve workplace safety.
Let Weiner Law Take Care of Your Workers’ Comp Defense
When an employee gets hurt on the job, you may face a workers’ comp claim that could cost you time and money. But you don’t have to deal with it alone. You need a skilled and experienced workers’ comp defense attorney on your side.
At Weiner Law, we are committed to defending the rights of New Jersey employers. We know the ins and outs of the state’s workers’ comp system.
Our diverse team of attorneys provides legal and claims counsel to a variety of companies throughout New Jersey, from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Whether you need to negotiate a settlement, challenge a claim, or appeal a decision, we can help you achieve the best possible outcome.
Get the peace of mind you deserve. Let Weiner Law handle your workers’ compensation claim so you can focus on what matters most: running your business. Contact us today to speak with a member of our team.