This will be the first entry of many regarding the topic of workers’ compensation in New Jersey. This topic, perhaps more than any other is of particular import to the public safety officer. This is due to the inherent dangers and physicality of police, fire and corrections work. If you are a public safety officer and reading this blog entry, the odds are favorable that you are presently injured and in the workers compensation system; were previously injured at work and went through the workers’ compensation system; or you will be injured in future employment, and will have to go through the workers compensation system. In any event, pay close attention to this series of blog entries as they will answer many of the questions you may have regarding workers’ compensation, and give you an overview of how the system works.
New Jersey has been one of the leading states in enacting legislation to protect the injured worker. The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, or a version thereof, has been in effect in The State of New Jersey since the year 1911. Prior to the enactment of The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, workers who were injured during the time of their employment were forced to initiate litigation against their employer to receive benefits and compensation for the injuries that they suffered in the workplace. The legislature found this particular system to be ineffective due to the fact that litigation of the case would take several years to work its way through the court system, often leaving the injured worker without benefits, compensation, or a means to support his/her family during this difficult period in their lives. Today, filing and settling a workers’ compensation case takes time, however it is normally as lengthy a procedure as litigating a case in the Superior Court of New Jersey.
1979 was a breakthrough year for a New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act. Legislative reforms were initiated in 1979 that revamped the entire workers’ compensation system, created a chart of injuries that is currently in use in one form or another, and placed an emphasis on insuring workers with injuries received benefits that were commensurate with the severity of the injuries. Furthermore, the new system initiated in 1979 discouraged workers with minor injuries from receiving disproportionate benefits based upon only their subjective complaints. In the end, the 1979 legislative reforms have led to the workers’ compensation system that is presently in use. Undoubtedly, it is not a perfect system. However it does provide a fair means of compensation for the injured worker. It can best be described as a functional system that enables the injured worker to receive benefits that will hopefully sustain the worker and their family during this difficult period in their lives.
In our next entry, we will give you an overview of the three types of benefits available under the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act.