When toSeek Civil Damages as Well as Workers’ Compensation
In New Jersey, as in all states, when you are injured on the job, you can file a workers’ compensation claim fordisabilitybenefits andreimbursement of your medical expenses. The New Jersey workers’ compensation law is part of what’s known as the “great bargain,” a legislative act intended to benefit both workers and employers. For injured workers, a workers’ compensation claim offers an expedited process where benefits actually may start within a few weeks. For employers, the risk of exorbitant jury damage awards is eliminated, as workers’ compensation is calculated based on a fixed formula.
Worker’s compensation is frequently referred to as an “exclusive remedy” for work-related injuries, suggesting that you can never file a civil lawsuit seeking damages. That’s not entirely true, though. Here’s how it works.
The workers’ compensation laws are set up to provide a simplified way for workers to get benefits when there’s a careless or negligent act by an employer or co-worker. In fact, there isn’t even a requirement that you prove negligence. To qualify for workers’ compensation, you need only show that you were hurt and that the injury happened at work (there are a few limited exceptions).
If, however, your injury was caused, in part or in whole, by the wrongful acts of an unrelated third party, you may file a separate civil claim against that party. Examples include
- The driver of a motor vehicle (provided it wasn’t your employer or a co-worker) in a motor vehicle accident suffered on the job
- Any party in the chain of distribution of a dangerous or defective tool, machine or other product, including the designer, manufacturer, or retailer, if you were hurt by the malfunction of, or exposure to, that product
- A worker or person on adjoining property
A civil suit for damages can be filed simultaneously with a workers’ compensation claim, but you cannot recover damages twice for the same loss. For example, if workers’ compensation paid all your medical expenses, you can’t recover medical expenses in a civil lawsuit.
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