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Herniated Disc in NJ Workmans Comp:
What is Your Claim Worth?

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What your herniated disc claim is worth in New Jersey workers’ compensation is a complex combination of factors unique to your case. Determining a worker’s disability percentage, for example, involves assessing the severity of the injury and the level of impairment resulting from the work injury causing your herniated disc.  

Physician closely examining a patient's spine for signs of a herniated disc injury

When the Cushion Collapses:
Unmasking the Herniated Disc

Picture this: nestled between each bone of your spine, known as vertebrae, are cushion-like structures we call spinal discs. Imagine these discs as jelly donuts – spongy, with a jelly-like center surrounded by a tougher exterior. These discs have a critical role to play, providing a buffer that helps absorb the shocks of daily life, whether it’s from walking, running, or lifting heavy items.

However, like a jelly donut under too much pressure, sometimes the outer shell of a spinal disc can tear or become weak. This tear can cause the jelly-like inner substance to seep out – an occurrence that we refer to as a herniated disc. You might have heard it being called a ‘slipped’ or ‘extruded’ disc, too.

So, what’s the big deal about this extruded jelly? Well, running from your spinal cord are bundles of nerves traveling to all corners of your body, carrying messages back and forth between your brain and muscles. When the inner material of a disc protrudes, it can press onto these sensitive nerve bundles. This pressure interferes with the nerve’s function. It’s this interference that leads to the uncomfortable, sometimes severe, symptoms of a herniated disc.

Feeling the Squeeze: Recognizing the
Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

Each injured worker will experience different symptoms based upon, for example, the herniated disc location, the herniated disc size, and the pressure, if any, on the nerve. 

You may experience pain or weakness, not just in your back, where the disc has herniated, but also in other parts of your body. These symptoms can radiate down into your arms or legs, affect your shoulders and hips, or even cause discomfort in your buttocks.

Some common symptoms are:

1.) Pain: This is often the most noticeable sign. That pain may be in your buttocks, thigh, and calf with a herniated disc in your lower back; you’ll likely feel pain in your buttocks, thigh, and calf. It might even reach as far as your foot. The pain may be in your shoulder and arm, with a herniated disc in your neck. This pain might shoot into these areas when you cough, sneeze, or move your spine into certain positions.

2.) Numbness or Tingling: People with a herniated disc often experience a numbness or tingling sensation in the body part served by the affected nerves. It’s similar to the feeling you get when a part of your body ‘falls asleep.’

3.) Weakness: The affected muscles may weaken, causing you to stumble, impairing your ability to lift or hold items, or affecting your overall mobility.

Why is this important?  In my years as a workers’ compensation lawyer in New Jersey, I’ve seen many hardworking people suffer from herniated discs due to workplace accidents. Understanding this condition is the first step towards managing it, seeking appropriate treatment, and, if it occurred due to a work accident, obtaining the compensation you deserve.

Detective Work and Doctor's Notes: Diagnosing a Herniated Disc in NJ Workmans Comp

The treating physician is like a detective using physical examinations, imaging tests, and nerve tests to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The answer should be a diagnosis of what is causing your pain and discomfort.  

Now, here’s where the lawyer in me needs to highlight something crucial. A Herniated disc from a work accident in NJ requires each step of this diagnostic journey must be documented meticulously by your authorized treating physician.  

Why, you might ask? Because in the world of workers’ compensation law, if it isn’t written down, it’s as if it never happened. Comprehensive medical documentation is the backbone of any workers’ compensation claim. It proves that your injury is real, it’s severe, and it’s related to your work.

Think of medical documentation as your best ally in your quest for workers’ compensation. It includes everything from your initial complaints to your doctor, the results of the physical exam, the imaging and nerve tests, and even the doctor’s final diagnosis of a herniated disc.

In short, if you’ve been injured at work, don’t just go through the diagnostic process – make sure it’s written down. It could make all the difference when it comes to claiming your rightful workers’ compensation in New Jersey.  Objective medical evidence to document your condition is crucial. 

Worker in distress holding lower back due to a herniated disc injury on the job site.

Decoding Disability:
How Your Herniated Disc Injury is Evaluated

Let’s imagine a worker, Josh, who has sustained a herniated disc due to a fall at his construction job in New Jersey. After receiving authorized medical treatment, his treating physician advises that Josh has reached maximum medical improvement in spite of Josh continuing to experience pain and limited range of motion. Josh’s condition is now considered permanent.

Calculating the Permanency Award: To determine John’s entitlements, his condition is evaluated according to New Jersey’s workers’ compensation “schedule of disabilities.”  The percentage of disability assigned from the schedule is subject to negotiation between the parties or resolution by a Judge of Compensation. The vast majority of cases resolve on what is known as partial total disability. 

Negotiating a Settlement: Now comes the negotiation phase.  It’s a delicate dance, and it’s where experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can make a significant difference, fighting to ensure that the settlement adequately compensates for the worker’s suffering and loss.

When determining the percentage of partial total disability, a variety of factors come into play that can result in different outcomes depending on the unique facts of each case. This isn’t a simple mathematical calculation but rather a complex assessment that considers the nuances of each individual case. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the factors considered:

Nature and Severity of the Injury: The primary consideration is the nature of your injury and how severe it is. For instance, a minor herniated disc might not significantly affect your ability to work, while a severe herniation could cause considerable disability. The specific location of the herniation in your spine and the nerves it impacts also influence the disability percentage.

Level of Impairment: The level of impairment refers to how much the injury impacts your ability to perform daily tasks, both related to your job and personal life. For example, if your herniated disc prevents you from lifting heavy objects, bending, or sitting for extended periods, this could increase your partial total disability rating.

Impact on Earning Capacity: Another significant aspect is how much the injury affects your ability to earn a living. If you can no longer perform your previous job duties or if you must switch to a lower-paying job because of your injury, this may increase your disability rating.

These factors are not exhaustive, and the specific circumstances of each case will vary.

 

Infographic Summary of Article

A guidelines for NJ workers on how their herniated disc injury evaluated under New Jersey Workmans Comp

"You can't control injuries, but you can control how hard you work to come back."

Get the Help You Need
by Choosing the Right Attorney for You

Understanding workers’ compensation laws in New Jersey can take substantial time and effort. You may not know whether you are getting the compensation you deserve. Not to mention, the advice you may receive from other sources often does not reflect the unique nature of your case.  

Take your time to find the best attorney to help with your case. Having someone with a profound understanding of New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws would be best. But most importantly, you need someone who can empathize with you and is present to guide you in every step of the legal process.

Mr. John F. Renner has been practicing workers’ compensation law in New Jersey for over 25 years. He knows the intricacies tied to New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws. On top of that, he has worked with hundreds of clients, each getting the attention and guidance they all deserve. Make sure your rights are protected. Call his office now at (856) 596-8000. We have your back. 

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About the Author

John F. Renner is the founding attorney and principal of John F. Renner P.C. He has more than 25 years of experience representing injured workers in New Jersey. Mr. Renner guides his clients through the complex maze of New Jersey Workers Compensation Law for the best possible outcome.

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