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New Jersey On the Job Construction Injuries: Beyond New Jersey Workers’ Compensation to Third-Party Claims

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Under New Jersey law, construction injuries primarily fall within the purview of workers’ compensation claims. This mechanism provides injured workers with coverage for medical expenses and compensation for lost wages due to their inability to work. Yet, the realm of workers’ compensation does not encompass compensation for pain and suffering. However, there’s an essential nuance to consider: in situations where the negligence of a third party—be it an equipment manufacturer, an independent contractor, or another external entity—contributes to the accident, the injured worker may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against that party. This lawsuit operates separately from the workers’ compensation claim and allows the worker to seek damages for pain and suffering, among other potential compensations. It’s crucial for injured workers to understand both avenues to ensure they receive the full breadth of what’s owed to them.

NJ work injury law text and hard hat over construction plans reflecting the role of many trades on the same job

The Safety Net with Limits: Unraveling
New Jersey Workers' Compensation

Imagine you’re a skilled carpenter named Tony. Every day, you climb ladders, swing hammers, and build beautiful homes in New Jersey. But one day, you slip from a scaffold. Your leg is broken.

Now, here's where it gets a bit tricky.

Every worker in New Jersey, including Tony, has something called “workers’ compensation” by their side. Think of it like a safety net. If you get hurt on the job, this safety net catches you. It pays for your medical bills, gives you some money while you heal, and if your injury leaves a lasting impact, there’s something called a “permanency award.” This means if Tony’s leg is never expected to fully heal leaving a loss of leg function, he gets extra compensation because of that lasting injury.

But there's a catch.

When Tony uses this safety net, he makes a promise. He promises not to sue his employer for the accident, no matter whose fault it was. It’s like a handshake agreement. In return, the process is speedy. Tony doesn’t have to wait long to get his money.

However, this quick fix has its downsides. Sometimes, the money Tony gets, even with the permanency award, might not cover everything. Maybe Tony can’t work for a year after being placed on MMI.  Or perhaps he has other bills piling up.

So, what can Tony do?

This is where New Jersey work injury law gets interesting. Tony can’t sue his employer, but he might be able to take action against someone else, like the company that made the faulty scaffold.

Being aware of these rules is essential. If you or someone you know gets hurt like Tony, don’t just rely on the safety net. The safety net has limitations on the amount of recovery. Reach out to someone who knows NJ work injury law inside and out. They can guide you and help you find the best path forward.

Beyond the Employer: Unmasking Additional
Avenues of Compensation

While workers’ compensation acts as a safety net, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the road for an injured worker like Tony. There are scenarios in the construction world where other parties, not just the employer, play a part in causing an accident. And guess what? Workers can hold these third parties accountable without losing their workers’ compensation benefits. Let’s dive deeper:

Subcontractors & Independent Contractors

The construction world is like a big puzzle, with different companies and people fitting in to complete a project. Tony’s employer might hire subcontractors or independent contractors. If one of them does something wrong, and Tony gets hurt because of it, he can sue that subcontractor while still collecting workers’ compensation from his employer.

Equipment & Machinery Manufacturers

Let’s say Tony was using a power drill. If that drill had a defect, and that’s why Tony got hurt, the company that made the drill can be held responsible. They’re supposed to ensure their tools are safe for workers like Tony.

Property Owners

Sometimes, it’s not the tools or the people, but the place itself. If Tony was working on a site and there was a hidden danger the property owner knew about but did nothing, that owner could be in hot water.

Architects & Engineers

Plans, blueprints, designs – these all come from architects and engineers. If there’s a flaw in their design that leads to an accident, they too can be on the hook.

Motorists

Picture this: Tony’s on the side of the road, setting up safety cones for a new project. A car zooms by, not paying attention, and injures him. That driver becomes another party Tony can pursue for damages.

The beauty of New Jersey work injury law is its flexibility. Even while benefiting from workers’ compensation, an injured worker has the legal avenue to seek additional compensation from these third parties if they played a part in the injury. It ensures that the rights and welfare of workers like Tony are thoroughly protected and upheld.

Construction manager with engineer atop a concrete grid surveying the project at the end of a hard work day

Dual Paths to Justice: Juggling Workers' Compensation and Third-Party Claims

New Jersey’s vast construction projects bring many players onto the field. And with more players, the complexity of legal cases increases when an accident occurs. But, here’s the silver lining for workers like Tony: they can walk on two paths to get the compensation they deserve.

Starting with Workers’ Compensation

After an accident, the immediate response is to report it to the employer and get medical treatment. This triggers the workers’ compensation process. This isn’t a lawsuit against the employer; it’s a claim to ensure Tony gets his medical bills covered, compensation for lost wages, and potentially more, like the permanency award if there’s a lasting loss of function to the injured body parts. 

Identifying the Third Party

While Tony’s claim is being processed, it’s crucial to pinpoint if another party caused or contributed to the accident. Was it a faulty machine? A negligent subcontractor? Pinning this down early helps build a strong case.

Filing a Third-Party Lawsuit

Once the third party is identified, a separate lawsuit can be initiated against them. This is in addition to the workers’ compensation. So, Tony can receive compensation for things that workers’ compensation might not fully cover. One such crucial aspect is “pain and suffering.” Unlike tangible medical bills or lost wages, pain and suffering account for the emotional and physical distress Tony experiences after an accident. This could be chronic pain, trauma from the accident, or the emotional strain of not being able to enjoy hobbies or daily activities. In legal terms, these non-economic damages often significantly boost the compensation amount, addressing the very real and less tangible hardships Tony faces.

Balancing Both Paths

Having two claims at once can be tricky. For instance, any amount Tony gets from the third-party lawsuit might be used to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurer, but only to ensure there’s no double-dipping. However, Tony still stands to gain more comprehensive compensation by pursuing both.

Seek Expert Guidance

With all these moving parts, having an expert in New Jersey work injury law is invaluable. They can seamlessly handle both claims, ensuring Tony gets the maximum benefits without the legal pitfalls.

For any construction worker in New Jersey, understanding these dual paths is essential. It’s not just about immediate medical bills; it’s about securing one’s future, especially after a severe injury. And while the process might seem daunting, with the right legal guidance, justice is well within reach.

Broadening the Horizon: The Real Value
of Third-Party Claims

In the world of construction, a worker’s safety net is multifaceted. Beyond workers’ compensation, third-party claims open up avenues that can be incredibly beneficial for someone like Tony. Here’s why:

Comprehensive Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a great first step, but its scope can be limited. Third-party claims often allow workers to seek a broader range of damages, from the tangible, like lost future wages and extensive medical treatments, to the intangible, like pain and suffering, and loss of life’s pleasures.

Justice and Accountability

Holding third parties responsible is about more than just money; it’s about ensuring that everyone involved in a construction project upholds the highest safety standards. When negligent parties are made accountable, it can lead to safer practices in the future, benefitting the entire industry.

Protecting Future Workers

Tony’s case isn’t just about Tony. By identifying and holding third parties accountable, other workers might be spared from similar accidents. It sets a precedent that negligence has consequences, thereby fostering safer environments.

Financial Security for Severe Injuries

In cases where injuries are life-altering or catastrophic, the compensation from workers’ compensation might not cover long-term needs. Pursuing third-party claims can ensure that Tony, or any other worker, doesn’t face financial hardships in the future due to someone else’s negligence.

Expert Legal Support Makes It Easier

It might seem daunting to tackle a third-party claim on top of workers’ compensation. But with experienced legal counsel, navigating these waters becomes more straightforward. A seasoned New Jersey work injury lawyer can provide invaluable insights, guidance, and representation, ensuring that Tony’s rights are upheld and his compensation maximized.

For every construction worker in New Jersey, understanding the full spectrum of their rights after an injury is crucial. By broadening their horizon and considering third-party claims, they’re not just seeking justice for themselves, but they’re potentially safeguarding the future of their fellow workers.

Infographic Summary of Article

A key guides for New Jersey Construction workers on how to navigate their workers' compensation and third party claims.

"I have spent all my life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is also less than worthy of man."

A Trusted Advocate in NJ Work Injury Law

Navigating the intricacies of New Jersey’s work injury laws can be daunting, especially when facing the physical and emotional repercussions of a construction accident. It’s not just about understanding your rights, but also about justice- receiving the maximum benefit for your injury. With over 25 years of dedicated experience in New Jersey work injury law, John F. Renner offers not just expertise, but also a deep understanding of the challenges faced by injured workers. Every year counts when honing the skills to represent clients effectively, and a quarter-century speaks volumes. Call our office at (856) 596-8000.

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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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