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Interrogatories in New Jersey Workers' Compensation

Interrogatories are a formal set of written questions that one party in a lawsuit sends to the other party as part of the discovery process. In the realm of New Jersey workers’ compensation claims, interrogatories aim to gather detailed information about a work injury, the surrounding circumstances, the medical treatments administered, and other pertinent details.   Interrogatories are used in a variety of civil cases in both federal and state courts. 

Injured worker responds to interrogatories on an old manual typewriter beginning the response with “Work Injury Claim”

In the framework of New Jersey’s regulations, specifically under N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.8, interrogatories are permitted in certain types of cases without the need for the filing of a motion (and the granting of the motion) before a Judge of Compensation. The types of cases that enjoy this provision include:

  • Dependency cases as outlined in N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.8(a)

 

  • Re-opener cases as highlighted in N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.8(d)

 

  • Occupational exposure cases as highlighted in N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.8(f)

Dependency Cases

Suppose Bob worked in a factory in New Jersey and unfortunately passed away due to a work accident. Bob’s family, who depended on his income, can file a ‘Dependency Claim’. But they need to answer some questions called “interrogatories.” These questions help prove:

The family really depended on Bob.

Bob’s death happened because of his job.

Let’s say Bob’s daughter, Sarah, was in college and relied on Bob’s income for her tuition. She would provide proof, like college bills and bank records, to show her dependency. The family has to file this claim within two years of Bob’s death, as per N.J.S.A. 34:15-51.

Re-Opener Cases

Imagine Jane had a workplace injury a year ago and received compensation. Now, her injury has worsened, and she needs more medical help. Jane can reopen her case, but she must answer some questions about:

Any new treatments she got.

Whether she got a new job.

If she had any other accidents after the initial injury.

Basically, the insurance carrier will want to know if anything new has happened since her first case. Jane must remember to file this within two years of her last payment or treatment. If she doesn’t, her employer can request to dismiss her new claim.

Occupational Exposure Cases

Occupational exposure cases revolve around illnesses or injuries that arise from long-term exposure to harmful substances or conditions at work. In New Jersey, the process of making a claim in these cases is structured and specific.  Answers to interrogatories are frequently sought by the employer and the insurance carrier.

 

Among the set of questions, one stands out: it asks when you first became aware that your illness or injury was related to your job. Pinning down this date is crucial as it starts the clock on the two-year window you have to file your claim.

 

Interrogatories, while a term steeped in legal jargon, play a pivotal role in the New Jersey workers’ compensation landscape. These sets of questions serve as a roadmap, guiding the process and ensuring that all pertinent details of a worker’s claim are thoroughly examined. Whether in dependency cases, re-opener scenarios, or the intricate domain of occupational exposure, interrogatories help streamline and clarify each individual’s unique situation.

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