Workers’ Comp Offers Help for Job Injuries, But Laws Vary By State. In NJ and PA, There are Some Critical Distinctions That Injured Workers Need to Know.

Workers' Compensation in NJ vs. PA: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Workers’ compensation provides medical assistance and income protection to injured workers should they become ill or injured while working. The requirements and guidelines for each state are different, so it is essential to have legal representation to ensure your case is resolved correctly and your rights to compensation are protected.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania have had workers’ compensation for over 100 years. Both states are no-fault regarding workers’ compensation, meaning fault does not have to be demonstrated to collect benefits. For example, if a manufacturing employee mishandled equipment and were injured, they would not be denied coverage. As long as the accident took place at work, benefits can be sought unless it can be proven that the accident was committed deliberately.

Notification Requirements for Workplace Injuries

In both states, an injury, no matter how seemingly small, must be reported to the manager or human resources representatives immediately. A detailed explanation of where, when, and how the accident occurred can be done in person, verbally in person, or by phone, email, or text message.

Navigating Healthcare Options After Workplace Injury

In Pennsylvania, some employers allow you to choose your own doctor. But if you were given a list of at least half a dozen medical professionals when you were hired and directly after being injured on the job, you must choose one of the listed doctors. Your employer cannot force you to use one doctor in particular from that list. After 90 days from the date of your accident have passed, you can choose your medical health professional.

In New Jersey, you must use your employer’s insurance and the healthcare professionals chosen by their insurance company. There are limited exceptions when treatments and services are not provided within the chosen healthcare system.

Understanding Workers’ Comp Claim Filing Deadlines in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

The statute of limitations in New Jersey for workers’ compensation claims is two years from the date of the injury. For occupational illnesses, such as tendonitis in a shoulder due to repetitive motions (as in the case of a manufacturing assembly line), the two-year clock begins when the injury is identified as work-related. Some cases are dealt with informally between the employer and the injured worker. The employer agrees to pay medical expenses and disability payments to the worker. When your employer decides it is time to return to work, but you aren’t ready, you can file a workers’ compensation claim. The statute of limitations in this case is two years from the date of the last payment in benefits from your employer.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a workers’ compensation claim is three years from the date you were injured. If that time lapses, you cannot file your claim anytime. The incident that caused your injury must be reported to your employer within 120 days of the injury date. If you report the injury within 21 days of its occurrence, you will obtain compensation from the actual date of the accident rather than from the date you reported the incident. Injuries that are not discovered immediately or worsen over time can be filed within three years of their discovery. There is an exception for hearing loss due to extended exposure to loud noise that allows for a three-year reporting period from the last day you were exposed to the noise. Workers’ compensation for diagnosing a disease caused by prolonged exposure to a toxic substance must be submitted within 300 weeks of the last exposure to the toxin.

Comparing the Benefits Available to Injured Workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits include medical treatments, lost wages, and ongoing procedures such as physical therapy. If the employee cannot work for more than seven days, they will receive temporary total disability benefits. Permanent partial disability benefits are given in cases where the employee can work but not at the pace or strength they worked before the accident. If two major body parts are lost or a complete inability to work, permanent total disability benefits are given. Lastly, New Jersey also provides death benefits.

In Pennsylvania, there are four areas where benefits are offered. Medical benefits include lab tests, scans such as an MRI, surgery, wound care, hospitalization, and any other medical treatment.  Wage-loss benefits are usually two-thirds of the worker’s salary up to a certain limit. Specific loss is another type of benefit. Examples include the amputation of hands, fingers, arms, and legs, loss of sight or hearing, or other permanent injuries affecting bodily function or disfigurement.  Death benefits are paid to the family as long as the injury was neither self-inflicted nor while the worker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Maximum and Minimum Disability Benefits

New Jersey workers receive a maximum total disability amount of $1,131 and a minimum of $302 per week, while Pennsylvania workers receive a maximum of $1,325. The minimum in Pennsylvania is determined by the wages earned.  If you earn over $707, you will receive 66.6% of your salary in benefits. If you learn less than that, you will receive 90% of your salary in benefits.

A Breakdown of Benefits in NJ and PA

In New Jersey, temporary disability benefits pay 70% of workers’ gross weekly wages if they cannot work for more than 7 days.  Benefits are meant to be used until the injured worker has reached the MMI (maximum medical improvement). Permanent partial benefits are based on the percentage of permanent disability the employee suffers. The workers’ compensation insurance provider determines this percentage. It is calculated by multiplying the percentage of disability by a specific dollar value.  Permanent total benefits are injuries that prevent someone from working altogether.  The maximum benefit is 66.66% of the worker’s average weekly pay, subject to a maximum of $1,131.

Wage loss benefits in Pennsylvania are calculated using a formula that uses the average weekly wage the worker was getting before they were injured. Permanent total disability pays 66.6% of the worker’s pre-injury wage, and there is no limit to the length of the benefit that can be received.  Partial permanent disability is calculated as the difference between pre-injury wage and present weekly wage times 66.66%.  It is assumed that due to disability, the employee can work but at a diminished capacity and is, therefore, earning less than before.  This benefit is paid for up to 500 weeks.  Temporary partial disability is calculated in the same manner as partial permanent disability.  Temporary total disability payments are also calculated at 66.66% of the worker’s weekly pay.

Financial Assistance for Permanent Partial Disabilities

In New Jersey, this benefit is for those with a permanent partial disability. Payment is based on the severity of the injury. A “scheduled” loss involves the amputation of major body parts such as arms, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, and ears. A “non-scheduled loss” refers to injuries to the back or internal organs.  These benefits are paid when temporary benefits run out.

In Pennsylvania, if you are below 35% impaired, you are eligible for this benefit. If you can go back to work at a modified-duty job or were earning less before the injury, you will receive two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and current earnings. 

Waiting Periods and Conditions for Receiving Benefits

Before partial wage benefits become payable in Pennsylvania, you must be injured for at least seven days.  The seven-day waiting period serves as a deductible. Once you have lost at least 14 days of missed work, you can receive a payment covering those first seven days and the others that follow.  You will not receive retroactive benefits if you don’t report the accident to your employer within 21 days.

New Jersey’s system is similar, but the first week isn’t paid unless the temporary disability is more than 22 days.

Closer Look at How New Jersey and Pennsylvania Calculate Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Understand Your Entitlements and Ensure Fair Compensation For Workplace Injuries in NJ or PA

New Jersey and Pennsylvania calculate workers’ compensation using an annual SSAW or statewide average weekly wage determined by the labor department.

Workers’ compensation payments in New Jersey are based on 70% of the injured party’s average earnings. The cap for benefits is $1,099 weekly and a minimum of $293. The limits are 75% and 20% of the SAWW. Permanent partial disability benefits are capped at 75% of the SAWW or 70% of the injured party’s average salary, whichever is the least. Rates for permanent partial disability are listed on a disability schedule and their corresponding value.

In Pennsylvania, workers who make less than $707.22 receive 90%. If the salary falls between $954.75 and $707.22 weekly, a set rate is $636.50 weekly. All other benefits are set at two-thirds of the weekly pay with a maximum weekly payment of $1,273.

How Can An Attorney at Cohen & Riechelson Assist with Your NJ or PA Workers’ Compensation Case?

When you have an accident at work, you not only worry about your recovery, but also how you will pay your bills and keep a roof over your head. By hiring our seasoned, professional attorneys to handle your case, you can increase your chances of obtaining a successful result. We have the experience and resources to help resolve your workers’ compensation claim.

Our attorneys at Cohen & Riechelson will work with you every step of the way. Your employer and the insurance companies have their lawyers. We can even the playing field by representing you. Count on us to be in your corner every step of the way. We serve clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have been injured in the workplace. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you pursue fair compensation after your accident or work-related injury. Call (609) 528-2596 today or contact us online for a free consultation.