New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Indemnity Benefits

In New Jersey, workers compensation benefits are basically broken down into two broad categories, medical benefits and indemnity benefits. Medical benefits are designed to provide the petitioner with payment for all medical expenses incurred as a result of a work related injury. Indemnity benefits, generally, are benefits paid to an injured worker to replace part of the worker’s lost income. There are three types of Indemnity benefits in New Jersey, temporary total disability, permanent disability benefits and dependency benefits.

Temporary disability benefits refer to the temporary payment of income to the petitioner while he is unable to work. The payment of temporary disability benefits is mandatory under N.J.S.A. 34:15-38, which essentially states that temporary disability payments of 70% of the injured worker’s wages for the year in which the injury occurred or his occupational disease manifests are payable until he is “able to return to work.” Please note that these wages are subject to the annual statutory minimum and maximum, which change every year. In 2016 the maximum rate of temporary total disability is $871 per week; the minimum rate was $232 per week.

Permanent disability benefits are benefits which are given to a petitioner who has sustained a permanent disability as a result of their work related injury. Unlike medical benefits or temporary disability benefits, there is no requirement that states injured workers must receive permanency disability benefits.  The burden is on the petitioner to show that they have suffered a permanent disability as a result of their work related injury. Additionally, unlike temporary disability benefits, the petitioner may be found to be partially disabled, and therefore receive a partial permanent disability award.

Dependency benefits, or death benefits, are benefits which are paid out to the dependents of a worker who was killed in the course of employment. Payment of dependency benefits are limited to people in relationship with the decedent as specifically listed in N.J.S.A. 34:15-13. The dependent must have had this relationship with the decedent at the time of the accident or the occurrence of occupational disease, or at the time of death. This list includes, but is not limited to: a husband, wife, parent, step parent, grandparent, child, adopted child, siblings, nieces and nephews.

It should be noted that when configuring indemnity benefits, it is important to first determine what the petitioner’s wages were at the time of loss. Determining the petitioner’s average weekly wage at the time of loss will help determine what the petitioner is owed in benefits.  Generally, petitioner’s wages are defined in N.J.S.A. 34:15-37 as the rate of compensation, which may not exceed 70% of the petitioner’s wages at the time of the occurrence of the accident. Practically speaking, adjuster’s will want to obtain a “26 week wage statement” from the employer so that the average wage can be calculated.

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Michael Gervolino is an associate attorney at Lois LLC where he defends employers and carriers in New Jersey workers’ compensation claims. He can be reached directly at mgervolino@loisllc.com or 201-880-7213.