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In New Jersey, to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you must show two things: that you suffered an injury and that the injury during the performance of the normal or customary duties of your job. With respect to most workers’ compensation claims, that’s not an issue. If you were exposed to toxic substances, suffered a broken bone in a workplace accident or can show that the repetitive movements required by your job caused you some type of injury, you’ll likely receive benefits. Was your injury work-related? There are some situations where your rights can be unclear.
You cannot seek workers’ compensation benefits for any injuries you suffer while traveling to and from work, unless a supervisor asks you to make a detour for company business and you are injured on the detour. Any injury incurred while you are traveling for your job—a car accident, a slip and fall at a meeting or conference—may qualify you for workers’ compensation. However, if you travel for work, but are injured while engaged in a wholly personal act, your claim will probably be denied. For example, if you go to a multi-day conference in the mountains and opt to go for a hike through the woods on your off time, you won’t have a workers’ compensation claim for injuries suffered in a fall on the hike.
Under federal labor laws, employees are entitled to intermittent breaks, as well as the opportunity to take time away for lunch. If you suffer an injury while on a break, you may or may not be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits. For example, if you leave the premises to go to a nearby restaurant, you may have difficulty getting workers’ compensation benefits. But if you slip and fall in the company lunchroom, you’ll probably have a claim. The same applies if your boss asks you to leave company property to buy lunch for other employees.
According to New Jersey workers’ compensation laws, you may only claim workers’ compensation benefits if you have been injured and the injured happened while you were on the job. In most instances, there won’t be a question as to whether or not you meet both conditions as a work-related injury. There are, however, some contexts where your rights may not be as clear.
If your employer has a team-building event, or your company sponsors an outing and you are injured while attending or participating, you will generally qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, with a few exceptions. If your behavior falls outside that expected of a reasonable person—assume you participate in a company golf outing and you are injured while racing a golf cart through a heavily wooded area. If your actions are deemed to fall outside what can reasonably be expected, you may be denied benefits. However, if you were drunk at the time and your employer provided the alcohol, you may have a claim.
As a general rule, workers’ compensation benefits are paid without consideration of fault. To determine your eligibility, the workers’ compensation judge will typically only ask the two questions above: were you hurt, and did the injury occur at work. Accordingly, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits, even if the injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. But you cannot generally recover for injuries that you intentionally inflicted on yourself.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of the carelessness or negligence of another person, our personal injury attorneys can help protect your rights. For a free initial consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our offices, in New Brunswick at 732-247-3600 or in Somerville at 908-448-2560.
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