Evaluation of Claim Value in the Workers’ Compensation Process
So what happens when a worker can no longer perform the essential functions of his or her job, even with reasonable accommodation, and there is no available position? The employer can terminate the employee. However, this usually has a significant impact on the workers’ compensation permanency evaluation.
Six months after the declaration of maximum medical improvement (MMI), an injured worker can file a claim petition to begin the formal hearing process. From there, information and documentation (“discovery”) is exchanged between the employer (or its insurance representative) and the injured worker. After all discovery (including medical records, reports, and interviews) are exchanged and reviewed, the injured worker is evaluated by experts to explore the permanency of the injury – how much it will affect or limit the worker’s daily life and earning capacity, and for how long. These evaluations are put into reports, which form the basis for negotiations and potential settlement. A higher level of permanency indicates greater impairment, and usually equates to a higher monetary value and payout.
If a worker cannot perform the essential functions of his or her job, this is almost always reflected in the level of permanency awarded by the evaluation. For example, if the position that the worker can no longer perform requires “lifting over 15 pounds,” the report will likely assign a higher level of permanency than if the non-performable position requires “lifting over 50 pounds.”
Sometimes, the workplace injury is so severe that the injured employee can no longer work at any job. This is what is known as “permanent total disability.” When a worker cannot compete in the labor market, or pass a pre-employment physical, he or she may be considered “permanently disabled.” Permanent total disability provides compensation of 70% of the worker’s weekly wages at the time of the injury for 450 weeks. After the 450 weeks, the worker has the option to submit to physical or educational rehabilitation. Following that, if he or she can no longer obtain wages or earnings equal to those earned at the time of the accident, the payments can continue.
The Mark Law Firm has been representing employees injured on the job for over 15 years throughout the state of New Jersey. We are commonly in the Mt. Arlington, Lebanon, New Brunswick, Newark, Elizabeth and Paterson Workers’ Compensation Courts. If you fear losing your job due to a work-related injury, contact our firm to speak to one of our qualified Workers’ Compensation lawyers about your case and learn how we can help.