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Am I eligible for workers' comp benefits in New Jersey?

In many ways, workers' compensation is the great bargain that ownership and labor arrived at before our time. Companies today are required to carry insurance that pays employees if they are injured on the job in exchange for workers not suing them in court.

It's generally a fair deal. But, it's important to understand whether or not you are eligible under New Jersey law. The first step in determining whether you are, in fact, eligible is assessing whether you are an "employee" in the eyes of the law.

Are you an "employee"?

There are plenty of instances where employers try to avoid paying for worker insurance. They may do things such as pay you in cash to avoid reporting your employment. Another strategy some companies attempt is claiming that you are an "independent contractor."

Essentially, they're trying to create a situation in which you are responsible for reporting your own taxes and liability. However, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development uses two tests to decide if you are an employee.

  • Control test - The state looks at the relationship between the worker and company. The decision comes down to whether or not the company has the right or ability to supervise, oversee and direct the worker. Basically, if you have a boss who manages your tasks, in all likelihood you qualify as an employee.
  • Relative nature test - This measure looks at whether the worker relies on the income and how important the labor is to the company. For example, if you take a part-time job to pay off debt, you rely on that income. Volunteer work with no salary or a nominal daily stipend might not. If the company relies on your work in some sense, you most likely qualify.

If you are injured performing work-related duties and a company official claims you are not an employee, it's important to contact an experienced attorney. Once your employee status has been resolved, you can expect certain benefits.

Workers' compensation benefits

All medical expenses related to the injury and rehabilitation costs are covered by the company's insurance policy in New Jersey. You will also receive 70 percent of your average weekly earnings or state minimum. The primary question that will need to be answered is whether you are permanently or partially disabled as a result of the injury or illness. Depending upon how significantly the injury or illness impacts your earning capacity, you may be entitled to long-term payments.

The vast majority of people performing labor are considered employees and eligible for workers' compensation benefits. If you have suffered a job-related loss, it's imperative you work with an experienced attorney to make sure you get the benefits you're entitled to.

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