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New Jersey Court Discusses Burden of Proving an Injury is Work-Related


In New Jersey, an employee that suffers an injury may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. There are specific things an employee must prove to recover such benefits, however, such as the work-related nature of the injury. In a recent New Jersey case in which the employer appealed an order granting an employee workers’ compensation benefits, the court discussed the burden of proving causation in workers’ compensation cases. If you were injured at work, you may be owed benefits from your employer, and it is in your best interest to speak to a dedicated New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to assess your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff injured his left foot and ankle while working as a roofer for the defendant. The plaintiff then filed a workers’ compensation petition, seeking benefits for his injuries. In its answer to the petition, the defendant denied that the plaintiff’s injuries were work-related, but provided benefits without an admission of liability. The plaintiff subsequently filed multiple motions seeking temporary disability benefits, which the defendant opposed on the grounds the injuries were not work-related. The majority of the motions were resolved without a hearing.

Allegedly, however, in 2019, a hearing was held on a pending motion in which the plaintiff sought benefits for a proposed surgery. The court entered an order continuing temporary disability benefits and requiring the defendant to authorize the surgery, but did not opine on the defendant’s continued argument that the plaintiff’s injuries were not work-related. The defendant then appealed.

Proving an Injury is Work-Related

On appeal, the defendant argued the trial court erred in failing to assess whether the plaintiff’s injuries were work-related, noting that throughout the proceedings, it reserved the right to authorize treatment without admitting liability. The appellate court agreed, finding that throughout the proceedings, no judge decided the causation issue on the merits, and the parties provided conflicting expert reports regarding causation.

Under New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Act, which is liberally construed in favor of employees, an employer must provide an injured worker with medical treatment needed to relieve the effects of the injury and restore the employee to his or her pre-injury level of function, if possible. While an employer must provide workers’ compensation benefits for disabling injuries that occur during employment and arise out of the scope of employment, the injured employee bears the burden of proving each element of his or her claim, including medical and legal causation.

Medical causation requires an employee to prove that an injury was caused by a work-related event while legal causation requires an employee to show that an injury is connected to his or her work. If an employee establishes legal and medical causation, the burden shifts to the employer, who may defeat the employee’s claim by producing contrary facts and conclusions. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court erroneously alleviated the plaintiff’s burden of establishing causation. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded for further proceedings.

Speak to a Knowledgeable New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Proving that an injury is work-related is essential to the recovery of workers’ compensation benefits. If you were injured while working, the knowledgeable New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you or your rights and help you gather the evidence needed to help you seek any benefits you may be owed for your injury. We can be reached at (934) 200-5372 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.