New Jersey Court Discusses Permanent Disability Workers’ Compensation Benefits
While some workplace injuries resolve in a relatively short time, others result in permanent disabilities. If an employee is permanently disabled due to a work-related injury, he or she may be entitled to permanent disability workers’ compensation benefits. An employee must meet certain requirements to prove a permanent disability, as discussed in a recent case in which an employer disputed whether an employee was entitled to permanent disability benefits. If you sustained an injury at work that left you permanently unable to earn an income, you should confer with an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney about what benefits you may be owed.
Facts of the Case
Allegedly, the employee worked as a framer for the employer construction company. The employee fell off a sixteen-foot scaffold and suffered injuries to his ankles and right shoulder, after which he filed a petition for workers’ compensation benefits. He underwent a surgical reduction of the fractures in his ankles that involved the installation of plates and screws, and arthroscopic surgery in his shoulder. Following his surgeries, the employee continued to suffer swelling and pain in both his shoulder and in his ankles.
It is reported that during the trial, the employee testified that his injuries prevented him from returning to work as a framer. The employee also presented testimony from medical experts who opined on the extent of the employee’s limitations and the percentage of the employee’s disabilities in his shoulders and in each ankle. The employer presented medical expert testimony in opposition to the plaintiff’s experts. The judge ultimately ruled that the employee suffered a forty-five percent partial total disability, after which the employer appealed.
Eligibility for Permanent Disability Workers’ Compensation Benefits
An employee that is found to have suffered a permanent disability may apply for permanent disability benefits. Pursuant to New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Law (the Law), a permanent disability is defined as a lasting impairment caused by a compensable accidental injury or disease that restricts the function of a person’s body or organs. In considering whether an employee has suffered a permanent impairment, a court will weigh whether the employee’s ability to work has been lessened to a significant degree.
In other words, an employee alleging a permanent disability must first prove via medical evidence that he or she has a disability that limits his or her bodily functions; subjective complaints are insufficient. The employee must then show either that his or her disability is significant and not the result of a minor injury or that he or she suffered a decrease in the ability to work to a material degree. Here, the appellate court found that the evidence produced by the employee was sufficient to uphold the trial court’s ruling. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the employee’s award of permanent disability benefits.
Speak to a Knowledgeable New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Many work-related injuries cause permanent harm that renders injured employees unable to work or diminishes their work capacity. If you suffered an injury at work, it is in your best interest to speak to the knowledgeable New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall to determine if you may be owed workers’ compensation benefits, including permanent disability benefits. We can be reached through our form online or at 866-916-3549 to set up a conference.