When a workplace injury leads to permanent disability
Although New Jersey has a no-fault worker’s compensation system that permits workers to receive comprehensive benefits after a workplace injury, when the injury is severe enough or debilitating over time, there are limits to what is available if the worker is unable to fully recover and perform duties at their previous level.
A no-fault worker’s compensation claim means that the injured worker does not need to prove fault or negligence when pursuing benefits, and can apply to workplace accidents that result in partial or total disability. Unfortunately, this also means that the award will most likely be less than a personal injury claim, as no-fault insurance balances the needs of both sides by simplifying the process for filers while also limiting the liability of the employer.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability (SSD)
Workers whose on-the-job injuries keep them from returning to work or recovering fully may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if their injuries meet the definition of what a disability is under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines. The SSA defines a disability as a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents an afflicted individual from engaging in any substantial gainful activity (SGA).
The list of impairments encompasses many kinds of injuries and conditions which qualify if they have lasted or will last for at least 12 months, or are expected to result in death. Some of these include:
- Back or spine injuries
- Vision or hearing loss
- Heart failure, congenital heart disease, transplant, aneurism or arrythmias
- Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders
- Asthma, chronic respiratory disorders, cystic fibrosis or COPD
- Anxiety, depression or autism
Calculating the benefits
In order to receive benefits, the injured worker must have worked in jobs that are covered under Social Security. There is a complex calculation of benefits that will take into account income level as well as how much the worker has paid into Social Security over their work history.
The individual seeking benefits must not only have been disabled for a significant amount of time, but also must have medical documentation that supports their claim, including evidence of symptoms, medical examinations, diagnoses and the results of laboratory and clinical tests.
Knowing the ins and outs of filing a disability claim, what forms to fill out and deadlines for filing can be exhausting, especially if the SSA denies the initial claim. It is essential to have knowledgeable legal guidance on the steps necessary to pursue a successful disability claim.