1. Workers’ compensation covers acute injuries and those acquired over time.
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to pay for the medical expenses and lost wages incurred by workers who are injured in the course of employment. Check out this summary of New Jersey workers’ compensation law (put out by the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development).
In most cases, coverage is for acute injuries such as a head injury that is caused by a workplace fall at a construction site. But workers’ compensation also covers occupational injuries that are acquired over time such as repetitive motion injuries.
For those who work from home, these types of injuries are more common. For example, a worker who types all day on a computer may develop carpal tunnel syndrome. If you would not have developed carpal tunnel (or any other condition) if it had not been for your work-related activity, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
2. Workers’ compensation benefits are for only employees, not independent contractors.
Many people who work from home are not employees. Instead, they are independent contractors and freelance workers. Unfortunately for this latter group, workers’ compensation benefits are not available.
An independent contractor or self-employed person typically has the right to control his or her own hours, projects and payment schedule. On the other hand, an employee’s schedule and work – and how that work is performed – typically is dictated by the employer.
Also, an employee is usually paid hourly or by salary. An independent contractor is paid per project or on a completion basis.
An employee usually has an employee contract and other benefits such as healthcare benefits, while a self-employed individual does not.
If you seek workers’ compensation benefits, and your employer claims you are an independent contractor instead of an employee, you should seek help from an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer.
3. An injury must be work-related, or else you will not be eligible for benefits.
Assuming that you are an employee and not an independent contractor, then you would be covered through the New Jersey workers’ compensation system. The next thing you would need to consider is whether your injury was work-related.
If you work from home, you may find it difficult to prove that you suffered a work-related injury. For example, if you slip and fall at work (in an actual office), there would be little doubt that your injury was covered. The injury would have occurred during the course of your employment and on the work premises.
However, if you suffered a slip and fall at home, you would have to prove that the slip and fall was directly related to your job. If you had taken a break from work to do your laundry or wash the dishes when the slip and fall happened, then your injury likely would not be a covered one.
Further, if you suffered an injury such as carpal tunnel, you would have to prove that this injury was directly related to your work duties and not due to something outside of work like your personal use of a computer.
Determining whether an injury is work-related has also been a significant issue for some workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers. When these workers are in a car crash, they usually are covered only by the insurance of companies for which they work if the accident happened while they were signed into the Uber/Lyft app and carrying a passenger or traveling to pick up a passenger.
Also, both companies have argued that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees, and thus, they are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. See this New York Times article to learn more about this issue.
4. Filing a workers’ compensation claim bars you from filing a lawsuit against your employer.
If you telecommute and are injured on the job, and you are an employee, you can file for workers’ compensation benefits. However, workers’ compensation would be your exclusive remedy. In other words, in exchange for receiving benefits, you would give up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
If you do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, or if you do but there is a third party involved in your injury, then you may be able to file a personal injury action.
For those who are classified as independent contractors and cannot recover workers’ compensation benefits, the right to pursue a negligence-based claim could be highly important.
5. Working with an attorney will help with your workers’ compensation claim.
The fifth and final fact to consider is that working with an attorney should improve your chances of your workers’ compensation claim being approved.
Workers’ compensation claims that involve telecommuting can be more complex than claims where the worker is employed in an actual office. For instance, if you work from home, a dispute may arise over whether you should be classified as an independent contractor or as an employee.
Working with a New Jersey workers’ comp lawyer can be important when it comes to proving your employment status, proving the connection between your injuries and your job, filing your claim on time and seeking the benefits you deserve.
If you telecommute for work and have been injured on the job, contact the knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. We can provide a free consultation today.
We will make sure that you understand the law, your rights, and your options for seeking workers’ compensation benefits or, perhaps, pursuing a third-party injury claim after sustaining a work-related injury.