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I Was Injured In A Car Accident, And I Am Unable To Go Back To Work. What Can I Do?

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are injured and are unable to return to work for an indefinite period of time, you should file for New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Payment (TDP) program to ensure that you have money to live on while recuperating.
  • If you are in the same situation and want to protect your job during your absence, you should file for protection under the ADA or the FMLA. However, you should keep in mind that employers don’t have an obligation to hold your position unless you are protected by a contract or a labor agreement (i.e., if you are a union worker).
  • If you were injured while on the job or while performing a work task, you are entitled to have your medical bills paid by your employer, as well as both temporary and permanent disability payments, depending on what you need and qualify for. You will also very likely have your job protected for you as you recover, since it is not legal to fire someone simply for getting in an accident and/or filing for workers’ compensation.
  • If you were injured in a car accident (or in general) while on the job or in the course of doing job-related tasks, you should absolutely report the accident/injuries to your supervisor as soon as possible. This will ensure that you get the protections that you are owed.

If you are injured and unable to return to work, your best option in terms of what to do next depends on the type of injury you have. Specifically, the best thing to do next depends on how long you are likely to be unable to work. Different injures have different periods of expected convalescence. While very few people know for sure how long they will be unable to work due to their injury, there is usually some sense of a time frame that a doctor could give you.

Is your injury going to keep you out of work for a couple of weeks, or is it more likely to be a couple of months, or even indefinitely?

If the projected time period of your absence is a couple of weeks, there isn’t much that can be done about it in terms of compensation. However, if your doctor advises that you will be absent for a longer, extended period of time, one avenue you may want to take is temporary disability.

The State of New Jersey has a temporary disability program colloquially referred to as the “TDP program.” You can apply to this program and, if accepted, receive temporary disability payments to supplement your lost income as you heal from your injury.

If you are trying to preserve your job or prevent your employer for firing you due to an extended, injury-based absence, another option may be to consider applying for assistance through the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Both of these Acts provide avenues through which you may be able to protect your job while you recover from your injury.

To seek assistance and protection through the ADA or FMLA, you have to fill out the appropriate paperwork, submit it to your employer, and wait for acceptance. In most cases your application will be accepted, which will provide you with a limited amount of time during which you will bemore or less protected from termination.

These are some of the main ways to protect your job and potentially receive supplementary payments until you are healed enough to be able to return to work.

It should be noted that employers do not strictly have an obligation to hold your position unless you are protected by a specific clause that says so in a contract or labor agreement. Usually, this applies to union-protected workers. For everyone who is not protected by those clauses or a union, the only way to pursue those protections are through temporary disability (for financial protection) or the ADA/FMLA (for protection of your actual job for a limited amount of time).

I was Injured in a Car Accident. I am Worried About Losing my Job While I am Recovering. What Can I Do?

If you have been injured in a car accident, the protections you can access depend on the circumstances of your accident.

If you were working while you had your car accident, you have the best chance at accessing the most protection, both in terms of financial protections and employment protections. You will be able to access job protection because it is not legal to fire someone for simply having an accident while working, without other significant mitigating circumstances. You will be able to access financial protections by receiving workers’ compensation benefits for the duration of your recovery process.

If your car accident happened off the clock and was not job-related, there is not much you can do except for filing for leave under the ADA/FMLA. If your application is accepted and your employer cooperates, you should be able to protect and preserve your job for a specific amount of time while you recover.

However, as stated above, unless you have a contract that specifically includes a protection clause or have the protections of a union agreement, your employer doesn’t really have an obligation to keep your job open, because they have to keep the doors of their business open as well.

Therefore, working with your employer and using the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act for non-workers’ compensation injuries will probably be your best bet.

Is my Company Liable if I Was in a Car Accident During Work Hours, While Performing A Work Task, but While Driving my Personal Car?

Yes—regardless of whether or not you were driving your personal car, your company is liable if you were in an accident while working and performing a work task.

There is a doctrine under the law called respondeat superior, which is basically Latin for “if you are working, your boss/employer is responsible for your actions and for what happens to you.” This applies to car accidents that happen while you are working, regardless of whether you are driving your own car.

Your employer likely has insurance for scenarios like this, and should be prepared to accept your claim. Your personal car insurance should also kick in and pay out some of the costs associated with the accident/injury.

So, if you are injured by an accident that happened while you were working and doing work-related tasks but were driving your own car, there are two aspects or layers of protection that you should personally be able to access.

Furthermore, as long as your accident happened while you were acting in the course of your employment, and therefore on behalf of your employer, then your employer will also be considered liable for the accident.

Mind you, this does not usually mean that the employer themselves will be personally (i.e., independently) liable as an individual, but because you were acting on their behalf, they are liable as your employer.

This is one of the reasons why you must make sure to report any accidents (that happen while you are working) to your employer immediately, and why you should be sure to document your notification. This will prevent your employer from being able disclaim coverage or from trying to walk away from you.

If you are an employer who was injured while working, even if you were in your own vehicle, you should put your employer on notice right away so that you are protected.

I Was Injured on the Job. What Benefits am I Entitled to?

Under New Jersey law, there are three benefits that an injured worker is entitled to.

  • Medical Benefits. If you are injured on the job, your employer has to provide you with medical benefit and pay 100% of your costs if you go to their doctors.

Importantly, New Jersey law also states the employer controls the treatment, so they pick your doctor. As long as you go to that doctor, which is referred to under the law as an “authorized treating doctor”, then they must pay 100% of the costs.

  • Temporary Disability Benefits. If you are unable to work because of injuries caused by an on-the-job or work-related accident, then your employer is required to pay disability benefits. Once you have been out a week, you will start receiving retroactive and future benefits at a rate of 70% of your salary. There are some exceptions to this rule (including police, firemen, and some union-affiliated teachers) in which your employer would be responsible for paying 100% of your salary during this time.

In order to qualify for these temporary disability benefits, you have to have a doctor willing to certify that:

  1. You are unable to work due to your injuries; and,
  2. You are actively in treatment or seeking treatment for your injuries.

Both elements are essential in order to receive temporary disability benefits.

  • Permanent Disability. If your injury is so severe or causes such severe damage or physical limitation that you are permanently unable to resume your former work, you are also entitled to permanent disability.

Eligibility for disability is determined through an extensive process that happens after your treatment toward improvement has finished or plateaued. This is the point at which you are not expected to be able to improve your condition significantly through treatment, and instead are focused on maintaining the recovery you have achieved.

During this process, we gather up all of your medical records and submit them to an expert. Simultaneously, your insurance company and/or your employer’s insurance company submits your records to their own expert. Both experts review your records and submit their findings, which are used to determine eligibility.

Generally, your eligibility for permanent disability benefits is decided based upon your actual physical limitations, as suggested by the examination by your doctor and the nature and extent of your injury. Some of the questions examined include:

  • How badly were you hurt?
  • Did you have injections?
  • Did you have a cast?
  • Will your injury and the resultant limitations affect you in a significant, permanent way?
  • Will these limitations prevent you from working in your former profession indefinitely or permanently?

If you were injured in a work-related accident, you can have access one, two, or all three of these benefits, depending on the specifics of the injuries you have sustained. This may change over time, depending on your own individual experience.

Some cases may need the application of different combinations of the three benefits at different times. For example, in some cases, your injury may not seem that substantial. You may be hurt but not majorly injured. All that would be required is a hospital visit and a few follow-up doctor visits. In that case, you would not need temporary or permanent disability, but your medical bills should be paid in full by your employer.

In other cases, you may have initially thought your injury was less severe than it turned out to be, necessitating a change in which benefits you need. You do have temporary disability and medical because you are out for a while. But maybe after a few weeks, you are feeling great, you wouldn’t have the permanency aspect or the 3rd benefit to fall into place or you might have all three. Every case is unique and has to be treated just that way and when you put the 3 together, you get all the benefits available to you under the statutes.

For more information on Being Injured In A Car Accident In New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 208-3650 today.

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