Under New Jersey law, people who are injured in workplace accidents or who develop occupational diseases are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The benefits that an injured worker receives are based on a number of factors, including their level of impairment, their medical expenses, and whether they have a permanent disability as a result of their injuries.
Generally, these benefits are set after the victim is thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional and are terminated when a worker reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI). But what happens if a worker’s condition gets worse after benefits are terminated, or if an employee’s condition improves while he or she is still receiving benefits?
For example, an injured worker may be expected to recover from an injury but may end up with a permanent impairment. Likewise, an injured worker who has received total disability benefits may determine at a later date that he or she is actually able to work in some capacity.
When this occurs, employers or workers’ compensation claimants may seek a modification of an existing workers’ compensation award, often referred to as a “reopener claim petition” by lawyers and judges. Here are some answers to questions commonly asked by employers and injured workers about reopening a workers’ compensation claim.
How Long Do Injured Workers Have to Reopen a Claim?
Injured workers have two years from the date of the last medical treatment he or she received or the last payment of benefits to reopen a claim, whichever is later.
What Do Injured Workers Have to Prove in Order to Obtain Additional Benefits
Under New Jersey law, a worker seeking to reopen a workers’ compensation claim must show objective proof that his or her condition has materially worsened. There are many forms of evidence that could be used to establish a materially worsened condition, including the opinion of medical experts, MRIs, X-Rays, and other diagnostic tests. It is important to understand that mere complaints of a worsening condition are not enough to satisfy the burden of proof – they must be accompanied by objective proof. For this reason, it is critical for individuals seeking to modify a workers’ compensation award to seek medical treatment and consult with an attorney familiar with New Jersey workers’ compensation law.
Call 201-498-9768 today for more information.
Whether you are an employee or an employer seeking to reopen a workers’ compensation claim, you should retain an attorney to represent your rights. To schedule a free initial consultation with New Jersey workers’ comp attorney John L. Schettino, call our office today at 201-498-9768 or contact us online.