Answers To FAQs About Workers' Compensation

Social Security FAQ

This information attempts to answer the questions that are most frequently asked by our New Jersey workers' compensation clients. Please review these FAQs carefully and reference it during the time your claim is pending with our office.

The law firm of Jacobs, Schwalbe & Petruzzelli, P.C., assists people in New Jersey who have been injured in workplace accidents. To speak with an attorney, call our Cherry Hill office at 856-375-1028.

Q: Who will pay my medical bills?

A: All authorized medical and prescription bills are the responsibility of your employer's insurance carrier. However, you must go only to the doctor authorized by your employer's insurance carrier. If you go to any other physician you will be responsible for the unauthorized bills. Additionally, please understand that workers' compensation insurance is responsible only for treatment that cures or improves your condition. Workers' compensation will not be made to pay for medical treatment that only makes you feel better temporarily. When the doctor determines that your treatment has gotten you as well as you are going to be, the medical treatment and any temporary disability benefit payments being made to you will stop. Please mail copies of any medical bills that you receive which pertain to your workers' compensation claim to our office.

Q: What amounts of money will I collect while I am temporarily totally disabled?

A: You will receive 70 percent of your pay up to a maximum amount which varies each year and is set by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Q: How long will my temporary total disability benefit payments continue?

A: You will receive temporary total disability benefit payments as long as the authorized treating physician feels you remain temporarily totally disabled. Once the doctor determines that you can return to some gainful employment or you have reached your maximum amount of recovery your temporary total disability benefits will be stopped. You should call us if you believe that you cannot return to work even though the authorized doctor says that you can.

Q: When will my claim petitions be filed?

A: All petitions must be filed within two years of the date of the accident or two years from the last payment of any temporary, permanent or authorized medical treatment. In an occupational disease case you have two years from the date the injured party knew or should have known that there was a problem related to work. In addition, you must file a claim petition for your work-related illness within two years of your first knowledge of your illness and its relationship to your employment. The office will file the petitions immediately if there is a problem with the statute of limitations or after receipt of a physician's report establishing your permanent disability, if any. In most cases, we will not file the claim petitions until your benefits are discontinued. It is your responsibility to advise us of any change in your status. Please notify our office immediately if your disability benefits are discontinued, if you are released to return to work or if your medical treatment is terminated.

Q: When will my case be listed in court?

A: Normally we receive notification from the Workers' Compensation Division that your case is listed for a pretrial hearing between six to nine months from the date the claim is filed. This does not mean that your case will be resolved the first time it is listed. In fact, most cases are listed several times before a claim can be resolved.

Q: How will I know when to be in court?

A: You will be notified by mail on those occasions when your appearance may be required or we may need to contact you from court. Each day a judge is assigned a list of cases that may total 70 or more. Obviously, before we get to court we do not know whether or not your case will be reached. However, we must be able to reach you at least by telephone to discuss the case if needed and call you to court if your appearance is required. If you are notified by mail to be "in court" you should be at the address indicated at the time indicated in the notice. You must notify us in writing of any move, change of address or change in telephone number. If you fail to advise us of where you can be reached, your case can be dismissed and you may lose your benefits.

Q: Are there other public benefits that I can collect?

A: If you are not receiving workers' compensation benefits, you may be eligible for private or New Jersey state temporary disability benefits. However, please be aware that this money must be paid out of any workers' compensation received. You may apply for this benefit through the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development Disability Insurance Service. If your disability lasts or is expected to last 12 months, you may also be eligible for Social Security Disability. Apply for this benefit through your local Social Security office. Please advise our office when you file your Social Security Disability claim. We may be able to help you with this claim. There is some interaction between your workers' compensation and Social Security so please advise us if you apply. Please review with us any Social Security decision favorable or unfavorable so that we may determine how it affects your workers' compensation claim and whether or not a Social Security Disability appeal is appropriate. Please ask our receptionist for a Social Security information sheet. Please be advised that our office will be glad to consult with you and possibly handle your Social Security Disability.

Q: What attorney's fee will I be charged?

A: An attorney's fee is a fee for services rendered by the law firm. This fee is payable only if benefits are awarded to you. This fee is subject to a 20 percent maximum. Under our workers' compensation law, the judge presiding over a workers' compensation claim determines the amount of the fee. Usually the judge orders that the fee be paid partially by you and partially by the insurance company. In some cases, however, the judge orders that the fee is paid entirely out of your award.

Q: Are there any other costs that I will need to pay?

A: Yes. You are responsible for all costs of your claim. In most case our doctors will await payment until after your case is settled. These costs only involve one or two medical evaluations to determine permanent disability after all treatment has resolved. Their cost is for their medical evaluation, their review of your medical records, and for their report to the law firm of your permanent disability. In most cases, but not all, the insurance company at the end of the case will pay a portion of these evaluation costs.

Q: May I go to any doctor for a permanent disability evaluation?

A: In order to obtain the best amount of benefits for you, you must be evaluated by a doctor who is familiar with workers' compensation matters. Not every doctor is familiar with the workers' compensation law and the percentages of disability used in workers' compensation court. For this reason, you must attend the evaluations requested by our firm and by the insurance company. You will receive written instructions concerning the medical examinations that are set for you. You must attend the evaluations as scheduled or there will be a missed examination charge for which you will be responsible. Additionally, missed exams will mean that your case is subject to dismissal upon motion by the insurance carrier.

Q: Will I have to have a full trial of my case?

A: Most workers' compensation claims do not require a full trial. Most can be settled with the judge considering your testimony and the various evaluation reports. If an offer of settlement is made it will be discussed with you so that you can decide whether to accept it. If your workers' compensation claim cannot be settled and must be tried fully you will be asked to come into our office to discuss the trial with the attorney. At that time, the problems in your case will be outlined and your testimony will be prepared. At that time also, you will receive a full description of the costs that you may anticipate in a workers' compensation trial. As with medical evaluations, trial costs are your responsibility.

Q: Will my case be settled without court?

A: No. All workers' compensation matters must come before a judge of compensation for the final disposition and you will be notified when your appearance is required in court.

Q: How much will I receive after the judge decides my case?

A: At your hearing, all temporary total disability benefits which are due to you will be awarded and you will also receive an award for any permanent disability you have as a result of the accident. Usually it takes six to eight weeks after an award is entered for the checks to be received. However, you must understand that your disability must be severe enough to prevail. If your injury affects your working ability or normal life pursuits you can usually prevail.

Q: How do I get information on my case?

A: The firm permits the secretaries and paralegals that work in our workers' compensation unit to discuss compensation cases by phone if they recognize the client. These individuals are not lawyers, however, and cannot give legal advice. They can assist you, however, regarding doctor's appointments and scheduled court hearings. When you call our office, please inform us of any changes in your work status or medical condition. Please be sure to leave a current telephone number and address.

If you desire to speak with an attorney regarding your workers' compensation case, appointments (either in office of by telephone) can be made. Our attorneys are in court every day. Generally, only afternoon appointments can be set up. It is very difficult to answer all of the telephone calls that come into our office, and it is for this reason that we ask that you help us in responding to your needs.

Please call when you find it absolutely necessary to call, and leave a detailed message indicating exactly what information you wish to obtain. This will allow our attorneys to get the information to you as soon as possible either from court or through one of our staff members. If you have an appointment it would be appreciated if you would call the morning of the appointment to verify the date and time.

Q: How long will it take my case to be completed?

A: Usually, it is six months to one year after the last authorized treatment is given for your injuries. However, in many complicated cases with complex legal issues, it is sometimes much longer.

Q: What if I hurt myself again before my compensation claim is resolved or before my right to re-open my workers' compensation claim expires?

A: If you are involved in any new accident you must contact us immediately so that we can protect your rights and advise you of any impact on your workers' compensation claim. Our office also handles slip-and-fall cases and motor vehicle accident cases, but we refer you back to the attorney who referred you to us if that is how you were told about us.

Q: Can I re-open my workers' compensation claim once it is settled?

A: In many cases, you have a right to re-open your workers' compensation claim. Under some settlements, you do not get this right. However, in most cases, you will have the right to re-open your claim for two years from the last benefit paid. If you wish to re-open your claim, please make an in-office appointment to meet with our attorneys to discuss the matter fully within two years from the date you were last in court. At that time, your potential rights and benefits can be explained to you along with any complications or costs that may arise in the re-opening process.

Q: Which attorney in the law office will be handling my case?

A: As you know, we have four attorneys who practice workers' compensation. Our attorneys cover at least six workers' compensation courts in addition to the other areas of our practice. So that no client's case is delayed due to our personal schedules, all of our attorneys work together on our files. The attorney primarily responsible for your case will be determined by the location of the workers' compensation court to which your case is assigned and the day on which it is listed.

We look forward to representing you before the Division of Workers' Compensation. We provide legal guidance to clients throughout New Jersey, including the cities of Camden, Cherry Hill, Clementon, Gibbsboro and Haddon Heights. Call us at 856-375-1028. You can also email us to make an appointment with a lawyer.