Under New Jersey law, if you can show that you were injured and that the injury occurred during the regular course of your employment, you have a right to seek workers' compensation benefits to cover lost wages, as well as medical expenses. The workers' compensation laws are designed to provide a more streamlined process for recovering benefits after the negligence of your employer or a co-worker. But what if you are injured because of the malfunction of a tool, machine or piece of equipment? Do you still have a claim against the manufacturer or designer of the defective product? If so, does that prevent you from filing a workers' compensation claim?
YOUR RIGHT TO FILE A "THIRD PARTY" CLAIM
If you have been hurt because of the careless design or manufacture of a tool, machine or piece of equipment used in your job, you have what is known under the law as a "third party" claim. The workers' compensation laws cover only those injuries caused by your employer or a co-worker. For those types of injuries, the workers' compensation system is your exclusive remedy-you may not file a civil suit to recover for those injuries. There are advantages and disadvantages to this system. While you can start receiving benefits within a couple weeks (provided your application for compensation is approved), you will be limited to a specific benefit, based on your average weekly wage for the past 52 weeks.
With a third party claim, you won't be limited to a specific damage award, but it can be months or years before you see any compensation, as the case must go through the civil courts, as well as any civil appeals. You can actually file a workers' compensation and a third party action simultaneously, but you cannot recover twice for the same losses. For example, if you recovered benefits for medical expenses in a workers' compensation claim, you cannot recover for those same medical expenses in a civil suit.
CONTACT MALLON & TRANGER
We offer a free initial consultation to people in New Jersey who have suffered a personal injury related to work. To set up a meeting, contact us online or call us at 732-702-0333 (toll free at ) for an appointment. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.