Already disabled and hurt at work? What now?
What happens if you are already disabled and hurt at work? What now? Perhaps the work-related accident might have been a minor occurrence to the average person. However, someone who is already incapacitated may be deemed totally disabled as a result of what would otherwise be considered less significant. Does this mean that the employer or its insurance company is responsible to pay long-term permanent disability benefits?
Second Injury Fund
New Jersey has a long standing policy regarding the employment of disabled workers. Employers are encouraged to hire those who have some incapacities, but are otherwise able to function in the workplace. To support this premise, New Jersey created the Second Injury Fund. It establishes a means of providing benefits to workers “in cases where the cause of disability was subsequent to a prior disability” and thus making individuals permanently and totally disabled.
An Exemplary Case
Sometimes it is easiest to understand the Second Injury Fund by examining an exemplary case. In many cases, the most recent employer’s attorney may be instrumental in making application to the Second Injury Fund. It is to their client’s benefit to involve the Fund so that they are not obligated to pay total and permanent benefits.
Let’s take the example of the machine operator who had previous shoulder injuries. In fact, he collected partial total disability for his issues. His prior injuries were due to work-related injuries with another employer. The worker hurts his back and neck while at work with the new employer. The court finds that the employee’s prior injuries coupled with the subsequent problems make him totally disabled. The Second Injury Fund is pulled into the case because it was not just the back and neck injuries that created the issue of permanency. It was also the preexisting issues that contributed to the problem.
Who Qualifies for Benefits Under the Second Injury Fund?
In order to qualify for benefits under the Second Injury Fund, there must be documentation of preexisting injuries. This may include court settlements or previous workers’ compensation awards. Obviously, medical records are crucial to proving disabilities that existed before the latest work-related accident. In addition, there must be proof that the worker is now totally and permanently disabled.
If you or loved one was injured at work, we would like to offer you experienced legal advice. We will interview you concerning the extent of your injuries and the circumstances of your accident to discuss your legal options. Contact us to arrange an appointment.