More Benefits for Totally and Permanently Injured Workers?
You may remember your day before the judge in workers’ compensation court. Perhaps you sat and listened as other injured workers received awards for partial total disability. Each of them was reminded that they might qualify for additional money in the future (if their condition worsened.) However, you are totally and permanently disabled. How can you possibly get more than 100% of the allotted monies?
For now, your assumption that someone permanently and totally disabled isn’t entitled to additional monetary benefits is correct. That’s not to say you don’t have the right to go back to court. You may need more medical treatment and need the workers’ compensation carrier to authorize it.
Depending on the year of your disability award, you could really feel some financial constraints. As you might know, workers’ compensation total disability benefits are based on a fee schedule from the year your injury occurred. That said, your expenses continue to rise, while your income stays the same.
Supplemental Benefits Could Become a Reality
You might be pleased to know that the New Jersey State Legislature is considering a bill that could bring supplemental benefits to injured workers receiving total disability benefits. In the near future, the Senate is scheduled to conduct a legislative hearing on Senate Bill No. 1967.
Senators Stephen M. Sweeny and Fred H. Madden are sponsors of the bill, which was initially introduced on February 22, 2018. If enacted, those receiving benefits could expect rate increases beginning with the fiscal year 2020. The fiscal year starts on July 1, 2019.
First, who would be impacted by the new law? Anyone whose workplace accident or exposure rendered them totally and permanently disabled – provided that the date was after December 31, 1979. Additionally, dependents receiving death benefits as a result of a loved one’s on-the-job accident will also be eligible for supplemental benefits. Again, the workplace incident must have occurred subsequent to December 1, 1979.
Those receiving benefits from pre-1980 accidents already receive cost of living adjustments (COLA). However, when workers’ compensation laws changed in 1980, there were no COLA provisions for weekly benefits.
The proposed law calls for supplemental benefits paid at 33 1/3% of the base amount during fiscal year 2020; 66 2/3% of the base amount during fiscal year 2021; and 100% of the base amount during fiscal year 2022. Once calculated, the payments would supplement the injured worker’s initial award to bear the same percentage relationship to the maximum workers’ compensation rate for the current fiscal year that the person’s initial compensation bore to the maximum workers’ compensation rate in effect at the time of the injury or death.
Meanwhile, as is the case with all workers’ compensation awards, the supplemental benefits may be reduced in coordination with Social Security benefits. More than likely, the injured workers would still experience an increase – just not as much if it would cause a reduction in Social Security monies.
As the proposed legislation process continues, we will keep you advised.
Were you or a loved one injured or killed in a work-related accident? The Law Offices of Anthony Carbone would gladly like to provide you with legal advice regarding your claim. Contact us to schedule an appointment.