Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

If you’ve been injured on the job or become ill because of your work, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. If you are eligible for workers’ compensation, you will be able to recover for your lost wages and medical bills. So, how do you know if you are eligible?

There are three basic requirements necessary to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits: Your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, you are an employee, and your injury or illness is work-related.

Your employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance
This will be true in almost every case because New Jersey law requires every employer to have workers’ compensation insurance or be self-insured. The only exceptions are employers who are already covered by certain federal coverage programs, and government agencies.

You are an employee
Not all workers are employees. If you are an independent contractor, such as a consultant or a freelance designer, you are not entitled to workers’ compensation. However, many employers misclassify workers as independent contractors when they are actually employees.

Volunteers generally are not considered to be employees. However, in New Jersey, there are some groups of volunteers that are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. They are:

  • Volunteer firefighters
  • Reserve or Auxiliary police officers
  • Volunteer first aid or rescue squad workers
  • Elected or appointed officials
  • Board of education members

Your injury or illness is work-related
If your injury or illness is work-related, it will be covered by workers’ compensation. If you were doing an activity on your job to benefit your employer, it will generally be considered to be work-related. Some examples of work-related injuries are a carpal tunnel injury incurred by repetitive typing, or a back strain from lifting heavy boxes. If you became ill because of conditions at your job, for instance by exposure to chemicals, you can also recover.

In some instances, it is difficult to determine whether the injury or illness is work-related. If you were injured on your lunch break or while walking to a company picnic, for instance, your employer may have an argument that the injury was not work-related.

If you have questions about whether you are covered by workers’ compensation, contact an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer who will fight for your rights.