New Jersey Worker's Compensation - Help For Injured New Jersey Workers

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    NJ
    Posts
    2

    Default Second Injury Fund Nightmare

    Hi all.I am a new poster and was very happy to have discovered this site while on my quest for knowledge about NJ Worker's Comp.as it pertains to my own injury. My situation is quite complicated which I am beginning to think is more the norm,The condensed version is this. I am presently a 54 year old single female. I was injured in 1997 with herniated cervical discs, in and out of work on light duty. I settled the case in 1999 for 27% and received $32k. I returned to work only to have my condition worsen. I was put out of work permanently in 2001 and became penniless until I received permanent SS Disability benefits in 2003, after being turned down 2x's. I have severe neurological permanent injuries due to the deterioration of my discs. I lost my car, house, and became divorced during this time. A living nightmare I was living. I filed bankruptcy and became dependent upon my aging parents. I began re-opening my case in 2001, but prior to trial or settlement, I couldn't live any longer with the pain. I subsequently had a mult-level anterior spinal fusion with instrumentation in 2004. There was so much "crap" in between all this with my employer, the Drs. and my attorney that I cannot stand. He is someone that is supposed to be an advocate on my behalf that hasn't returned a call of mine nor have I heard from personally in 4 years. Believe me..if Iwere not so far into this mess, I'd fire him in a heartbeat. He is a lousy lawyer and what's more I know for a fact that he is good friends with the opposing lawyer to the point that they golf together. It all makes me sick. The last letter I got from him was in Sept. of 2007 stating that he was filing a motion to put me into the Second Injury Fund. He stated that he was doing this because if he did not, opposing counsel would do so anyway. Apparently, what I consider insignificant, minor physical impairments qualify me to join this fund. I was pissed off because basically from what I have learned about the Second Injury Fund is that it lets the employer off the hook for the permanent injuries and the fund picks up the tab for life. It's bizarre. Does anyone have any experience with this fund? How does it impact SS benefits? And why in the world is this taking so long to settle? I have finished all the physical IME's and even two Psychiatric evaluations 2 years ago. What is the time frame between filing a motion for the Second Injury fund and it reaching a settlement/ And after all is said and done is it wise to file a complaint against my attorney? Sorry this is so long, not my intention. It sure feels good to vent though.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    PA, but worked in NJ
    Posts
    655

    Thumbs up Re: Second Injury Fund Nightmare

    Hi Tina, I can really understand your frustration, I AM SERIOUS!!! To me this case appears to be IN ORDER!!!! Now that says much about the NJWC system!!!!

    Yes the second injury fund will let the employer "off the hook" as you put it, but would you rather fight them another 20 years?? At this point in your injury you must just want to get on with whats left of your life, and this will allow this to happen and then your real healing can begin. As long as you remain bitter ( even if justified) is just no way to live, and will only exacerbate your symtoms!!

    Yes it is upsetting when lawyers don't return calls, but you also need to consider you are one case of thousands (if he is worth his salt) and he makes money when he lawyers not when he returns calls to 1000's of his clients. Honestly mostly only the bums return calls as they don't have any lawyering to do????? Sometimes it is best to leave your questions with the secretary and have her ask the lawyer, then call the secretary for the answer.

    What qualifies you for 2nd injury fund is you had a pre exsisting condition and was hurt at work and now you are permanently disabled. This is the purpose of the 2nd injury fund. To let employers hire those with pre exsisting conditions and not absorb all the liability should you get disabled from a work injury.Your lawyer is correct that the carrier would have filed to get you 2nd injury fund benefits to make it easier for the employer to swallow. I know there are circumstances where the employer SHOULD BE PUNISHED for their actions dealing with an injured worker, and this may be one of them, I dont know enough to say for sure, the reason it takes so long that's easy I call it the NJ WC squeeze play as they leave to hang dry and loose everything you have ever worked for just to be sure you are in fact disabled, as if you could have gone back to work to save all of the things you lost you would have, and they know it!!!!

    Well Tina if you made it this far the rest is all down hill. DO NOT FILE COMPLAINT against your lawyer the system moves that slow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If anything you may want to consult with a known expert in WC/ss law to be sure this case is handled appropriately, but I have seen many in this state and unfortunately this is the M.O.

    GOOD LUCK and I wish you a better second life as I call it as it will begin to feel like your second life once this all is settled

    BUG

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    NJ
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Second Injury Fund Nightmare

    Thank-you Bug for your response. It was reassuring to me to know that the course that was taken in my case was accurate albeit s l o w. I am glad that you pointed out that I sound bitter. It forced me to examne myself and to be thankful that the worst is behind me. If I can bend your ear a little more, a few more questions. Can you explain the format that NJ uses for SS Disability recipients and settlements. It's been explained to me but I don't get it. You can never make more than 80% of your earnings per month? Is that accurate? I was a stay at home mom for 15 years, hence a meager SS Disability check. How does the Second Injury Fund, W/C settlements affect my monthly benefits? I do indeed look forward to my "better second life" (great phrase) and am taking applications for husbands. lol

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    PA, but worked in NJ
    Posts
    655

    Smile Re: Second Injury Fund Nightmare

    Hi Tina, The bitter taste left from a disabling work injury in Nj can last years after it has settled. It is all based on the individual as well as the circumstances of your injury. At times the hardest part is living with the disability we now have, due to work. However just look around you real close and I am sure you will find others who are willing to switch places in life with you, as no matter how horrible our life has been changed there are so many others worst off, with no safety net to catch them. That was what helped me understand I still have so much even after injury.

    Now to your question: you ask " You can never make more than 80% of your earnings per month?" NOT TRUE" If you are entitled to family benefits under SSD during this time you receive more than 80%. This is clear to all who have gotten family benefits along with SSD and the 2nd Injury Fund. When the family benefit terminated, the 2nd injury Fund will make up some of the lost income but will NOT make up all of the lost income as they base your benefits on 80% of your average weekly wage when you worked. It should be kept in mind that in many cases all your benefits may be tax exempt, in some cases (depends on household income) your SS benefits can become taxable if your spouse makes over a set amount which changes yearly. In NO case if you do this correct will your 2nd Injury benefit EVER be taxed regardless of household income.

    Here is what I understand as far as NJWC settlement, 2nd Injury Fund & SSDI works together. It is different if you have SSI as this benefit is based on need, not your work history as with SSDI. The Dept of Labor takes your SSDI payments and figures out how much they will need to pay you in order for you to reach your 80% of working wages. This is your 2nd injury fund amount. As you lose family benefits from SSD the 2nd Injury Fund Increase, but not to the full amount you were getting in total, as they take your current SSDI payment and figure out what they need to send to you to bring you to your 80% ( I think the State calls this your ACE?). Here's some potential great news when you reach retirement age your SSD converts to SS retirement ( I believe at the exact rate you are getting for SSD). SS retirement is not a disability payment, therefore is NOT considered when figuring your 80% working wage (ACE). So it looks to me like you will receive the same amount from SS but as retirement, along with a full 80% disability income check from Dept of Labor 2nd Injury Fund. THIS WILL BE MUCH MORE THAN 80% OF YOUR WORKING WAGE in totality!!!

    Your settlement will vary depending on the fee agreement(s) you have with the lawyer. However it is SOP for the lawyer to take ALL his fees from this settlement which leaves all your future payments as yours to keep with no fee deductions. For example if the settlement is 100K you may get 30K and the lawyer takes 70K. That's after he gets his fees from the State and WC, as they all are contributing towards your legal fees, if applied for. This is just one more reason this needs the expertise of a WC/SS expert, as they know how to get others to help pay your fees, which in the end leaves you more money in your pocket. With the complex laws involved it is best to have a lawyer who is a specialist in NJWC, as well as SS law. So don't be SHOCKED to see over 1/2 of your settlement going to the lawyer, as he takes all his fees before you are sent on your marry way, this concluding the relationship between you and the lawyer.

    It is advisable to NEVER report your 2nd injury fund benefits on your credit report as income. It is complex to explain but if you can ever just take my word on an issue please let it be this one!!!!!!!! I dont know of one person to ever get a 1099 tax form ( or equivalent) for their 2nd injury fund.

    The SSA deals with total disability in 50 states and each state has its own way of dispersing. In NJ you are awarded 2nd Injury Fund Benefits about 5 years after you begin receiving SSD, The SSA does not differentiate the differences among all the States. It is SOP for the SSA to deduct any WC benefits you are receiving, however the 2nd Injury Fund is NOT WC, (under the law your WC benefits ended at MMI) but the SSA may not want to see it that way, which will make THEM INNCORRECT, but until it is all settled you will have your 2nd Injury Fund deducted from your SS, when according to NJ law it is to be added. So if you just keep this as unreported income you can spare yourself much grief. I am SURE your lawyer and tax advisor will spend some time with you on this to keep you legal and continuously receiving your appropriate amounts of benefits.

    You dont want to have the SSA in the middle of your 2nd injury fund as you can call 5 different SSA reps and you will get 5 different answers, and possibly all of them will be wrong factually. As I wrote your lawyer should explain to you how to avoid the COMPLEX problems that can be made when SSA is too involved with this fund. Under NJ law you will be reviewed several times, for eligibility to continue the 2nd Injury Fund after all awards have been dispersed. It will be in more depth than the reviews you will get from the SSA. For this reason you will want to continue your medical care with a Dr who supports your disability claim and has determined that you are totally and permanently disabled if this be the case, at the time of exam. The reviews are done to see if you are still permanently and totally disabled, which is required under both NJ law as well as the SSA rules.

    Tina please understand this is a very complicated situation, and is difficult to explain in just a post. I hope that I was helpful to you, however if you have special circumstances that you feel important but don't feel comfee posting publicly, you can always email me though this site direct or leave me a message to write you back in our private mail box here that we all have. However keep in mind direct is best when dealing in private matters of personal information. Hopefully I have provided you enough to draft up you concerns to address directly to your lawyer and tax advisor.

    Have a great day Tina!!

    BUG

    PS Of course I understand the need for, as well as implement, complete confidentially with all who contact me privately, and NEVER disclose the contents of private matters. But suggest that you do what you feel most comfortable with, I just wanted you to be aware of my feelings on such matters.

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