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

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    2

    Angry No Communication from Lawyer

    In october I had my evaluations by the workmans comp doctor and my lawyers doc. My lawyer told me back then that he'd be contacting me telling me how the case was progressing. The workmans comp doctor gave me a rating of 15% but because I had two previous back surgeries he awarded me 5% ptd for my back. My doctor gave me a rating of 55% and the other he said would be much higher given my preexisting back condition. So during this down time I've called my lawyer at least once a month and talked to his paralegals. They gave me the run around saying that court was scheduled in february and to call back a few days after that date. This phone tag has gone on for a while and just yesterday I received an affidavit of settlement from my attorney. The award settlement was for 30k to be paid over 131 weeks. The thing that really upsets me is that my court date is scheduled for march 24 and I got this letter monday the 21st. I am a complete lamen about how this process is supposed to go and I completely feel like my lawyer is trying to wash his hands with me. When I called him saying the award wasnt satisfactory for me and that Id go to trial he said this was the value that the judge valued and that in his 17 years working as a workmans comp attorney hes never seen the judge change his mind. Now is Three days really sufficient to make a sound decision on something that is likely going to effect me the rest of my life! And how come the w.c carrier never tried to settle out of court. Something doesnt seem right and its frustrating when your lawyers not working on your behalf! on my voice mail he also said that the numbers are not going to change to sign the papers and send them back. Also in the affidavit its states "I have had plenty of time to contemplate this settlement." Thats just not true!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    609

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    I don't know ANYTHING about WC in New Jersey, but this sounds fishy to me. It wouldn't hurt to call another attorney to see the reaction you get. I get so mad when I hear these things happen to people. Not only is the damn IC against us, but so is thw one who represents you.... sheesh. Do you know the name of this judge? Think you may contact him? Do you think they may have some surviellance on you that puts you against your restrictions? If you feel that you are being rushed into things and you know you have been within your restrictions 95% of the time. (Unless you were bowling, roller blading...get it?) I would call the judge and make him aware of what has been told to you as you descibed right here.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Calif
    Posts
    18,011

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    Your atty is not trying to screw you, nor can he get more money than the law allows.
    Permanent Partial BenefitsWhen a job related injury or illness results in a partial permanent disability, benefits are based upon a percentage of certain "scheduled" or "non-scheduled" losses. A "scheduled" loss is one involving arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, ears or teeth. A "non-scheduled" loss is one involving any area or system of the body not specifically identified in the schedule, such as the back, the heart, the lungs. These benefits are paid weekly and are due after the date temporary disability ends.
    If you want the cash vs weekly benefits, you can petition for a commutation, you would take a discounted amount to "todays dollars". http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/for...ommutation.pdf

    You may be unable to return to work... at a PTD/Permenant Total Disability...but you are only rated at 30%
    Permanent Total Benefits
    Sometimes when a work injury or illness prevents a worker from returning to any type of gainful employment, he or she may be entitled to receive permanent total disability benefits. These weekly benefits are provided initially for a period of 450 weeks. These benefits continue beyond the initial 450 weeks provided that the injured worker is able to show that he or she remains unable to earn wages.

    Wages earned after 450 weeks offset the weekly computation in proportion to the income at the time of the injury. Permanent Total benefits are paid weekly and are based upon 70% of the average weekly wage, not to exceed 75% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) or fall below the minimum rate of 20% of the SAWW.

    Permanent Total Disability is also presumed when the worker has lost two major members or a combination of members of the body such as eyes, arms, hands, legs or feet. However, permanent total disability can also result from a combination of injuries that render the worker unemployable.
    More info on NJ WC is here http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/wc/..._index.html#PP

    Going to trial isn't like a PI/Personal Injury case, the benefits in WC are pretty much predetermined, can't change the law until the legislature does something.
    The workmans comp doctor gave me a rating of 15% but because I had two previous back surgeries he awarded me 5% ptd for my back.
    Apparently that Dr applied "apportionment to cause". When you are hired, your ER takes you "as is", or if you have non industrial injury/surgery the amount of PD you have prior to this injury is taken into consideration. That reduces the PD rating due this time.

    Your Dr who rated you, apparently didn't take that into consideration. I don't remember if NJ has an apportionment to cause statue. bugman will be along to clear this one up.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    ok but im 34 years old. Is this taken into account in their final assessment. What other factors are thrown into this equation or is it just the rating system? It seems ridiculous to put ratings and numbers on an injury. They put a rating on my back at 30% when it hurts 100% of the time. So they figure that my bad back is worth 30k! Now if my back goes out on me in two years and a day im stuck with the bill. I hardly think that 30k will even pay for a night in the hospital let alone another surgery. This whole process has been fishy from the get go. THe one thing that really gets me is how limited the contact has been between me and my lawyer. Before I agreed to go along with the settlement he had told me that during this whole process he would be giving me constant updates. Well the only update I got was today on my voice mail telling me I had to sign and notorize the affidavit which arrived at my door yesterday(monday) and have it sent back out by tomorrow so it would arrive by my court date on thursday. Is that ample time to make an informed decision about something like this! I realize they want to get their money and I dont mind him getting a fair cut. But im just real cautious about signing something that I dont think is entirely true. It really makes me wonder if my attorney and the workmans comp attorney are in cohoots and doing each other favors. With that being said I appreciate both your posts its definetly been helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    609

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    I agree striket. I just think you should be given more time to really read what you are signing. They way you explain it, it sounds like he was litterally shoving the pen and paper in your hand and telling you "here, sign this, it's good for you." I wouldn't want to be treated that way either. I would tell this lawyer that I would just love to give him the benefit of the doubt, but if they were to switch positions, would the lawyer sign it?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Calif
    Posts
    18,011

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    They put a rating on my back at 30% when it hurts 100% of the time. So they figure that my bad back is worth 30k! Now if my back goes out on me in two years and a day im stuck with the bill. I hardly think that 30k will even pay for a night in the hospital let alone another surgery. This whole process has been fishy from the get go.
    Your frustration is understandable... WC is not like PI/Personal Injury.
    WC is all about paying benefits. If you require additional medical care...you should not close the claim. States vary in how medical is handled...in NJ, once the claim is settled out... you may use your own health plan. (from what I understand from bugman)

    The ratings have nothing to do with pain. PD ratings are simply a manner by which your condition at MMI can be evaluated, and a % applied to calcuate the indemnity due. IW's don't 'sue' the employer for compensation or indemnity due to the injury, the law has predetermined the number of weeks based on scheduled loss/body part, or whole person impairment, depending on the type injury/body part you are claiming benefits for. There is nothing going to change that. You can't go to court and demand 100K for a rating that pays 30K.
    But im just real cautious about signing something that I dont think is entirely true.
    It would probably help if you spent some time reading the statutes, rules/regs that govern the provision of WC benefits, and what the liability of your ER/IC actually is.
    Many IWs feel there are much more in benefits than actually are provided under the law.

    WC is a system of laws that define the ER liability in the event of industrial injury....the ER is the insured party, and medical, wage replacement/TTD, and the PD indemnity are the basic, limited benefits available.
    It seems ridiculous to put ratings and numbers on an injury
    The rating is not based on the type of injury, or the amount of treatment provided.
    You are evaluated when the DR determines your condition is stable...MMI has been reached. Whether that is preinjury condition or not, doesn't matter. At MMI, you are considered able to perform some type or level of gainful employment. Preinjury job, or something else. That too doesn't matter.
    Your condition at MMI is what the PD rating indicates...and as I said above, that is simply for calculating the predetermined benefits due.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    PA, but worked in NJ
    Posts
    664

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    Striket,

    I have been here for a long time for 1 simple reason and this I can put in lay terms. NJWC stinks if your the injured worker, in my opinion, the system is set up to protect the Drs, lawyers, and employers, which is why it takes an act from GOD to have even the slightest chance at winning a law suit filed against your WC DR, lawyer, or employer. You basically give up all this for the "privilege" of receiving the WC benefits that you have received.

    Your pre exsisting injuries are excluded from this impairment award. However if your prior injuries plus this injury rises to the level of total disability only then will you get compensated for your prior injury. This is paid through the 2nd Injury Fund as total disability benefits.

    Just so you are aware your case has been called before the court WEEKLY since you have been MMI. As in Nj after MMI your case goes into "rotation" meaning the case is called in order weekly so that both lawyers can inform the court as to their readiness to move forward.

    It would be unusual for a JUDGE to set the award rating before the scheduled court date as you described in your post. Is it possible YES, is it probable I think NO. I think what is more likely the case is the lawyers came to an agreement on the rating of impairment. Your lawyer must work with these lawyers daily so he cant go back on his word because you think you have been under compensated. Trust me most who have been compensated by NJWC feel they have been cheated. Your lawyer KNOWS your legal skills in WC area of law. I am guessing that is why he said the JUDGE set the rating, and further went to say no JUDGE has ever changed their mind on a rating in his 17 yr career????

    Yes I agree that at this point your lawyer is disengaging his professional relationship with you. As once you sign this agreement your relationship will terminate with this lawyer unless you sign up for another case with him????

    Yes it is frustrating when you know all you are to your lawyer is a # !!!!! Fortunately for you this injury is not totally disabling as then you would see real problems with NJWC!!!! However as I read further you were given these ratings for a back injury??? Maybe if I saw the findings section of your reports I would have a better understanding? A back injury is classified as "partial/total." This classification mandates a greater figure in dollars for any given percentage of disability than, for example, an injury to an arm or a leg. (Example in 2009) Whereas an award of 20% of partial/total is worth $19,536.00, an award of 20% partial disability for a leg is worth $9,513.00; 20% for a hand is worth $7,399.00; and for an ear, $1,812.00.

    Yes 3 days is long enough "to sufficient to make a sound decision on something that is likely going to effect me the rest of my life" I dont mean to appear cold but the decision is made based on the current law not what will transpire in the rest of your lifetime, unless you have been left totally disabled which I have already said is something most will not want in NJ or anywhere for that matter, but NJ seems to be harder on the injured worker than most states.

    I know I have very little knowledge of your case and I can see that you are taking this very personal, and I do feel for your loss but this appears to be a simple work injury case and I am unsure exactly what it is that you mean by "contemplate this settlement" We can "what if "everything and never get anything done, however if you feel that total disability determination would be more appropriate then you dont want to sign this settlement proposed. Dont believe that your 30% impairment to your back can not result in a total disability determination from WC as well as SSA, because it can!!!! It depends on how the symptoms effect your daily life, but there is no sense in going this way if you feel you are employable still.

    Yes lawyers do handle cases like this similar to how a cattleman wrestles cattle to and from market. It is wrong for lawyer to make false promises when they know that is exactly what they are making, but without them I guarantee you will end up with MUCH MUCH LESS and the carrier loves it when a claimant comes to court alone



    According to NJWC you are stuck paying all your medical bills after MMI. I understand how you feel about future back care as some have spent over 300,000 dollars in medical care through private ins that cost them over 1000.00 a month, all for a work injury?? Its hard to believe that NJWC was born to help the NJ workers, but as we see it has grown into a huge cash cow for the WC lawyer & Drs.

    We are all here to help if we can

    Wish you good fortune in your future
    BUG

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    609

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    Yeah I do hear the NJ is going to be a bad state to work and now to live in also. I am grateful that I live and worked in PA.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    PA, but worked in NJ
    Posts
    664

    Default Re: No Communication from Lawyer

    explorereb96,

    I enjoyed living in NJ, but the cost of living vs wages paid makes this a hard state to get ahead in. Housing is about 5X more than in Western Pa!!!

    I grew up in Pa and witnessed a few work injuries and each of those cases where handled fairly. In some cases I felt the IW was not as injured as claimed, but even in this case the claimant got the max benefit. PA is a much more employer friendly state than NJ could ever be

    BUG

    Quote Quoting explorereb96 View Post
    Yeah I do hear the NJ is going to be a bad state to work and now to live in also. I am grateful that I live and worked in PA.

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