Income continuation is one of the most pressing issues an individual confronts when sustaining a work-related injury that prevents him from working. In those instances when the workers' compensation carrier denies a claim, the injured worker may be able to use private health care insurance to obtain medical treatment. However, if the injury prevents him for working, he is left without income during the period of treatment and recuperation.

The State of New Jersey provides state temporary disability benefits (STDB) to working individuals who are unable to work due to an injury or condition. These benefits are designed to furnish wage continuation benefits to individuals who are temporarily disabled from non-work-related injuries and/or conditions. However, if a workers' compensation carrier denies benefits, the injured worker should file an application for STDB. In that case, the applicant who filed for STDB must also file and fully pursue a workers' compensation claim. In the event the workers compensation claim is successful, the State will be reimbursed from the proceeds of the workers compensation award.

The application for STDB is a three-part form: applicant (injured person) section, doctor's section, and employer's section. Each section must be completed by the appropriate person and each section contains a question that asks if the injury is related to a work accident or a condition that arose due to work. Many individuals, concerned about the need for income, either leave this section unanswered or indicate that the injury/condition is not work-related. In an effort to get immediate money, checking the "unrelated" box could cause a significant hurdle in obtaining workers' compensation benefits. If the injury is work-related or the condition developed as a result of work effort, the applicant should check the appropriate box, which will alert the State that the applicant's workers' compensation claim is contested.

Upon receipt of a completed application that confirms a contested workers' compensation claim, the State will respond by sending an additional form for completion. This form requires a claim petition number, which is obtained when a workers' compensation claim is filed with the Division of Workers' Compensation. It also requires the applicant's signature, acknowledging that the applicant must pursue his claim through the workers' compensation system and reimburse the State from any proceeds received from the workers' compensation insurance carrier.

Note that it is advisable to consult with a workers' compensation attorney prior to filing the application for STDB. The attorney can file a workers' compensation claim on-line and immediately obtain the required claim petition number. In addition, the attorney should have a copy of the contested workers' compensation form that you must sign and return to the State. This completed form can be submitted at the same time the initial application is mailed, thereby avoiding at least two weeks of delay in receiving initial payment from the State.

In summary, State Temporary Disability Benefits may be available to injured workers who are confronted with a contested workers' compensation case. However, be sure to accurately complete the application to avoid proof issues when pursuing benefits against the workers' compensation carrier.

- Laura J. Glenn (Author)