Car Accidents on the Job. Is Your Car Covered?
Automobile accidents happen every day. Some of these accidents may occur while you are on the job, such as when an employee gets into an accident while making a business delivery or while driving a truck or other commercial motor vehicle.
New Jersey is a “no-fault” automobile accident state. This means that, in general, when you are involved in an automobile accident your own automobile insurance policy’s medical benefits coverage (known as Personal Injury Protection, or “PIP”) would be required to pay for your medical expenses, regardless of whether or not you were actually at fault for the accident.
When you are injured in an auto accident while working, however, your personal car insurance does not have to pay for your medical expenses. Instead, your employer would be responsible for paying your medical expenses and any disability benefits for lost wages through their workers’ compensation insurance.
New Jersey’s workers’ compensation is also a “no-fault” system. This means that you do not need to prove who is responsible for the accident in order to recover. Instead, you only need to prove that you were injured during the course of your employment. Whether or not you were acting in the course of your employment at the time of the accident depends on the facts of your case. If the accident happened while you were on your way to or from work, for example, your workers’ compensation claim would most likely be denied because you were not operating your vehicle as a function of your job. In order to determine whether or not your auto accident will be covered by workers’ compensation, therefore, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Important New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Guidelines
You should note that, when dealing with workers’ compensation, you may only seek medical treatment from doctors approved by your employee’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. For this reason, it is important that you immediately notify your employer of the accident so that you can seek treatment through an approved physician.
It is also important to note that that, if the other driver was at fault for the accident, in addition to asserting a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which allows you to recover medical and temporary and permanent disability benefits (i.e., for lost wages), you may also be able to assert what is known as a third-party claim against the negligent driver for additional compensation, including compensation for your pain and suffering.
If your third party claim is successful, however, your workers’ compensation carrier would have a lien for the medical benefits they paid on your behalf, which you would be expected to reimburse them for in order to prevent double recovery on your behalf. The same would be true for any temporary or permanent disability benefits that the workers’ compensation carrier paid on your behalf.
You would not, however, have to pay back the entire lien amount. Instead, the lien amount would be reduced by 33 1/3% under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law. So, for example, if you recovered $200,000 from the at-fault driver in the third-party lawsuit, and workers’ compensation paid $40,000 of your medical expenses and $2,000 in lost wages, your $42,000 lien would be reduced to $28,000, minus an additional $750 in litigation expenses. You would therefore be required to reimburse the workers’ compensation carrier only $27,250 from your settlement against the negligent driver.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help Protect Your Rights
As you can see, New Jersey’s automobile accident law can be quite confusing, especially in conjunction with a workers’ compensation claim. If you were involved in a work-related car or trucking accident, we can help you understand the various options that are available to you. Contact the experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys at Harrell, Smith and Williams today at (908) 264-7288 to scheduled a no-cost consultation.