Hurt at Work —Where Should I File My Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Andrew P. Gould, Esq.

In a previous post, we discussed the possibility of being able to file a workers’ compensation case in either Pennsylvania or New Jersey.  Here we address the question: “If we have a workers’ compensation case where both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have jurisdiction and coverage, where should the claim be pursued?”

There is no cut and dry rule. It will depend on the individual circumstances, and we encourage you to call our office at 610-258-4003 to discuss your specific case.

But let’s take an overview of each state.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, you are essentially entitled to three things—

  1. Medical benefits;
  2. Temporary disability benefits; and
  3. An award for permanent disability benefits for the loss of function of the injured body part.

The medical benefits should completely cover your medical treatment—meaning you should not pay any copays or deductibles—until the treating doctor decides that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).  That means additional treatment would not improve your condition.

Temporary disability benefits mean that for the time that you are taken out of work, you should receive payments of 70% of your gross weekly wage (up to the state maximum for the year of the injury) until you are returned to work or reach MMI.

Lastly, even if you are returned to work after your treatment is done in the same job at the same salary, you are entitled to an award for permanent disability for any loss of function for the injured body part.  For example, let’s say you had to have rotator cuff surgery for the shoulder. Even with a good outcome, such surgeries often result in a loss of range of motion compared to before the accident.  That loss is entitled to financial compensation known as a permanent disability award.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the workers’ compensation system is very different.  Here, the system is based on wage loss.  So, you are entitled to medical treatment and wage loss benefits (essentially the same thing as temporary disability benefits though it’s 66 2/3% of your weekly wage instead of 70%).  Injured workers are also entitled to have their work-related medical expenses paid by workers’ compensation.

Injured workers are entitled to be compensated for their wage loss while unable to initially do their job or later if there is a recurrence of full or partial disability due to their work-related injuries.  Employers often may try to find ways to request modification or termination of benefits if the expected duration of benefits is for a long term.  If that occurs, the employee should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to defend against such action.

How to Choose Which State to File In When A Claim Could Be Brought in Either State

Considering the limitation of benefits, it would seem that it would always be better for the injured worker to be in the New Jersey workers’ compensation court system.  Nevertheless, Pennsylvania does have a few advantages. You can ultimately choose your own treating doctor in Pennsylvania, whereas in New Jersey workers’ compensation, the insurance company decides the treating doctor.  Also, in a scenario where the injured worker will never be able to return to the job or any job, Pennsylvania could be the better jurisdiction as the wage loss benefits may continue indefinitely until a settlement is reached.

Ultimately, in situations where an injured worker could bring a workers’ compensation claim in either Pennsylvania or New Jersey, it will depend on the specific facts of the case to determine which forum is best.  If you would like to schedule an appointment with the workers’ compensation attorneys at Bruno Law, call us at 610-258-4003 or fill out the Contact form.