For most personal injury claims, determining who is at fault for the claimant’s injuries matters. However, workers’ compensation is different.
Does fault matter in workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation and fault
New Jersey workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program. Employees who have a job-related injury or illness are eligible for benefits regardless of who or what caused the injury or illness. This means that the employee does not need to prove that the employer’s negligence caused the injury to qualify for benefits. Nor is the employee barred from recovery if the employee’s negligence caused the injury. However, unless an intentional act caused the injury, employees can not sue employers for pain and suffering or other damages.
Exceptions to the no-fault rule
If a third party’s negligence caused an employee’s injury, the employee may sue that party for damages. For example, an employee who suffers an injury while operating equipment with a manufacturing defect may be able to sue the manufacturer of the defective equipment if that defect caused the injury. In this situation, the employee may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering that are not available through the workers’ compensation program.
The no-fault aspect of the workers’ compensation program makes it easier and faster for employees to receive compensation for workplace illnesses and injuries. The trade-off is that employees give up the right to sue for damages not covered by workers’ compensation. This works in the favor of employees whose own negligence causes an injury, but may work against an employee injured by the negligence of the employer.