Petrillo & Goldberg Law Blog

New Jersey state employee injured in crash denied special pension

New Jersey state employee injured in crash denied special pension

A New Jersey Department of Education employee who was injured when driving to work on a snowy day because she was not aware a meeting had been canceled will not receive a full disability pension.

Ursula Cargill had appealed a Board of Trustees of the Public Employees’ Retirement System ruling. Cargill applied for benefits due to the injuries she sustained in the February 2010 accident.

Cargill was granted the ordinary disability pension, which amounts to over $44,000 a year, instead of the accidental disability pension which can pay two-thirds of an employee’s last salary. New Jersey pension records show Cargill had been working for 11 years and was making a salary of $101,549.

During Cargill’s drive to the meeting, she slid off the road after hitting a patch of ice. Cargill testified she tried to push her rear bumper to get the car out of a snowbank and experienced a “twinge in her lower back.”

Cargill worked for another year before applying for her retirement pension in March 2011. The pension board ruled she was permanently disabled but deemed her injury was “not undesigned and unexpected.”

On appeal, an administrative law judge also ruled Cargill’s injury was expected and said she did not qualify for accidental disability because the injury happened on her way to work and not while she was at work. The appellate panel agreed.