On February 23, 2018, Renee Wright was on her way to work at the New Jersey State Police when she was killed in a car crash. A 17-year-old driver struck Wright’s Hyundai after failing to yield to traffic. The impact of the collision caused Wright’s vehicle to spin. The Hyundai was then hit by another car.
When Renee was hit and killed in the motor vehicle accident, she traveled to work to begin her shift as a public safety telecommunicator. The other driver was injured in the crash; however, the injuries sustained were not life-threatening.
When an employee dies in the course of employment, the deceased employee’s personal representative or family may file a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits. Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance that employers must have to cover their employees in case of a work-related injury, illness, or death. Employers may have a workers’ compensation insurance policy or self-insurance. An employer must file an application for self-insurance and receive approval from the Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner. Approval for self-insurance is based on the employer’s financial ability to maintain the insurance, covering the workers’ compensation benefits payments to the employees and whether the business has permanence and longevity.
Workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy in New Jersey for a work-related accident. Therefore, a party filing a compensation claim must follow the state’s workers’ compensation procedure. The employer must receive actual notice of the accident and death immediately or soon after the event occurs. Even if the employer knows of the accident, the person making a claim must give actual notice to the employer.
After giving the employer notice, the claimant must file a workers’ compensation claim with the employer. The employer submits the claim to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier or, if self-insured, reviews the claim itself. If the claim is denied or the claimant has a dispute with the employer or insurance carrier, the claimant may file a claim with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.
One dispute that may arise in a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits is whether the employee was in the course of employment at the time of their death. Under New Jersey law, employment begins when the employee arrives at the employer’s place of work and ends when he leaves the employer’s workplace. Therefore, travel to and from work usually is not a part of the workday or in the course of employment. Suppose an accident resulting in death is determined not to have occurred during employment. In that case, the claimant for the deceased employee is not eligible to receive compensation under the New Jersey workers’ compensation laws.