Steven Petrillo interviews Scott Schulman, a New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney on the processes and complexities he sees on a daily basis in workers’ compensation cases.
Petrillo: So what we wanted to do today was go through some of the processes, some of the complexities, some of the areas of workers’ comp that you as a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney with 25 years see on a day-to-day basis. I want to talk to you about that. One of the big issues that you always talk to me about is the issue of notice. Why don’t you explain to people what you mean by that, as a worker’s comp attorney, why is notice so important? What is notice?
Schulman: Well notice starts the case off. And if it’s not done properly or not done correctly, it can become a big problem and delay benefits for the injured worker.
Petrillo: Why is that?
Schulman: Well, because when you have an injury at work, whether it’s a minor or a major injury, you have to provide notice to your employer and that starts the ball rolling. That gets your employer to fill out paperwork that they needed to fill out, that gets them to report it to the Worker’s Compensation Insurance company so that a file or a claim can be opened up and your benefits can start proceeding. And generally when notice is given, if it’s a major injury, people are going to know about it. It’s witnessed, and your supervisor’s going to know about it. A lot of times the problems that occur is when someone’s performing their duties and they have something that they may deem to be minor, which may actually turn out to be a significant incident and they think they’ll walk it off, they’ll shake it off, they’ll go home and rest and sleep on it and it’ll go away the next day.
Well, sometimes people are doing a minor thing and they think what they have is a minor incident or minor injury and they don’t tell their supervisor about it. They don’t tell their co-employee about it and nothing happens. And the next day they may wake up and realize they can’t get out of bed and they call their employer and their employer says, “Well, that didn’t happen at work. You never told me. How do I know it didn’t happen last night? You didn’t fall down your steps at your home last night.” And then it becomes a problem for the injured worker. They may contact us and I’ll start the representation of the claim. And many times it may have to go into court and litigate this or file motions or paperwork to get in front of a judge. And that may be a delay of six to nine months until I’m able to successfully prove the case and the worker can then start to begin to get their benefits.
Petrillo: Now about the fear factor? Many times I’ve come across people who legitimately get hurt at work, but they’re afraid to report it to their employer because they’re afraid that their employer might take action or use that against them, or their job might be at risk. Have you ever experienced that?
Schulman: Yes, unfortunately it happens often or that threat is out there often. But according to the law in New Jersey, your employer cannot retaliate against you for getting hurt at work and or filing a claim for benefits that you’re legitimately entitled to get. If you’re injured while working for your employer, to benefit your employer, you’re entitled to get those benefits and your employer can’t deny them against you. And I’ve had some cases where most employers or some employers are smart and they may take action against you or do something against you, but do it in a way that they can legally take those actions. Some employers are not very smart and they will retaliate and there are ways that we can prove that. And if that is able to be proven, then there’s action against your employer for taking those, not only for your worker’s comp benefits, but also for those other benefits.
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