As workers' compensation laws become more complex, the number of misconceptions grows.
Here are 11 of the most common misconceptions related to workers' compensation and a brief explanation of your rights.
Misconception #1: A pre-existing injury can't be covered by workers' compensation.
If you aggravate a pre-existing injury or condition during a work-related activity and you're unable to work, the entire injury is considered work-related.
Misconception #2: You receive your regular rate of pay when you are injured.
If you're out of work you don't receive your regular salary.
You receive 70% of your average weekly wage up to the statutory cap.
Misconception #3: You can only file a claim if you're injured on your company's job site.
Injuries away from the job site (and even at your home) can be covered by workers' compensation.
This is especially the case if you perform employment-related tasks off-site, such as handling calls during your commute, participating in a company-sponsored retreat or working on a construction site with a general contractor as well as multiple sub-contractors.
Misconception #4: Your employer won't provide a doctor to treat your work-related injury or illness.
You employer has the right to select the doctor who provides care for your work-related injury or illness.
Misconception #5: You can't file a claim for lung disease, cancers or hearing loss.
Cancers, lung disease, asbestosis, asthma and hearing loss can be related to certain exposures encountered on the job and are compensable.
Misconception #6: You can't get income or medical benefits for a job-related injury if your employer doesn't have workers' compensation insurance.
In New Jersey, all employers must legally have workers' compensation insurance.
However, if your employer doesn't, you can still receive income and medical benefits under the Uninsured Employers' Fund.
Misconception #7: Your employer can't terminate your employment because of your injury.
If you can still perform essential job functions when you return from your injury and your position is terminated, your employer can face disability discrimination charges.
However, your employer is not required to create a position to accommodate reduced capabilities or displace another employee when you return.
Misconception #8: Workers' compensation will cover all your lost income during the time you're away from work.
In most cases, income benefits are about 70% of lost wages and only for the job where you were working when injured.
You do not get paid for missing side or part-time jobs.
Misconception #9: You are not entitled to benefits if you were at fault for your injury or illness.
In New Jersey, anyone injured on the job is entitled to medical and income benefits, which includes a percentage of your weekly wage as well as money for permanent disability.
Misconception #10: If you don't get fully compensated for your losses through workers' compensation, your pain and suffering are inaccessible.
You can get additional benefits by filing a third-party claim against someone other than your employer - if you believe that party is responsible for your injury or illness.
Misconception #11: If the job refuses to pay for an MRI or terminates treatment prematurely, you have no recourse.
You can fight the denial of a medical test, such as an MRI, or the premature termination of treatment.
Motions must be filed and you need an experienced workers' compensation attorney to help you navigate the process.
Keep in mind, laws are different in each state.
So you'll want to consult an attorney experienced in workers' compensation cases to get the most up-to-date explanation of your rights.