Workers’ compensation benefits exist to protect employees who are injured on the job. But not every injury is created equally and New Jersey recognizes that there are times when good policy also helps employers at the same time. The Second Injury Fund serves both of these purposes.
It’s partly an incentive for employers
Injuries and illnesses happen, whether at work or not. Because employers are responsible for financing and maintaining workers’ compensation benefits, they may shy away from hiring employees who already suffer from a preexisting condition. Their concern is that they may be forced to pay more than if they’d hired a healthy employee instead.
New Jersey’s Second Injury Fund helps to alleviate this concern. Let’s say an employer hires and employee who has already suffered a previous injury or condition. That employee then suffers a workplace-related injury, resulting in them becoming permanently disabled. The Second Injury Fund takes on a portion of the financial burden for workers’ compensation benefits, rather than the employer paying for everything.
What does this mean for the employee?
To qualify for benefits under the Second Injury Fund, the employee must have had a preexisting injury, they must then suffer a new work injury and the combination of the two must leave them permanently disabled. The initial workers’ compensation claim, and subsequent benefits, are handled as normal, with the employer footing the bill for medical expenses and lost wages.
But after a certain period of time, extended benefits are then taken over by the Second Injury Fund and are paid throughout the employee’s life. It’s important to note that such an employee may also qualify for Social Security Disability – if they begin receiving such benefits, it could result in a reduction of Second Injury Fund benefits.