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The Flaming Pig and New Jersey Workers’ Compensation: Imagine this: You are working as a server at a wedding hall in northern New Jersey when your boss tells you that you are on flaming pig duty that night.  You and a young co-worker, who have never flambéed anything in your lives, proceed to wheel a flaming pig into the wedding hall.  All of the sudden, your co-worker goes a little overboard with the grain alcohol that is fueling the fire and you are engulfed in flames.  The accident leaves you with permanent scars on your hand, arm, abdomen, and thigh.  Your employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier pays your medical bills, temporary disability, and an award for your permanent injuries.

In this scenario, do you think that you should be allowed to sue your employer for damages that are not available under the Workers’ Compensation system such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium?  In September of 2013, an Appellate Court in New Jersey decided a case with this set of facts, and found that the employee was barred from suing her employer in New Jersey Superior Court.

The Workers’ Compensation Bar

Generally, in New Jersey, a worker is barred from suing their employer outside of the Workers’ Compensation system.  This is because the enactment of the Worker’s Compensation Law in New Jersey was an historic tradeoff whereby employees relinquished their right to pursue common law remedies in exchange for automatic entitlements to benefits for work-related injuries.  As a result the Worker’s Compensation Law provides an exclusive avenue by which an employee who was injured at work can recover from his employer.  However, if an employee can prove an “intentional wrong,” he may be able to sue his employer outside of the Workers’ Compensation system.

The Test for an Intentional Wrong

First, an employee must prove that the employer knowingly exposed the employee to a substantial certainty of injury.  A probability or knowledge that injury or death could result is insufficient.  Examples from cases where courts have found this element satisfied are: an employer’s affirmative action to remove a safety device, prior OSHA citations, deliberate deceit regarding the condition of the workplace, knowledge of prior injury or accidents, and previous complaints from employees.  Second, the resulting injury must not be a fact of life of industrial employment and must be plainly beyond anything legislature intended the act to immunize.

In finding no “intentional wrong” in the case of the flaming pig, the Court did not find a substantial certainty of injury.  There were no prior accidents or complaints that the employer failed to address as the catering company had never performed the flaming pig ceremony before.  The court also found that burns are an expected injury in the restaurant or catering business.

If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job, please contact one of the Workers’ Compensation attorneys at Hoffman DiMuzio to see if we can assist you with your claim.  The “intentional harm” exception is a tough test to pass, but if after evaluating your case we feel your case meets the requirements discussed above, we may pursue additional remedies in state court in addition to handling your traditional workers’ compensation claim.

#NJWorkRelatedAccidentLawyers #WorkersCompensation #WorkersCompClaims
Generally, in New Jersey, a worker is barred from suing their employer outside of the Workers’ Compensation system.

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Are You Covered by the Workers’ Compensation Laws in New Jersey? If you or someone you know is injured on the job, one of the first questions to be answered is whether or not there is actually coverage under the Workers’ Compensation law.  All employers in New Jersey, except for certain governmental entities, must carry insurance coverage for their employees.  The New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Law defines an employee as being: “synonymous with servant and includes all natural persons including officers of corporations who perform service for an employer for financial consideration.”  This means that if you work for another person and they pay you money, you could be considered an employee entitled to compensation benefits.  The definition is broad because the intent of the legislature was for more people to be considered employees and entitled to benefits than not considered employees.

There are always exceptions to the rule

There are workers who would seem to fit the definition of an employee who are not covered by the Worker’s Compensation laws in New Jersey.  Independent contractors are not entitled to compensation benefits. The courts will generally look at the amount of control the employer has over the employee and how economically dependent the two are on one another when determining whether an employee is actually an independent contractor.    An example of an independent contractor could be a landscaper who is hired by a homeowner to build a retaining wall.  The homeowner has little control over the specifics of how and when the retaining wall is actually built, and the landscaper is not completely economically dependent on the homeowner because the homeowner is only one of many customers.

Casual employees are also not entitled to benefits.  Casual employees are people that are hired not in connection with any business, and usually on a one-time basis.  An example could be a neighbor who is hired to clean out an old garage when someone is moving.  Inmates performing jobs in prison are not covered by worker’s compensation laws.

Some workers are not covered by the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Laws, but could be covered by other compensation laws.  For example, all federal employees and railroad employees are covered by the Federal Employees Compensation Act.  The Members of a ship’s crew are classified as seamen and are covered under the Jones Act, otherwise, known as the Merchant Marine Act.  Longshoremen and harbor workers are covered under the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act.

There are special circumstances

Unpaid and volunteer public safety workers are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits.  An example would be volunteer firemen or volunteer rescue workers who are injured in the line of duty.  The term “duty” can include things such as participating in a parade, public drills, maintenance and repair, or fundraising.  Under the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Laws, these people, who were not actually paid, qualify as employees and are entitled to compensation at the maximum rate.

Another group of people who are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits are illegal aliens. The rationale being that worker’s compensation benefits are not paid with tax dollars, but are actually funded through the insurance premiums and self-insurance funds provided by the employer.

There is also the special case of minors.  Minors under the age of 14, or between the ages of 14 and 18, but working without papers or permits, are paid double temporary and permanent partial disability as a penalty.  This is because minors under the age of 14 should not be working, and if you are between 14 and 18, you should be working with a permit.  As another penalty to the employer, minors who are injured have the right to elect civil recovery for the negligence of the employer or worker’s compensation benefits.

If you are injured on the job and have any questions about whether or not you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits in New Jersey, please contact our firm and make an appointment to speak with one of our attorneys.

#NJWorkersCompensationAttorneys #WorkersCompBenefits #WorkplaceInjury
There are workers who would seem to fit the definition of an employee who are not covered by the Worker’s Compensation laws in New Jersey.

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Drug Crime is Big Business in NJ: Prescription drug abuse is at an all-time high in New Jersey, according to a recent investigation by the State Commission of Investigation. This independent watchdog tasked with investigating corruption and organized crime, recently published a report called “Scenes from an Epidemic.” Their study reveals an escalation in the cycle of painkiller addiction, profiteering from prescription drug abuse and patient dependence upon harder drugs such as heroin. This also includes a ready supply of illegitimate prescriptions that can be obtained from the Russian mafia and a handful of crooked doctors.

There are doctors in New Jersey who, with scant or no medical investigation, are willing to issue prescriptions for addictive painkillers to desperate patients. Medicare meets the cost of the drugs prescribed and, according to the report, the patients are able to keep their drugs or sell them on the black market where the profit made allows participants to purchase progressively stronger narcotics.

The report highlights the easy availability of heroin, now viewed as a cheap, pure drug ― the use of which no longer stigmatizes one as a “junkie.” The report also associates the drug with countless deaths, wrecked lives and spikes in the level of crimes and gang activity.

Extensive recommendations made to counter the drug epidemic

The SCI made 10 recommendations in its report, including:

- Imposing tougher sanctions for diverting prescription drugs and possession of heroin
- Establishing standards for doctors prescribing painkillers and improved oversight of ownership and management of medical practices
- Controlling the use of the tools involved in drug dealing such as pre-paid cell phones and hired cars
- Criminalizing vehicle traps that used to hide stashes of drugs and money.

Not all of these suggestions are likely to be implemented and, even if they are, they will take some time to take effect. The commissioning of the report and the report itself demonstrates the State’s commitment to fighting drug crime.

The law firm Hoffman DiMuzio has been helping those charged with drug-related crimes for many years across New Jersey. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

#NJCriminalDefenseAttorneys #DrugCrimes #PrescriptionDrugAbuse
Prescription drug abuse is at an all-time high in New Jersey, reported by the State Commission of Investigation, leading to more possession arrests.

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Receiving Stolen Goods: The Day the Cheese Went Missing - The case of Veniamin Balika shows that there is a black market in virtually every type of product. Mr. Balika was arrested in New Jersey in March 2013 for illegally importing $200,000 of Muenster cheese that he had stolen from a distributor in Wisconsin. Making his way across the country, Balika was hoping to sell the cheese in smaller blocks at below the usual market price. Balika’s crime is clear, but had he been successful in fencing his stash to customers, they, too, might have faced criminal charges.

Receiving stolen goods is a crime

The New Jersey code of criminal conduct sets out the offense of receiving stolen goods. Anyone who receives or brings stolen goods into the state knowing that they are stolen or probably stolen is guilty of an offense. There does not need to be any payment for the goods in order for a violation to occur. Being told that something is stolen immediately puts the recipient on notice that they are committing a crime. Where the person was not told directly, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that the recipient probably knew the goods were stolen property.

Courts determining whether a defendant probably knew they were purchasing stolen goods generally look for certain circumstances around the transaction, which include:

- Being offered something not normally or not yet available to the general public
- Being offered goods that are normally available but at a heavily reduced price
- Being offered items by someone that does not normally deal in such items
- Being sold items without being offered a receipt for payment

Acquiring a product known to be stolen in order to return it to its rightful owner is a valid defense.

Buying goods known to be stolen can carry possible health risks, as well as criminal sanctions. It is almost impossible to know whether a stolen product has been tampered with and whether it is safe for use or consumption. The cheese stolen by Mr. Balika was not returned to its rightful owners, who felt unable to vouch for its validity once it had been taken from them. Instead, it was donated to charity once tests were carried out to ensure it was harmless.

Hoffman DiMuzio is a law firm specializing in criminal defense. With five offices across New Jersey, its attorneys have broad experience of the court system across the State and are easily accessible.

#NJCriminalDefenseLawyers #StolenGoods #Theft
Buying goods known to be stolen carries possible health risks, as well as criminal sanctions, and you could face charges of receiving stolen property in NJ.

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Are You Covered by the Workers’ Compensation Laws in New Jersey While Commuting to Work? Generally, the answer is no. In New Jersey, injuries sustained commuting to or from work are usually not covered by Worker’s Compensation Laws. The law in New Jersey states that employment starts when an employee arrives at the employer’s place of employment to report for work and terminates when the employee leaves the employer’s place of employment. This means that if you are injured while walking on the public sidewalk on your way to work, or you are hit by a car while riding your bike on a public roadway on your way home from work, you are not covered by worker’s compensation laws in most circumstances. However, once you step, drive, or peddle onto a piece of property that is owned, maintained, or exclusively controlled by your employer you could be covered by worker’s compensation laws.

As with any rule, there are exceptions to this rule, and employees can possibly be covered even when they are not on their employer’s property.

1. The first exception is for off-site employees who are required by an employer to work at a location other than the employer’s premises. These employees can be covered if injured while engaging in the direct performance of duties assigned or directed by the employer regardless of location. For instance, a deliveryman would be covered if he dropped a package on his foot while attempting to make a delivery.

2. A second exception is the travel-time exception. The law provides for compensation when an employer pays for the actual travel time to or from a job site. The amount paid for the travel to or from job sites should be identifiable for this exception to apply. A flat rate of reimbursement for travel time that does not reflect the actual time travelled may not invoke this exception.

3. Third, is the first responder exception, which extends compensation to firemen, policemen, and first aid/rescue squad members who are responding to and returning from an emergency.

4. The fourth exception is for employees who are required to participate in a ride-sharing agreement; meaning that they either ride together with other employees in a vehicle that is owned, leased, or contracted for by the employer, or the employer requires that the employees travel in a ride-sharing arrangement as a condition of employment.

5. Fifth, is the minor deviation exception, which covers an injured employee who deviates from his work to do such things as getting some fresh air, using the telephone, having a cigarette, grabbing a cup of coffee, or satisfy other human needs incidental to his employment. For instance, imagine an employee who shows up for a meeting, but the employer he is to meet with is running late. The employee leaves the building to go get a cup of coffee to kill some time and is injured on the way. He would likely be covered by worker’s compensation laws in New Jersey. However, be aware that it was also found by New Jersey Courts that an off-site employee who stopped to drop off his own personal mail at the post office was not covered when he was injured at the post office.

6. Lastly, is the compulsion exception, which extends coverage to employees who are compelled to participate in recreational or social activities by the employer and are injured as a result. An example could be an employee who is required to participate in an off-site company softball game and twists his ankle. The ankle injury could be covered under Worker’s Compensation laws in New Jersey.

If you are injured while commuting to or from work, or you are injured while on the job but not while on your employer’s premises, and you are unsure if you meet one of the exceptions, contact our firm and ask to speak to one of our New Jersey Workers’ Compensation attorneys.

#NJWorkersCompensationAttorneys #JobRelatedAccidents #WorkInjury
The law in New Jersey states that employment starts when an employee arrives at the employer’s place of employment to report for work and terminates when the employee leaves the employer’s place of employment. However, there are exceptions to the rule.

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Collaboration Between Departments Makes New Jersey Drug Courts Successful: New Jersey has had Drug Courts since 1996, when it established pilot programs in the Camden and Essex Superior Courts. By 1999, the program was extended to an additional three counties before becoming a state wide project in 2001. New Jersey’s drug courts are a collaborative venture between courts, prosecutors, law enforcement and treatment providers.

Drug court programs offer a number of advantages over trying drug offenders in the traditional court system:

- They aim to treat the person’s addiction as well as their crime, focusing on recovery in order to avoid the cycle of reoffending
- Drug court programs are cheaper than prison sentences
- Successful graduates of drug programs are eligible to obtain vocational training

Drug court is not an easy option ― but it works

Only non-violent drug related cases can be heard in drug court. Although it is an alternative to a more formal court process with traditional sentencing, drug court should not be seen as an easy ride for those who are eligible for the program. Whether drug court will work for you depends on a wide range of factors, one of which is how badly you want to kick your drug habit and change your life's direction.

Graduates of the course seem happy to extol its virtues, with mostly positive testimonials displayed on the New Jersey Judiciary website. Some alumnae state that it was tough but their life has improved as a result of the course.  Nearly 30% of the graduates of New Jersey’s drug court have advanced their education or vocational skills while in the program. Some graduates have even gone on to become mentors for other participants.

If you have been charged with a non-violent drug-related crime and want to know if the drug court system might benefit you, make an appointment with New Jersey law firm Hoffman DiMuzio. Having served the New Jersey community for more than 35 years, our criminal defense attorneys are experienced in all aspects of the system.

#NJCriminalDefenseLawyers #DrugCourts #DrugCrimes
New Jersey’s drug courts are a collaborative venture between courts, prosecutors, law enforcement and treatment providers.

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Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability? With Social Security Disability (SSD) claims on the rise, a crackdown on bogus claims is imminent. Absent a more stringent approach, the national welfare budget will become severely stretched and, as a result, genuine claims may suffer. To qualify for SSD benefits, it is therefore crucial to obtain legal assistance early in the process, and to be aware of the following:

1. Your condition must be a recognized disability

The Social Security Administration maintains a definitive list of recognized disabilities, which entitle individuals to SSD benefits. Known as the Blue Book, the Administration's catalogue categorizes various medical conditions, each with a range of severity. Under certain conditions, an individual illness may not be sufficient to qualify one for benefits.  However, a combination of listed impairments taken together may be sufficient. Also, medical impairments that prevent your return to past work or alternative work may entitle you to SSD benefits.

2. Your disability must be long term or terminal

The condition or conditions for which you are claiming benefits must be expected to last for at least 12 months or be expected to result in death. Short-term disabilities lasting less than 12 months are not covered. A mandatory waiting period of five months helps to ascertain whether a disability is long-term or not. Payments to eligible claimants usually commence in month six after a claim has been approved.

3. You must have paid your taxes

To be eligible for SSD benefits, claimants must have paid Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. Workers accrue credit for the amount of time that they have worked. As a rule of thumb, one year of work equals four quarters of “credit.” Generally, you must have paid FICA taxes for five out of the last 10 years to qualify for benefits, but there are exceptions for certain disabilities such as blindness and for younger workers who have not had time to build up sufficient credits. FICA taxes are paid by all employees and employers, including the self-employed, in order to provide a budget for Social Security and Medicare payouts.

If you believe that you are eligible for SSD benefits, a law firm experienced in workers compensation and Social Security Disability can help you. Hoffman DiMuzio is a New Jersey law firm large enough to provide the services that you need from a big law firm with the caring approach of a small one. Call us for more information. Should you need our services, we are ready to assist you.

#NJWorkersCompensationLawyers #SocialSecurityDisability #SSDEligibility
To qualify for SSD benefits, your condition must be a recognized disability, your disability must be long term or terminal & you must have paid your taxes.

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The One Text Message You Should Not Send In New Jersey: No, we are not talking about the angry text to your boss after he asks you to come in on Saturday, or the late night text to an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend.  The one text message you will regret sending is one that could cause serious injuries.  Beginning August 27, 2013, texting to a driver could make you liable for a car crash at which you were not even present.  An Appellate Court in New Jersey recently found that “the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.”

Must You Stop Sending Text Messages Completely For Fear of Potential Liability?

No, but you should be aware of this new, possible exposure to liability for texting under certain circumstances.  Even though the Court created this new possible liability, the sender of the text message in the recent Appellate Division case of Kubert v. Best was actually found not liable in the following circumstances: she sent a text message to her friend approximately 30 seconds before he crossed over the center line of the road; he struck a husband and wife who were riding a motorcycle; each motorcyclist lost a leg.  The Court found that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.” However, the Court concluded that the texter in the Best case did not have a reason to know that the driver would read the texts while driving (despite finding that the texter and the driver had sent over 62 texts back and forth on the day of the accident, and the sender, like most teenagers these days, admitted to sending around 100 texts a day).

Texting and Calling While Driving Is Targeted in New Jersey…

New Jersey law prohibits sending text messages or using a non-hands free phone while driving.  Another law makes it a crime to cause someone personal injuries as a result of using your cell phone while driving.  Now, texters in New Jersey who are not even driving should be aware of this possible new liability for texting someone who may be driving.  Unfortunately, the Court did not tell us how a texter will know if the driver will actually view the text message while driving.

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.  Do your part to decrease those statistics, and be mindful of whom you are texting. As you can see, New Jersey laws and court decisions restrict texting in certain circumstances to minimize the dangers associated with living in a mobile society.

#NJAutoAccidentLawyers #Texting #DistractedDriving
Beginning August 27, 2013, texting to a driver could make you liable for a car crash at which you were not even present.

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Are Your Elderly Loved Ones Well Cared For? While some people go to a nursing home for rehabilitation or recuperation after an injury or hospitalization, most go there for hospice care — meaning for the rest of their lives. Approximately one in five deaths in the United States takes place in a nursing home.

Nursing home neglect and abuse is more common than you may think
Frailty, medical issues, and possible lack of mental clarity leave our loved ones extremely vulnerable and defenseless. Various studies conducted over the past decade have shown that residents suffer abuse or neglect in one in three nursing homes in the United States—in one study, over half the nursing staff interviewed admitted to mistreating older residents.  Abuse may be physical, sexual, psychological, or financial.  Neglect may mean the refusal to provide food, clothing, toileting, or medical treatment.

Signs of neglect and abuse

Sadly, much of the nursing home abuse and neglect goes undetected because the victims are simply not able to express their pain or report it to others. That's why it's crucial for you to be on the alert for any signs or symptoms of abuse.  Any one or more of the following might indicate abuse or neglect and should be investigated:

- bedsores
- skin rash
- lack of personal hygiene
- smell of urine and/or feces
- bone fractures
- cuts, bruises or lesions
- significant weight loss
- dehydration
- disorientation
- depression, fear or anxiety
- refusal or inability to communicate

Nursing home neglect and abuse is a crime

In response to reports of widespread neglect and abuse, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Act.  This law requires nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to provide services and activities to maintain that best possible physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of their residents. State regulations provide residents of New Jersey with additional resident rights, which include the right to live in a clean and safe facility, the right to be free of restraints and the right to voice your complaints without threats or intimidation.

Holding nursing homes accountable

Under state and federal laws, victims of nursing home abuse and/or their loved ones can seek damages for pain and suffering, medical negligence, financial exploitation, and more.  If you suspect your loved one has been the victim of nursing abuse or neglect, or want to protect them by having an attorney review their care plan prior to admission in a nursing home, consult with one of Hoffman DiMuzio’s experienced personal injury lawyers.

#NJNursingHomeAbuseLawyers #NursingHomeNeglect #PersonalInjury
Any one or more of the following might indicate abuse or neglect and should be investigated.

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Social Security Claims System at Stretching Point: New Jersey’s monthly bill for Social Security payments is reported to be about $260 million. With 4% of its population receiving SSD payments, New Jersey is roughly midway in the table of states providing SSD payments to its citizens. Some states are paying out SSD to 10% of their population. In the last 10 years, the number of people claiming Social Security Disability in New Jersey has risen by 40%. Two possible reasons for this increase are:

The recession ― The economic downturn has led to a rise in unemployment and a reduction in the real income of workers. This makes it tempting for people to apply for benefits.  Also, disabilities that may have been bearable previously encourage those with borderline SSD claims to test the system.

A better understanding of disability ― Only individuals suffering from conditions classified as disabilities by the Social Security Administration are eligible for SSD benefits. Medical practitioners are getting better at diagnosing the conditions that people are suffering from and lawyers are getting better at determining which disabilities, or combination of illnesses, will justify making a claim.  This combination has also led to an increase in claims.

How you can speed your claim through an overloaded system

With more people attempting to claim SSD benefits and a corresponding increase in the number of appeals being heard by the courts, some states have become overloaded with cases.

If you believe that you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you need to speak to a lawyer experienced in applying for SSD to discuss whether you have a qualifying disability and ensure that your claim does not get stuck in the system or unfairly rejected. The law firm of Hoffman DiMuzio has handled SSD claims in New Jersey for more than 35 years. Contact our office for a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you should the need arise.

#NJSSDLawyers #SocialSecurityClaims #DisabilityBenefits
The number of people claiming Social Security Disability in New Jersey has risen by 40% in 10 years because of recession and disability benefit awareness.
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