New Jersey Court Discusses Workers’ Compensation Medical Benefits

Employees that suffer injuries while working are often able to recover workers’ compensation medical benefits from their employers. However, in some instances, while an employer may not dispute that an employee suffered a work-related injury, it may nonetheless argue that the treatment the employee seeks is not reasonable or necessary. In such cases, the courts will typically resolve the dispute based on which party’s medical expert offers more compelling testimony, as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey case in which the employer argued its employee’s prescription was not compensable. If you were hurt at work, and your employer denied you workers’ compensation benefits for the treatment of your injuries, you should consult a skilled New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to assess your rights.

Facts and Case History

Reportedly, the plaintiff suffered a back injury in a car accident in 2011, when he was working for the defendant. He subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim and, in 2014, received a fifteen percent partial disability award for the injury to his lower back and aggravation of a pre-existing injury. He then filed a motion to compel the defendant to pay for his opioid painkiller prescription. The defendant opposed the motion, and a hearing was held during which the plaintiff’s treating physician and the defendant’s medical expert testified.

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s doctor testified that the plaintiff would never heal through the use of pain medication and that the only treatment that would address his symptoms was surgery. The defendant’s expert testified, though, it was reasonable for the plaintiff to be on opioid medication for long-term management of his pain. The court found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing the court improperly granted greater weight to the testimony of his treating doctor. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Demonstrating Treatment is Compensable Under the Workers’ Compensation Statute

Under New Jersey law, workers’ compensation judges have the expertise needed to weigh the testimony of competing experts and are in the best position to assess their credibility and demeanor. Further, they are not bound by the opinions or conclusions of any or all of the medical experts that testify, and the fact that a judge grants greater weight to the opinion of one doctor over another is not grounds for the reversal of a judgment.

In the subject case, the workers’ compensation judge explained that the plaintiff’s treating physician had greater knowledge with regards to the plaintiff’s condition than the defendant’s expert who had merely examined the plaintiff on one occasion. Further, the appellate court found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the opioid medication would relieve or cure the effects of his injury, as required for it to be compensable under the law. As such, the lower court ruling was affirmed.

Consult an Experienced New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Workplace accidents can cause significant and lasting harm, but employers do not always want to provide injured employees with the care they need. If you were hurt at work and your employer denies that your medical treatment is compensable, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are adept at helping injured employees seek the full amount of benefits recoverable, and we will work diligently to help you pursue a just outcome. You can reach us through the online form or at 800-999-0897 to schedule a consultation.

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