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Dispelling the myth of assumption of risk

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

While most in Ocean County might claim to understand workers’ compensation benefits, that understanding is typically limited to the knowledge that said benefits help cover the expenses that arise from a work-related accident. Beyond that, details such as benefit limits, reporting requirements and qualifying criteria are likely a mystery to them. Speaking specifically about that final point, many may think that certain aspects about one’s job may actually disqualify them from workers’ compensation coverage. An example of this line of thinking may be people believing that certain jobs already present inherent dangers, and those who do them agree to assume those risks. 

Information shared by Time Magazine lists the most dangerous professions in America as follows: 

  • Logging
  • Commercial fishing
  • Aviation
  • Roofing
  • Waste management
  • Iron and steel

Some might think that employers in these industries are justified in denying (or not offering) workers’ compensation given that employees understand that the dangers that accompany such work. Such an assumption is wrong (at least in New Jersey). 

Per Section 34:15-2 of New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Law, an employer cannot deny workers’ compensation based on the principle of assumption of risk. It can also not withhold such coverage by claiming that an employee’s own negligence contributed to whatever work-related accident they suffered. 

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Cases where an employee’s injuries were self-inflicted or were the result of being impaired by drugs or alcohol are not covered by workers’ compensation benefits. The same is true if the employee knowingly refused to use the safety equipment provided by an employer. In such a case, however, the employer must show that using such equipment was a condition of the employee’s employment, and that repeated documented attempts were made to warn them of the potential consequences of not using it.