What Do I Have to Do When I Reopen My Worker Comp Case That I Settled Less Than 2 Years Ago?

Submitted by New Jersey Workers Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In this case the Appellate Division addressed and increase in disability claimed by the petitioner Mr. Roy. The central issue was the proper handling of the case by the petitioners attorney and the arguments the defense attorney raised.  In this case the petitioner was initially injured in 2011, filed a Worker’s Compensation petition, eventually entered into an Order Approving Settlement in 2012 for 22.5% partial total disability. His injuries were related to orthopedic and neurological injuries and residuals from a lumbar spine compression fracture at L1-L2 and a bulging disc at L5-S1.

Slightly less than two years after the settlement was approved by the court, in 2014, the petitioner filed a reopener of alleging a substantial increase in disability arising out of the initial 2011 fall.  The parties agree that medical testimony would be submitted by reports and the petitioner was to testify.

At the conclusion of the plane of testifying the parties submitted written trial memos with the updated permanency report and arguments.

When the trial judge decided, after considering the petitioner’s testimony, that he had suffered a increase in disability consistent with his testimony, the employer appealed.

First and foremost, the Appellate Division acknowledged the difference being entitled to the Worker’s Compensation Judge as an expert in the field.  Next the Appellate Division acknowledge that difference is given to the judges decision so long it is it is supported by sufficient credible evidence present in the record considered by the proofs as a whole. The judge is also given due regard given her opportunity to hear the witnesses and judge their credibility.  The Worker’s Compensation judges decision will not be overturned unless they are manifestly unsupported or inconsistent with competent relevant and credible evidence so as to offend the interest of justice.

In other words, in this case the petitioners attorney did an excellent job in providing factual testimony by his client, and supported the testimony with medical evidence upon which the judge could rely. The Abella division recognize the defense arguments where without merit because he was arguing isolated different parts of the medical records as opposed to the presentation of the entire medical file petitioner as a whole.

However, in this case the Appellate Division overwhelmingly believe the judge, within her expertise in Worker’s Compensation matters, is entitled to deferential review under the existing Appellate Division review structure. The trial judge supporter her findings of fact and conclusions based on the medical records, expert report and the testimony of the petitioner to support her over a basis for the petitioners increase disability.

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