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Does an Injury Suffered on Break or Lunch Qualify for Workers’ Compensation?

Workers who are injured on the job are typically entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits for their injuries. However, a worker’s entitlement to benefits may be called into question if his or her injury occurred while the worker was on a rest or meal break.

Workers’ Compensation Explained

Workers’ compensation is a legal system under which employers are required to self-insure or purchase insurance to provide benefits to their employees who suffer injuries on the job or develop medical conditions as a result of their injury. The requirements for employers to participate in the workers’ compensation system vary from state to state, usually based on a minimum number of employees working for the employer in that state. Some states allow some or all employers to self-insure, while other states mandate most or all employers to obtain commercial workers’ compensation insurance.

The workers’ compensation system is considered a no-fault system. This means that a worker is not required to prove who was at fault for his or her injury or illness, only that his or her injury or illness is work-related. This means that once the work-related nature of a worker’s injury or illness is established, he or she is automatically entitled to compensation benefits. In exchange for guaranteed benefits, workers’ compensation laws prohibit a worker suffering from a work-related illness or injury from asserting a personal injury claim against his or her employer (except in very limited circumstances). 

When Workers’ Compensation Is Paid

In order for a worker to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, he or she must be an employee (as opposed to an independent contractor) and his or her illness or injury must arise out of the course and scope of his or her employment. Thus, a worker’s eligibility for benefits often hinges on whether the worker was injured or developed his or her illness while performing duties for his or her employer. As a result, workers’ compensation administrators and courts look at when a worker’s injury occurred, where it occurred, and what the worker was doing at the time of his or her injury. 

Determining Whether an Injured Employee Is Acting in the Employer’s Interest

When a worker is injured on a rest or meal break, workers’ compensation hearing officers or courts will try to determine whether the employee was acting in his or her own interest or in the employer’s interest. If the employee was acting in the employer’s interest when suffering an injury on a break, that injury will be compensable under workers’ compensation laws. If an employee is asked to perform some work-related task while on his or her break, then his or her injury will often be determined to be work-related unless the injury occurred under circumstances that were extensively removed from work-related tasks (for example, if the worker is injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a restaurant picking up lunch before leaving to complete a work-related task). 

However, some states take a more expansive view on the issue of the employer’s interests during rest or meal breaks. Some courts have ruled that rest breaks are in the employer’s interest because it ensures rested and productive employees. Other courts have imposed workers’ compensation liability on employers when employees are injured at the on-campus cafeteria during a meal break.

Contact Drazin & Warshaw to Discuss Your Red Bank Personal Injury Matter

A workplace injury can be devastating, particularly if it prevents you from returning to work for an extended period of time. Although New Jersey Workers’ Compensation laws are supposed to provide you with reimbursement for medical expenses and replacement pay for missed time at work, it is not always easy to get the workers’ comp benefits you deserve. That is why you should speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer about your situation and get guidance throughout the claims process. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Drazin & Warshaw P.C. represent clients in Toms River, Lakewood Township, Brick Township, Jackson Township and throughout Ocean County, Middlesex County and Monmouth County, New Jersey. Call Drazin & Warshaw, P.C. at (732) 576-8860 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a  consultation about your work injury case. Our main office is located at 25 Reckless Pl., Red Bank, NJ 07701, and we also have offices in Hazlet and Brick Township.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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