Not all work-related accidents and injuries can be avoided. New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system exists to protect employees who suffer from such an injury. The Second Injury Fund was put into place to provide extra protection for employers and employees, when the employee has previously suffered an injury.
When the Second Injury Fund is triggered
Imagine an individual who has already suffered some form of injury or illness – it could be heart disease or a bad back. They want to return to work but employers are reluctant to hire them do to the preexisting condition. After all, if the employee has a work-related accident and becomes disabled, the employer would be responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits for an extended period of time. The employer may not want to take that risk.
New Jersey created the Second Injury Fund to address this concern by employers. As a way of encouraging employers to hire employees who were previously injured or ill, the Second Injury Fund takes over financial responsibility for that portion of a disability caused by the previous injury – the employer is only liable for the new injury.
In order for the Second Injury Fund to be applicable, the employee must have had an illness or injury prior to the injury which now necessitates worker’s compensation. The previous injury or illness does not have to be work-related. The second injury does have to be work-related and the employee must now be totally disabled and unable to work, as a result of combining both the old and new injuries.
The Second Injury Fund does not take effect immediately. Instead of being paid alongside normal workers’ compensation benefits, it replaces them as they run out. Assuming the individual remains totally disabled, benefits from the Second Injury Fund are paid for life.