Following serious trauma like an auto accident, many doctors are understandably hesitant to release injured patients back to work right away. This creates a dilemma for many wage-earning workers, particularly those who are non-salary and do not have any short-term disability benefits through their employer. Thankfully, many auto policies in New Jersey carry a type of coverage known as Income Continuation Benefits (“ICB”), which can help alleviate financial pressures while a victim is trying to heal.
ICBs are a capped weekly benefit that usually have a limited duration (i.e. up to $600 per week for up to 52 weeks). Since you get to elect how much coverage you have when you buy the policy, it’s important that you select coverage that is equivalent to your anticipated income. This works both ways in that you shouldn’t purchase more coverage than you think you will earn. For example, if you are retired, there would be no benefit to paying the extra premium for a benefit in which you wouldn’t be able to collect.
This type of benefit is typically secondary to other available sources of disability, including even short-term disability through the State. Therefore, you may not need as much coverage as you think if you factor in other sources which may be primary.
For example, if you earn $1,000 per week in wages, you could receive up to a maximum of $604 per week (2015 rate) from State disability. Therefore, you would only need to purchase another $400 per week in ICB to be made whole for your lost wages.
It’s important to understand that the determination as to whether or not you are able to work must be made by the physician treating you for your accident-related injuries. Therefore, getting a disability note from a Primary Care Physician who is not providing the actual treatment might not be adequate documentation for the claim to be paid.
If you are having to miss work due to accident-related injuries, make sure to discuss your work status with your treating doctor and employer. You doctor may be willing you release you to “light duty” work with restrictions, but depending on your career there may be no such work available where you work. In these circumstances, make sure to also get a note from your employer indicating that they cannot accommodate you for light duty work given the physical nature of your work.