NEW JERSEY PERSONAL INJURY LAW UPDATE

Our state Supreme Court recently issued two notable decisions in the field of personal injury law.

First, it held that an employee’s fall at a volunteer event was covered by the worker’s compensation statute.  The injured woman was a cook who volunteered to prepare meals at an event sponsored by her non-profit employer. Her injury at the event qualified for worker’s compensation benefits said the Court.  Generally, an employee injury sustained during recreational or social activities is not compensable unless those activities are a regular incident of employment and produce a benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale. The “Family Fun Day” event at issue, in this case, was an outreach event on a weekend used by the employer to bond with its disabled clients and create goodwill in the community. It, therefore, qualified as being entitled to worker’s compensation coverage.

The second case involved New Jersey Transit and a bus passenger struck in the head by a liquor bottle. In New Jersey, most defendants (such as a personal vehicle driver) are held to an ordinary negligence standard of being a reasonably prudent person. However, private sector common carriers, such as bus companies, are held to a higher standard, to exercise the utmost caution to protect their passengers. Against arguments that New Jersey Transit as a public entity was entitled to be held to a lower standard, the Supreme Court decided that New Jersey Transit should be held to the common carrier standard, which will make it more difficult in the future for New Jersey Transit to defend itself in personal injury suits. The incident occurred after a group of teenagers began throwing items at the plaintiff and one of them flashed a knife. The plaintiff called out for help but the bus driver ignored her and kept driving. This may be something for the Legislature to address since practically, a bus driver’s job is to drive the bus and not to act as a police officer. It seems that this standard creates an unwarranted windfall. 

Even experienced personal injury attorneys need to keep up to date on legal developments. These court decisions readily show why you need a personal injury lawyer to handle your claim. Call us today.

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