If you have been injured on the job or have suffered an occupational illness in New Jersey, you may be entitled to legal compensation. Navigating the legal complexities in order to receive compensation, however, requires a full understanding of the steps to take after a workplace injury has occurred or an occupational illness has been contracted.
New Jersey has strict rules outlining how the workers' compensation process works, so keep the following tips in mind to collect the benefits you deserve.
Notify Your Employer and Seek Medical Attention
Do not delay in informing your employer of any injury. New Jersey law requires you to notify your employer within reasonable time, so be sure to give notice to someone in a position of authority at your employer's place of business.
For notice purposes, "someone in authority" can include a foreman, supervisor, or an employee in the personnel office. Notice of the injury does not need to be in writing (although it is always wise to have documentation of the notice you give). Informing the employer will help to ensure that you fill out the right paperwork at the outset, helping you avoid unnecessary delays or reductions to your deserved benefits. Notifying an employer will also enable them to document the injury and exempt you from returning to work immediately, which could aggravate or worsen an injury that requires medical treatment.
Receiving medical attention as soon as possible will give your injuries the best chance of healing as quickly and completely as possible while also providing the medical documentation and proof needed for filing a successful workers' compensation claim. For these reasons, be sure to be thorough and detailed when discussing the injury with your medical care provider.
Visit the Right Medical Provider
One of the most important reasons to notify your employer is that they can ensure the physician you see has pre-approval from your employer. Typically, New Jersey employers have the legal right to select the physicians who provide the first treatment and care for injuries that occur on the job as outlined by NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-15 (2016).
There are some exceptions to this rule, such as situations in which emergency medical treatment is needed, but most New Jersey employees must see a pre-approved medical provider. If the injury is an emergency, get help immediately, using whatever information you already have about your employer's established procedures for these situations.
If you see a doctor who is not approved, this can unnecessarily cause you to forfeit the right to legal compensation for your injuries. In short, see a medical provider as soon as possible, and make sure to get pre-approval from your employer if it's safe and appropriate to do so.
Find a Reputable Workers' Compensation Attorney
Before consulting with a trusted New Jersey workers' compensation or personal injury attorney, your primary tasks are to notify your employer, see an appropriate medical care provider, and focus on getting better. The workers' compensation lawyer you choose will help you handle the legal complexities of receiving the benefits and compensation you need. As such, choosing the right worker's compensation lawyer is going to be the most important step toward a successful workers' compensation claim.
Trust your experienced New Jersey workers' compensation attorney's advice. Your lawyer has been here before and has the knowledge needed to help you file a successful claim. This includes helping you file a timely claim petition.
Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim Petition
An injured employee is required by law to submit their claim petition to the New Jersey Department of Labor (DOL) within two years of the date of injury or the date of last compensation payment, whichever is later. There are very few exceptions to this statutory requirement, but perhaps the most common is occupational illness. For occupational illness such as lead poisoning or hearing loss, a claim petition must be filed within two years of the date that the worker first became aware of the illness and its relation to their employment.
After filing a petition, it is essential to note that New Jersey workers' compensation law requires all employees to wait 26 weeks before filing this claim with the DOL, however. In effect, this means you must wait 26 weeks after you have received treatment for your injuries and a treating physician's letter that you are at maximum medical improvement (MMI) before you can file this claim.
The requirement to file a claim to the DOL within two years, when paired with the MMI requirement, does not give injured workers much time to delay or put off their claim. Immediately reach out to a New Jersey workers' compensation lawyer who will help guide you if these timelines come into conflict.
Contact our team for a legal consultation to discuss your New Jersey workplace injury and to begin the process of filing a workers' compensation claim petition.
For a comprehensive overview of workers' compensation in New Jersey, see our guide here.