If you’ve been injured at work, it’s important to know what you need to do to protect your rights under New Jersey’s worker’s compensation law. One issue that could prevent injured workers from collecting benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled is failing to report an injury and file a claim in a timely manner. This article will break down the timeline of New Jersey workers’ compensation to help you understand important deadlines and make sure you’re taking the steps needed to secure your benefits.
The first step is to notify your employer as soon as you reasonably can. Notice doesn’t need to be in writing (although written or electronic records of communications can be useful in case of a dispute), and it can be delivered to anyone in a position of authority at your place of business, such as a manager, supervisor, or HR representative. The notice must make your employer aware of your name and the date and location of your injury. Because different types of injury manifest differently, how soon it’s possible to provide notice will vary. If your employer has actual knowledge of the injury (for example, if an accident and the resulting injury were clearly witnessed by a supervisor), then formal notice is not required.
If, after you notify your employer of a workplace injury, they refuse to report the incident to their insurer, you may contact the insurer directly or file a claim with the workers’ compensation division. Employers are required to prominently post proof of coverage at their place of business; however, if you cannot locate it, you can request the information from the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development suggests that, if you file a claim, you may wish to contact an attorney to assist you with it.
The 14- and 30-Day Rules
New Jersey’s workers’ comp law sets an initial expectation that employees report workplace injuries within fourteen days. However, the law doesn’t draw a hard line here. It goes on to state that if notice isn’t received within this timeframe, “no compensation shall be due until such notice is given or knowledge obtained.” It further states that as long as notice is provided within 30 days, no defect in the notice will bar compensation unless, and only to the extent that, the defect resulted in prejudice (i.e., harm) to the employer.
While the law explicitly refrains from barring claims based solely on failure to meet the 14-day window, it’s important to understand that timely reporting can help you establish that your injury occurred at work. The more time passes between the incident and the report, the more room for doubt as to the source of an injury. To create the firmest possible connection between your injury and your work environment or activities, it’s in your interest to report the injury to your employer as soon as you can.
The 90-Day Rule
After laying out these fourteen- and 30-day rules, the statute goes on to draw a firmer line at 90 days:
If the notice is given, or the knowledge obtained within ninety (90) days, and if the employee, or other beneficiary, shall show that his failure to give prior notice was due to his mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact or law, or inability, or to the fraud, misrepresentation or deceit of another person, or to any other reasonable cause or excuse, then compensation may be allowed, unless, and then to the extent only that the employer shall show that he was prejudiced by failure to receive such notice.
In essence, this gives employees many legitimate excuses for missing the fourteen- and 30-day deadlines, allowing them to collect compensation as long as notice is provided within 90 days. If the employee simply made a mistake or didn’t understand how the law works, for example, New Jersey law protects their right to recover during this period. However, the law stipulates that if notice isn’t given within this 90-day window, “no compensation shall be allowed.”
The Hernia Rule
One important caveat to the notice requirement is that New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws treat traumatic hernias differently than other injuries. Workers who suffer a traumatic hernia at work have just 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) to report this injury. So, if you experience an injury at work that produces symptoms consistent with hernia, be sure to report it to your employer right away, even if you haven’t been diagnosed yet.
2-Year Filing Deadline
Unless you and your employer file a settlement agreement with the workers’ compensation bureau before this time, you must file a petition in duplicate with the secretary of the workers’ compensation bureau within two years of the date of the incident that gave rise to the injury. The contents of the petition are detailed in the statute:
- The addresses of the injured worker and the employer
- Facts relating to the worker’s employment at the time of injury
- A description of the injury and its extent
- Wages received at the time of injury
- Description of the knowledge of or notice to the employer of the incident and injury
- Other facts the bureau may need to make a fully informed decision about the case
- The issues that remain in dispute and the employee’s contentions about these issues
A paper copy must be “verified by oath or affirmation of the petitioner.” You can obtain a form for the petition from the workers’ compensation division, which will also assist you in preparing them upon request. Failure to file the petition within this two-year timeframe permanently bars compensation for workplace injury or death.
The Occupational Disease Exception
A notable exception to the notice and filing deadlines is the case of “occupational disease,” which includes conditions “arising out of and in the course of employment, which are due in material degree” to factors that are associated with the employee’s particular type or place of employment. Examples of conditions often considered occupational diseases include hearing loss resulting from noise in the workplace, conditions created by repetitive motion in performing job tasks, and exposure to toxins or carcinogens in the workplace.
Limits to Occupational Disease Claims
Bear in mind, however, that the right to workers compensation for occupational disease isn’t limitless. First of all, workers have a responsibility to protect themselves on the job. This includes following safety protocols and using protective equipment as advised by their employers. Repeated failure to do so can create a bar to future claims.,
Furthermore, once a worker is aware they have an illness or injury that’s related to their work, the two-year filing deadline, described above, applies—even in the case of occupational disease. The purpose of allowing claims after this time is to ensure workers whose injuries and their source take longer to become apparent have ample opportunity to seek workers’ compensation. In the case of workers who are aware they suffer from workplace injuries, this is not a relevant concern.
Help with New Jersey Workers’ Comp Claims
Workers’ compensation cases can be complex, and employers and their insurers often have attorneys working to limit their liability. Having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side helps ensure you receive the full amount you’re entitled to under New Jersey law. To learn more about New Jersey workers’ compensation law, browse our blog.
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-17 (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-12(c)(23) (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-51 (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-41 (2019)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-31 (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-30 (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-35.22 (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 34:15-34 (2013)