Usually, when an employee does not report a claim in a timely fashion, the employer can use such failure as a defense in a workers’ compensation court. However, lack of timely notice is rarely one of those defenses in New Jersey. It would appear as though lack of timely notice should be the first defense that comes to mind when a claim is not reported within 30 or 60 days. However, in accordance with the way in which the New Jersey notice statute is worded, employers rarely prevail on such a defense. Employers frequently win cases that are not timely reported for entirely different reasons.
According to N.J.S.A. 34:15-17, an employee is required to report a work injury within 14 days, and the employer is under no obligation to provide compensation for the injury until it is informed of the injury. However, if the employee reports the claim after 14 days have elapsed, but prior to the expiration of 30 days, the employer will prevail on notice only if it can prove it was prejudiced because of the late reporting. If the employer is made aware of the injury within 90 days and does not suffer prejudice because of the late notice, the employer will be unable to win on the defense of notice.
Because it is difficult for employers to prove they suffered prejudice, the only alternative for them is the 90-day notice rule. Moreover, the statute does not provide a definition of the word “prejudice,” and there are no cases that address this issue. It may seem unjust to employers that the statute permits employees a maximum of 90 days in which to report a claim. It may prove challenging for an employer to investigate a claim that is reported one month or many months after the injury occurred.
Employees are well advised to report a claim in a timely fashion, for failure to do so often results in strong defenses. The two principal defenses are that there is no proof that an accident took place, and that even if an accident occurred, it was not sufficiently serious to be the cause of the current illness. The majority of employers train their employees to report a work injury within 24 hours. Therefore, if an employee waits two weeks, one month or two months to report a work injury when the employer has implemented a prompt reporting policy, it frequently indicates that the incident may not have taken place or that it was insignificant.
If you suffered an injury at work, call the South Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys at Petrillo & Goldberg. They will help you navigate the complex rules and regulations concerning workers’ compensation, and assist you in obtaining the benefits you deserve.