In a another blog post, I explained that you have 90 days to report a work injury in New Jersey. What happens when your employer has a different policy? Employers are allowed to create their own internal deadlines for reporting injuries. Often employers will require reporting on the job injuries within 24 or 48 hours. Does this mean your employer can permanently deny your workers’ compensation claim? No.
However, if you take too long to report a claim, your employer or its insurance carrier will very likely deny your claim. This means you’ll have an uphill battle to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
An employer can require you to report an injury within a certain amount of time just like it can require you to arrive to work on time every day. If you are consistently late, your employer will discipline or terminate you. If an employer policy regarding accident reporting only applies internally, you are still protected by the workers’ compensation statute when it comes to your worker’s compensation benefits.
Under New Jersey Law, you can receive workers’ compensation benefits as long as you report the injury within 90 days. It is very important to understand this difference. The workers’ compensation statute does NOT protect you from discipline for violating your employer’s policy.
For instance, an employer can require all accidents to be reported the same day or within 24 hours. These policies are permissible, and if you do not follow them you could be subject to reprimand or further discipline, including termination, from your employer. Even though this is different than the workers’ compensation requirements under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation statute, it is allowed because it doesn’t actually impact your right to workers’ compensation benefits.
What if your employer requires that all accidents are reported within 24 hour? If you injure yourself at work on a Friday and wait to report it because you want to see how your injury feels over the weekend, then your employer can discipline you for failing to report the injury within 24 hours. You could receive a write up or possibly be terminated for failing to follow your employer’s policy.
However, your employer cannot deny you workers’ compensation benefits if you report an accident within 90 days due to the worker’s compensation statute. A specific injury is one that you can pinpoint the time and place of when you were injured. This is different than a repetitive stress injury that occurs over a period of time from performing the same strenuous activities over and over at work. This does NOT mean your employer or it’s workers’ compensation carrier won’t deny your claim.
Employers enact their own internal reporting requirements for several reasons. The quicker the accident is reported, the sooner they can investigate the claim. Employers are looking for other causes to an injury, and the longer you take to report an injury, the more likely your employer will look to show that it is not work related.
As I’ve said before, if you’re hurt at work, report it when it happens. You will not do yourself any favors by failing to report an on the job injury.
James Creegan is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark's Lawrenceville, New Jersey office concentrating his practice in Workers' Compensation law. For questions, or to schedule a free consultaiton with Mr. Creegan, please contact him here.