The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Statute section  N.J.S.A. 34:15-17 requires injuries to be reported within 90 days of a work accident.  A recent case, Ader v. Lebanon Township, addresses this section of the statute, and confirms the importance of reporting accidents within 90 days. This section of the statute is designed to give the employer the benefit of timely investigation into the accident.  The employee in the above case waited 15 months to report his injury to his employer, and thus was denied workers’ compensation benefits by the court.

The employee worked as a volunteer EMT for the Township of Lebanon.  On November 18, 2008, this employee climbed onto the back of a tow-truck to investigate an accident, and when he jumped off of the truck he felt pain in his low back.  He did not report this accident to his employer or request medical care.  A few weeks later he felt pain in his hips so he went to his own doctor and spoke about the work incident jumping off of the truck, but not until two months after the accident.  Eleven months after the accident his own doctor sent him to a surgeon who diagnosed a serious condition that would require hip replacements.  The employee told the surgeon about the pain he experienced after jumping off of the tow-truck at work.  The employee finally reported the accident to the Township in February of 2010.

The Township denied the claim on the basis of the above “Notice” statute, and took the position that this employee waited too long to report his injury.  The employee’s position was that he really did not know his condition was work related until the surgeon told him so.  The Court rejected his argument, and found that the employee knew he was injured on November 18, 2008, or shortly thereafter, and held that he should have reported the event to his employer within 90 days.  He certainly knew of the relationship when he saw his own doctor a few weeks after the accident.

This recent case shows how important it is to notify your employer as soon as possible if you get injured at work.  Even if you do not feel you need medical care immediately, it is still best to cover yourself by letting your employer know you were involved in an accident.  And certainly the minute you feel you need medical care you must let your employer know you were injured at work, and ask for medical treatment.  Then call Stark & Stark and we can help you through the process.

Marci Hill Jordan is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Marlton, New Jersey office, concentrating in Workers’ Compensation Law. For more information, please contact Ms. Jordan.