When drafting the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, the state legislature directly addressed the “notice” requirement. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-17, an employer (or its insurance company) is not obligated to provide an injured employee with workers’ compensation benefits until such notice of the injury is given to or knowledge of the injury is obtained by the employer. Within this section of the statute, there are four separate timeframes that an injured employee must be aware of:
1. If an injured employee provides notice of an injury, or the employer obtains knowledge of the injury, within 14-days of the accident date, workers’ compensation benefits shall be allowed;
2. If notice is given or knowledge obtained within 30-days of the accident, workers’ compensation benefits shall be allowed unless the employer can prove that it was prejudiced by the delay;
3. If notice is given or knowledge obtained within 90-days of the accident date, and the injured employee can show that his failure to give prior notice was due to his mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact or law, or inability, or fraud/misrepresentation on the part of another, workers’ compensation benefit may still be allowed unless the employer can show he was prejudiced by the failure to receive notice;
4. Unless knowledge of an injury be obtained, or notice given, within 90-days after the occurrence of the injury, no compensation shall be allowed.
As you can see, the earlier notice is provided to the employer, the better the employee’s chances are at receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, in no situation will a Judge of Workers’ Compensation compel an employer to provide workers’ compensation benefits if the injured employee failed to notify the employer of the injury within 90-days of the accident date. Although there is no magic language required to provide such notice to an employer of a work-related injury, the statute suggests the following form which can be found at N.J.S.A. 34:15-18:
“To (name of employer):
You are hereby notified that a personal injury was received by (name of employee injured), who was in your employ at (place) while engaged as (nature of employment), on or about the ___ day of __________, 20___, and that compensation will be claimed therefor.
Please keep in mind, the notice requirement discussed above and the Statute of Limitations are two completely separate requirements, both of which have a significant impact on an injured employee’s ability to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, it is vitally important to report all work-related injuries as soon as possible and to meet with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you are in compliance with the requirements of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act.