The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act is designed to cushion the impact of a work place accident or injury, by providing medical care for the injury sustained in the job related accident, a wage replacement benefit if the injured worker is required to be out of work for a period of time and potentially a monetary award for the permanent injury that the particular work related injury has caused.
Most often when we think of a work related injury we think of a specific accident that happens at a specific time and a specific place. However, our workers’ compensation statutes also provide coverage for what are called “occupational injuries” in addition to specific accident claims. The former disability can occur when it is alleged that an injury has arisen not from a specific work related accident, but rather from the day in and day out stresses of a worker’s job responsibilities. Common examples of potential occupational claims are the office secretary or office clerk who is required to perform several hours of data entry work each day. After a period of time, the worker begins to experience pain and numbness in their hands particularly, when performing their job related data entry duties. The laborer or maintenance worker who does frequent heavy lifting and bending on a daily basis and after a period of time begins to experience pain in their neck, back or their shoulders. Or perhaps, a worker develops breathing problems from being exposed to or inhaling certain fumes from chemicals that a worker is exposed to in carrying out their particular work related activities. Past exposure to asbestos products in the work place is a prime example of this cause of disability.
Workers who experience any of these symptoms in performing their day to day job related duties would be wise to discuss these symptoms with their family medical doctor so that a determination can be made as to whether the worker should be seen by a particular specialist such as an orthopedic doctor or an internal pulmonary doctor for further medical monitoring or testing.
When an injured worker has sustained a specific work related accident, the statute of limitations applicable to such accidents it is generally two years from the date that the accident has occurred. This means that a workers’ compensation claim petition must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. However, a different statute of limitations applies when the work related claim being made is that of an occupational claim as opposed to a specific accident claim. In these situations, New Jersey workers’ compensation law requires a claim to be filed within two years of the date that the injured worker knew or should have known that the injury they have sustained was related to their job related duties. Generally, the worker may not realize or appreciate that a particular physical ailment could be related to their day to day job duties until he or she is told by a treating doctor or by an attorney to whom the employee has sought legal advice. In such circumstances a workers’ compensation claim alleging an occupational related disability must be filed within two years of such notification.
Learn more about: Occupational Diseases