Statute Of Limitations in a NJ Workers’ Comp “Occupational Disease” Claim
Occupational injuries may not always be apparent immediately. If your job is physically demanding or requires you to be in extreme environmental conditions or involves long hours of repetitive work, your chances of contracting an occupational injury is higher.
According to data from NJ Department of Health, in the period from 1990 till 2013 there were 2,470 cases of fatal occupational injuries recorded. The highest numbers of casualties were the highest in the Construction, Transportation and Warehousing and Administrative & Support and Waste Management & Remediation Services Sectors.
The time limit for filing petitions to claim workers’ compensation for an occupational injury is two years. It differs from an accident which occurred on a specific date because it is difficult to prove the exact date of the onset of an occupational injury.
The statute begins from the date the claimant knew or was made aware of the disease and that it was related or caused by his/her employment. Therefore it is important to prove the claimant’s knowledge of occupational condition for defending the claim.
Many occupational claims are never filed because it’s difficult to know or conclusively prove a relationship between the job and the disease. Also, many people aren’t fully aware of their rights. As the two year period doesn’t start unless the person is aware, these claims can be filed long after you have stopped working. There are cases when claims have been filed after the death of a spouse.
What Constitutes an Occupational Disease?
Injuries that occur due to repetitive motions, heavy lifting, excessive noise, vibrations or due to exposure to extreme environmental condition are considered as occupational diseases. Diseases caused due to exposure to chemicals, dust, and radiations are considered occupational diseases and are eligible for workers’ compensation. Many diseases are not recognized yet. The following are examples of occupational diseases:
- Asthma caused by a baker inhaling flour or a woodworker inhaling wood dust.
- Liver cancer and bladder cancer in workers who have worked in a plastic manufacturing unit.
- Prison workers and healthcare officials getting blood-borne diseases.
- Polyneuropathy caused due to exposure to spraying pesticides.
There are many more unknown occupational diseases that are waiting to be discovered because medical technology has not yet caught up with it.
Most workers confuse workplace injuries with occupational ones. A sudden trauma constitutes an injury while a minute repetitive strain due to a job might add up and become a serious condition would qualify as an occupational disease. Examples of occupational injuries would be work-related asthma, silicosis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. You could qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in an occupational disease claim if you meet specific criteria.
Here are the three conditions that need to be met in order for you to qualify for such a case:
- You as an employee were harmed due to some form of exposure that was related to your job.
- The exposure directly resulted in your injury or illness.
- Your duties as a worker or the environment that you were working in made you susceptible and put you at greater risk of developing the illness or sustain an injury than normal.
There may be some cases where proving that there’s a link between your occupation and the condition you’re suffering from very straightforward. Instances like working in a hazardous environment that involves heat and smoke exposes a firefighter to a higher risk of a cardiovascular or respiratory infection. But, establishing a similar connection in other occupations might be an uphill task.
Should You Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Although you do not require legal representation to file your workers’ compensation, seeking advice is the right way to go. If you fail to file a claim within the time frame mandated, you can lose your right to the benefits you deserve. In addition, consider this:
The Workers’ Compensation statute also states “Deterioration of a tissue, organ or part of the body in which the function of such tissue, organ or part of the body is diminished due to the natural aging process thereof is not compensable.”
So if a doctor is not able to determine if an injury was caused by repetitive work or due to aging, your legal adviser will have to find expert witnesses to corroborate your claim.
Goldberg & Wolf can help if you’ve been a victim of a work injury. Your case will require a team of seasoned lawyers by your side to guide and navigate you through the legal process. Contact us at (856) 651-1600 for a free consultation or to talk to a member of our legal team regarding your case.