In today's fast-paced work world, every employee is trying to meet a constant deadline. Over the years of handling thousands of workers' compensation matters, I have seen numerous employees suffer injuries while attempting to finish jobs in a quick manner. Often, the worker does not initially report their injury. Instead, the worker simply turns to the next task at hand and continues working.
Employees should be aware that in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the workers' compensation laws require the injured employee to report the injury or supply the employer with notice. In New Jersey, the injured worker must provide notice within 90 days. In Pennsylvania, the injured worker must provide notice within 120 days. It is my experience that late notice to the employer or workers' compensation insurance company is a common reason for the carrier to deny the claim. Therefore, it is important to report claims immediately.
Delayed reporting creates several problems. First, witnesses who have seen the accident may not remember the event or may forget crucial details. Second, the insurance carrier will undoubtedly use the delay in reporting the accident to argue that the employee was injured outside of work. Third, the medical evidence will change as the body attempts to heal. A worker who is examined by a doctor a month after the accident may not have the same appearance (i.e. swelling/bruising) as he or she would have had immediately after the accident.
If the injured worker delays reporting, all these problems can put crucial workers' compensation rights at risk. Therefore, it is imperative that the worker reports the injury the day of the accident. Although an injured worker must use discretion to determine when an injury is severe enough to justify reporting, the injury should definitely be reported if the worker experiences pain unlike past general discomfort or if there is any bleeding, bruising, or swelling.
This is also true for an injury to a previously injured body part. Workers appear to be most hesitant to report this class of injuries, because they generally do not realize that, under both New Jersey and Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Systems, the insurance carrier is responsible for any material aggravation to previously injured body parts. Generally, the employer is aware of the prior injury and will blame any new symptoms on the worker's past medical problems. It is important for injured workers with prior injuries to realize that any material aggravation during work is covered under compensation laws and should be reported as a new accident or event.
The foregoing is meant to be a general discussion of the law and is not to be used as legal advice.