If you were hurt on the job, you can seek compensation through a few different methods. But you must ensure that you file your claim by the appropriate deadline; otherwise, you’ll lose your opportunity for a payout.
If you’re wondering, “How long do I have to sue for work-related injuries?” Continue reading for more information about statutes of limitations in New Jersey and New York.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the legal way of saying the deadline for you to file your claim. Statutes of limitations are in place to ensure that you file while the evidence is still fresh. They also prevent defendants from facing civil lawsuits for matters that happened an unreasonably long time ago.
Statutes of limitations vary by state. Whether your work-related injury happened in New Jersey or New York, make sure you follow your state’s statutory deadlines.
Types of Work Injury Claims and Their Statutes of Limitations
The three main ways you could seek compensation after a work-related injury is through a workers’ compensation claim, a third-party personal injury lawsuit, or a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. Each method works differently and follows slightly different statutes of limitations.
A workers’ comp claim is the simplest method of seeking compensation for a workplace injury. In New Jersey, all corporations, partnerships/LLCs, and sole proprietorships must offer workers’ compensation benefits to their employees. In New York, virtually all employers must offer this benefit.
The deadline to file a workers’ compensation claim in both New Jersey and New York is two years. The clock starts ticking either on the date of your accident or on the date you reasonably should have known about the injury or illness that arose from your job.
However, in New York, you must begin by reporting your injuries to your employer within 30 days of the accident or the time you became aware of your injuries. In New Jersey, the reporting deadline is 90 days.
Time can go by quickly when you’re dealing with medical appointments, physical therapy, and other aspects of your recovery. Don’t wait to start your claims process; tell your employer about your work-related injury as soon as possible, then file your claim soon after.
Third-Party Personal Injury
If a third party was responsible for your accident, you may consider filing a personal injury claim instead of, or in addition to, your workers’ compensation claim. For example, a negligent third party may be:
- The manufacturer of a machine that malfunctioned, causing your accident
- A driver who caused an accident while you were driving a work vehicle
- A contractor who was working on your construction site caused your accident
If you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party, you’ll need to adhere to the statute of limitations for personal injury cases. In New York, the statutory deadline is three years from the date of the accident. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is two years.
This deadline refers to the date by which you must file the initial paperwork to initiate a lawsuit. Your attorney can help you ensure that you adhere to the statute of limitations and any other deadlines that may impact your case.
Personal Injury Against Your Employer
Worker’s compensation is a no-fault system, which means that once you file a workers’ comp claim, you can’t hold your employer liable for the accident in the future. But what if your boss was directly, inexcusably responsible for your accident? You may decide to pursue a personal injury claim instead of a workers’ comp claim to seek more compensation.
Through a personal injury lawsuit, you could seek economic damages, such as:
- Medical bills
- Time off work
- Property damage
- Loss of future earning abilities
But you could also seek non-economic damages, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
If you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, the deadline is, again, three years in New York and two years in New Jersey. Before filing a workers’ comp claim, speak with an attorney about whether a personal injury lawsuit may be more fruitful in your case.
Are There Events That Can Extend Statutes of Limitations?
After answering, “How long do I have to sue for work-related injuries?” you may realize that you have already surpassed the deadline. All may not be lost; you may qualify for one of the exceptions to the statute of limitations that could extend your deadline.
The main exceptions to this rule include the following:
- Minor or mentally unsound status: If you were under 18 at the time of the accident or a mental health professional deemed you to be of unsound mind, the statute of limitations would not start until you turned 18 or your mental status was cleared.
- Inability to locate the defendant: When you file a lawsuit against another person or party, you’ll need to “serve” them the paperwork. But if the defendant has fled the state or is living under a different identity, the police may have trouble finding them. You can add the period that they were unable to be located to your statute of limitations.
- Becoming aware of the damages: In some work-related injury cases, victims do not become aware of their injuries until well down the line — for example, if you develop cancer due to asbestos exposure, your illness may not appear until decades after your exposure. In this case, your statute of limitations wouldn’t begin until you became aware of or reasonably should have known about your injuries or problems.
Can You Sue Third-Party Contractors?
Sometimes, third-party contractors are directly responsible for workplace accidents. For example, a contracted electrician on a construction site may have caused an electrical fire that injured several workers.
You can sue a liable third-party contractor directly for your workplace injuries. An attorney can advise you about whether your compensation amount would likely be greater through a workers’ comp claim or a lawsuit.
Things You Should Also Do When You’re Injured at Work
After you experience a workplace injury, take these measures to preserve evidence and improve your claim for compensation:
- Document the accident with your employer and seek testimonies from any witnesses. Do so as soon as possible to prevent the loss of evidence.
- Seek medical attention; doing so will give you hard-and-fast evidence of your injuries and provide documentation of your medical expenses.
- Take pictures of your injuries regularly to document how they change or worsen over time.
- Tell your employer you want to file a workers’ compensation claim if this is the compensation route you decide to pursue. Your employer will also need to fill out a portion of the claim sheet before submitting it to their insurer.
- Check the status of your claim frequently. By law, workers’ compensation insurance companies in New Jersey must process your payment within 60 days of approving your claim.
Now that you know, “How long do I have to sue for work-related injuries?” it’s time to start the ball rolling on your case. Contact Sadaka Law today to schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney.