By Chris Emrich
The New Jersey workers’ compensation system recognizes two different types of workplace injuries: those caused by single traumatic accidents and those resulting from occupational exposure over a longer period of time.
Traumatic accidents are often easier to identify as work-related. They can come in the form of a slip and fall on the factory floor, a malfunctioning piece of equipment causing injury, or a motor vehicle accident for those employees that drive as part of their job. It is important to remember that New Jersey workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Injured workers do not have to prove negligence on the part of their employer in order to recover benefits. This is one of the key differences between workers’ compensation claims and regular personal injury claims.
Occupational exposure claims are defined under New Jersey law as “all diseases arising out of and in the course of employment, which are due in a material degree to causes and conditions which are or were characteristic of or peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process or place of employment.” One way these injuries develop is from repetitive motions (such as bending, twisting, pushing, pulling, or lifting) performed over a long period of time. They often result in shoulder, knee, or back injuries.
Another example is inhaling harmful materials, resulting in lung injuries. Like traumatic claims, an injured worker does not have to prove negligence so long as there is no willful self-exposure to a known hazard or willful failure to make use of a reasonable and proper guard or protective device furnished by the employer. Even if a guard or device is provided, it must have been clearly made a requirement of the employment and the employer must properly document that despite repeated warnings, the employee willfully failed to properly and effective utilize it.