As work injury lawyers in New Jersey who’ve handled hundreds of cases, we’ve seen practically every type of work accident scenario. We’ve also seen seriously injured workers who cannot file work injury lawsuits because the case is simply too old to be filed due to New Jersey’s strict statute of limitations laws (discussed below). It’s heart-wrenching to have to tell someone, like a union employee in NJ, that they can’t file a lawsuit because too much time has passed.
More: New Jersey Work Accident & Injury Law – Right to Compensation
New Jersey Statute of Limitations Laws Set Time Limits on Work Accident Lawsuits
There are 2 different time limitation periods which apply to work accident lawsuits in New Jersey. One is for non-fatal accidents (2 years from the date of the accident). The other is for fatal work accidents (2 years from the date of the death).
NJ Statute of Limitations Law for a Non-Fatal Work Accident – 2 Years from the Date of Accident
New Jersey Revised Statute Section 2A:14-2, Actions for injury caused by wrongful act, appointment of guardian ad litem, provides in relevant part:
Every action at law for an injury to the person caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of any person within this State shall be commenced within two years next after the cause of any such action shall have accrued.
Per Section 2A:14-2, the applicable statute of limitations period is 2 years from the date of the accident. This 2 year period applies to all non-fatal work accident cases, whether it’s a minor slip and fall accident or a major construction site accident.
There are some very limited exceptions. For instance, the 2 year period may be tolled or stalled if there is evidence of fraud or if the plaintiff suffers from insanity during the 2 year period. However, these exceptions rarely apply.
NJ Statute of Limitations Law for a Fatal Work Accident – 2 Years from the Date of Death
When a New Jersey worker is killed in a work accident, there are usually two legal claims arising from the accident and death: a wrongful death action and a survival action. For all intents and purposes, the two actions are almost always consolidated and litigated at the same time.
There are two laws in NJ which pertain to the statute of limitations period for each type of action, and the period is the same under each law – 2 years from the date of death.
New Jersey Revised Statute Section 2A:31-3, Limitation of actions; exceptions, provides in relevant part:
Every action brought under this chapter shall be commenced within 2 years after the death of the decedent, and not thereafter. (emphasis added)
Under NJ’s Survival Action law, the statute of limitations language is exactly the same as Section 2A:31-1. See Section 2A:15-3, Actions which survive; torts to decedent; funeral and burial expenses; statute of limitations.
Whether it’s a wrongful death action or a survival action, the applicable statute of limitations period in fatal work accident cases is 2 years from the date of the death, not 2 years from the date of the accident.
In some instances, there may be significant delay between the date of the accident and the date of the death. For example, a New Jersey roof worker falls over 20 feet and suffers a devastating head injury. He falls into a coma and is on life support for over a year before his family decides to withdraw life support. Here, the date of the death is over a year after the actual accident or injury occurred. For a subsequent wrongful death and survival action, the statute of limitations starts ticking on the date of the death, not the date of the accident.
Why It’s Important to Contact a Work Injury Lawyer in NJ ASAP
In many work accident cases, especially the serious ones, an injured worker may be able to get by with a workers’ comp claim. Then, when their benefits are terminated because they are deemed able to go back to work (when they actually aren’t), they start looking into their legal rights. At this point, months or even years may have passed since the accident happened. That’s why it’s so important to seek advice of a work accident lawyer immediately.
For more information, visit the Pennsylvania and New Jersey work injury law library.
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