The Importance of Providing Notice of an Injury
In prior blog posts I have mentioned the importance to employees that they report their apparently work-related injuries to their employers. After reading some workers’ compensation decisions during research, I decided I maybe should devote a short piece to this topic. It is critical for employees to report work-related injuries as soon as they think they have them. It is also critical for employers to report employees’ injuries to their respective insurance carriers in a timely manner.
It is critical for employees because they can lose their entitlement to any of the benefits provided by the state workers’ compensation law if they fail to provide notice within thirty days of the date of injury. You could have a nasty back injury at work and then report it thirty-five days later: unless your employer already knows about it without you providing notice, then you are probably barred from getting cash compensation, medical expenses, and so on through workers’ compensation.
This rule is subject to a few exceptions. If, for example, you have an accident at work that puts you in a coma for more than a month, the thirty-day period doesn’t start until you are conscious again. If you have a latent injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, the period doesn’t start until you become aware that you have it and that it’s potentially work-related. And if you’re operating under a “mistake of fact” about the cause or nature of the injury, then the period doesn’t start until that mistake has been cleared up. Such a mistake could be ignorance of the cause of an infection contracted at work, an erroneous belief that a herniated disc is only muscle soreness, or something else along those lines.
For an employer, failure to notify an insurance carrier after an employee reports an injury can result in civil penalties that accumulate by the day.