Workplace Accidents: Give Notice? Always!

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The Workers’ Compensation Law requires an injured worker to notify their employer of a work place accident in writing within 30 days of the accident.  In an occupational disease claim, the worker has two years from the day they knew or should have known of the condition, to notify their employer.  The Board may excuse the failure to give timely notice if one of the following situations occurs: 1) notice could not be given (worker became unconscious or mentally incapacitated) (2) the employer had actual knowledge of the accident or (3) the employer was not prejudiced by the lack of notice.

The importance of giving timely notice is highlighted by a case that was disallowed by the Board due to the failure to give timely notice.  In that case, the employee had initially suffered an accident in 2014 and claimed he suffered accidents in July 2018 and September 2018.   Both accidents involved the same part of the body.   The claimant testified that he told the office manager of the July 2018 accident timely, but was told by the office manager to use the case numbers from the 2014 case.  The claimant further testified that he gave timely notice of the September accident to a safety manager who had since died.   The claimant did not seek treatment for either accident until December 2018.   The employer testified that they were not aware of these claims until January 2019.  The Workers’ Compensation Law Judge disallowed the cases and the Board Panel affirmed the disallowance.

The outcome of this case may have been different, if the injured worker had provided written notice of the accidents to the employer within 30 days.  In addition to having to overcome the notice requirement, the claimant’s credibility was also called into question.

The lesson to be learned is that  a worker who suffers an accident while working, regardless of how minor the injury is,  should file written notice of the accident within 30 days.