This blog post is the fourth in a series that examines the basics of workers’ compensation.
Whether an injured employee provided notice of an injury to their employer is an issue that often arises in a workers’ compensation case. It is always part of an injured worker’s burden to prove that they provided notice of their injury to their employer. However, an employer may raise this issue as a possible defense against the injured worker’s claim for benefits. Making sure an employer knows about an injury, regardless of whether the injured worker knows for sure that it is work-related, is typically a very simple – but very important – part of a workers’ compensation case.
The reasons for requiring notice make a lot of sense when you think about it: if the employer does not know about the injury, how can the employer know an injured worker may require medical care or other benefits? Different employers will have different procedures for reporting accidents and injuries, so it is important for employees to consult their employee handbook to find out what their employer expects. Ultimately, the claim may be compensable whether the injured worker followed the rules or not, but it is always the best policy to be proactive and avoid unnecessary problems down the road.
What happens if an injured worker thinks his or her injury might be work-related, but he or she is not sure and the injury isn’t reported right away? Maybe an accident occurred at work, but the injured worker did not notice any symptoms until the next day? Or they knew they were hurt, but did not seek medical care for several weeks because they thought it would go away on its own? Nebraska workers’ compensation law requires an employee to notify their employer of an injury “as soon as practicable” after the accident occurred. There is no answer in Nebraska as to what, exactly, “as soon as practicable” means in terms of days, weeks or months. It will depend on the facts of the case. Ideally, an accident occurs and an employee provides notice in writing immediately following the accident. When things don’t turn out “ideally,” however, if an employee can prove that the employer had sufficient notice or knowledge of the employee’s injury to lead a reasonable person to conclude that the injury was potentially compensable, the notice is considered sufficient under Nebraska law. The question is whether the employer knew enough that a reasonable employer would conclude they had better investigate further. This type of notice may come in the form of requests for time off to attend medical appointments, showing up to work with a brace on or the fact that an employer processes the employee’s bills with his or her group health insurance.
The important thing to remember about notice is just that: it is important. It is an important and simple step to take whenever an employee is injured. It can also be complicated, so consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney when you think you may have a notice problem or when your employer denies your claim because of an alleged lack of it.
Read the previous blog posts in the series by clicking on these links: