While the failure of a worker to report a work injury to the employer will not necessarily result in the denial of the related workers’ compensation claim, the timely and accurate reporting of a work injury will eliminate issues that may defeat a valid claim.
I represented a middle aged injured worker who sustained a sprain to his right shoulder and contusion to his right hip when he slipped on ice and fell in his employer’s parking lot while leaving work. There were no witnesses. Rather than returning to the plant to report the injury, he went home and treated himself with over the counter pain medication. The following day his right shoulder continued to bother him. By the end of his shift, he realized that he was genuinely injured and decided to seek treatment. He would have reported the injury at that time, but his supervisor had already gone home. The following morning, he verbally reported the injury to his supervisor. He was sent to an Urgent Care for treatment and related his slip and fall in the employer’s parking lot. He also related that he previously had been treated for right shoulder pain that his family doctor attributed to arthritis. He was eventually diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and required surgery. The employer defended the workers’ compensation claim on the basis that the injured worker did not report the injury in a timely manner, that there were no witnesses, and that his right shoulder problems were pre-existing and unrelated to any alleged work injury. After a series of hearings and appeals, the claim was allowed. However, had the injured worker reported his injury right away, his claim would have been routinely approved and the hearing process avoided.
When you sustain an injury at work, you should report your injury and exactly how it occurred to your employer or supervisor as soon as possible. The longer that you delay in reporting your injury, the more questions can be raised. If your employer has a policy for reporting injuries, you should follow the policy, including completing an incident report. Even if you do not feel as though you were seriously injured, you should still report the incident. Symptoms may not become acute for several hours. One of the most common mistakes made by injured workers, as demonstrated in the above example, is failing to report sprain/strain injuries that occur near the end of the workers’ shift. In such cases, the worker believes that the sprain/strain is minor and can be self treated at home. What often happens, however, is that within the next few hours, symptoms become acute. When the injury is reported the next day, the employer will question whether the injury occurred at work and will often reject the claim for that reason. If the injured worker had problems in the injured body part prior to the work injury, the delay in reporting the incident before the end of the shift becomes even more of a problem. In such cases, it can be extremely difficult to prove that the strain/sprain injury occurred at work rather than being a continuation or flare-up of the prior condition.
Always report your work injury to your employer accurately and as soon as possible. Follow all employer policies regarding reported a work injury.