Have You Had An Injury At Work?
How To Give Notice Of Your Accident And Why It’s So Important
A common problem that injured workers encounter when attempting to file a workers’ compensation claim is failure to give the legally required notice of their accident to their employers. Oftentimes the worker does not realize what constitutes giving notice, but failure to do so properly could result in the denial of a claim for workers compensation. Understanding your rights and responsibilities in regards to this subject is a crucial aspect of any potential claim. So what constitutes proper notice, why is giving notice of your accident so important, and how do you make sure that you do so in order to avoid potential complications in your workers’ compensation claim?
Under South Carolina Workers Compensation Code, a worker or his representative is required to give notice immediately, or as soon as possible, after an accident. Under the law, and employee has 90 days from the date of his or her accident to provide notice to their employer. This means that within 90 days your employer needs to know that an accident occurred resulted in injury. Without this you may provide an easy defense and likely denial of your workers compensation claim.
There is a separate issue regarding injuries that are caused by exposure illness, repetitive use, or an injury that grows over time due to constant abuse (such as carpal tunnel syndrome). In general, these types of injuries have no single event or accident to point to as the moment when they occurred, so when does the 90-day clock starts to run? The law dictates that the injured worker has 90 days to give notice once he know, or should have known, that he injury was compensable as work related. A general guideline for when notice should be given is after a doctor or health care provider states there is an injury he believes is work related. If your doctor tells you he believes your injury or condition is work related, report it to your employer.
The purpose of the notice statute is to protect the employers from being prejudiced in an adverse claim. An employer needs to be able to talk to witnesses who saw the accident while the memory is fresh in their minds, and to provide medical attention in order to make sure the injury does not get worse so that they are not liable for any injury that is not related to a work accident. However, if an employer is aware of an accident and takes no action, they cannot argue lack of notice because they sat on their rights.
How does an injured worker give proper notice? While there is no specific way to give notice, the best way to do this is to inform your supervisor that there was an accident at work. This can be done in writing, in person, or through a phone call, just make sure it is done within 90 days of the accident. It has to be to someone who is considered a supervisor, however, because the courts have said that giving notice to a coworker does not count as the legally required notice. That said, the best practice is to give notice as soon as possible after your accident and make sure it’s documented in writing. Waiting until the 89th day after your accident will get you past the notice requirement, but if you end up having to file a claim and go to a hearing, it may lessen the credibility your account of the incident is given. Waiting too long after an accident will also increase the chances of your claim being denied by the insurance carrier so if you are hurt, tell someone in a position of authority right away.
Remember, just because you give notice of a work accident does not mean you have to file a claim against or sue your employer, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. All it means is that you are letting your employer know that something happened to you and you want it noted. Many times injuries turn out to be very minor and clear up without any problems. But at the same time, other injuries turn out to be a lot worse than initially thought. A strained shoulder may actually be a rotator cuff tear, lower back spasms may turn out to be a herniated disk, the list is endless. Unfortunately, many workers spend weeks and months trying to work through an injury hoping it will get better but it never does. If you wait to tell your employer about it, you will greatly diminish the chances that you will be taken care of if the time comes where your injury prevents you from working at all.
If notice is not given within 90 days, all is not necessarily lost. If the employee can prove a reasonable excuse for the failure to give notice then his claim will not be dismissed for lack of notice. However, it is very difficult to prove reasonable excuse due to advances in technology because it is incredibly easy to get in touch with a supervisor or employer in case of an accident. The best idea is to not sit on your rights and responsibilities. If you got hurt on the job, inform your supervisor of the accident as soon as possible.