Duty To Notify Employer In Workers Compensation Claims
An injured worker's first obligation to be entitled to workers' compensation benefits is to provide his employer with notice that he or she has been injured on the job. Notice of the occurrence of the injury must be given to the employer within 120 days of the date of injury. If the employer is not notified within 120 days the claim for benefits will be barred. Specifically, the employer must be notified that the worker sustained an injury while performing work activities or from a work place exposure to a hazard and suffered injury as a result of that work place event. The injured worker must provide notice to a supervisory employee. In other words, it is not sufficient simply to tell a co-worker. On the other hand, notice of the injury does not have to be provided to the employer in writing or on any specific type of form. It is sufficient if the worker or the worker's spouse, friend, etc., call a supervisory employee to report the occurrence of the injury.
Exceptions To The Rule
While the employer must be notified of the occurrence of the injury within 120 days, there are certain exceptions. For example, if a supervisor or managerial employee has actual notice of the injury (perhaps because they witnessed the injury occurring) the employer is deemed to have "actual knowledge" of the injury and, in that circumstance, the injured worker is not under an obligation to repeat what is obvious and known to the employer. The other exception to the strict 120-day time limit for providing notice relates to those cases where the injured person is not aware that an injury has yet occurred. There are several specific circumstances in which this can occur:
The Workers' Compensation Act provides that for certain types of injuries the time for giving notice of injury does not begin to run until the employee knows, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence, should know of the existence of the injury and its possible relationship to his or her employment. This is frequently referred to as the "Discovery Rule" because of the concept that an injured worker should not be charged with providing notice to the employer of an injury of which the worker has not yet discovered.
Where a workplace injury is caused by continuing, multiple traumas, for instance, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) caused from overwork of the elbow joint, or carpal tunnel syndrome, the injury is not deemed to occur until the last exposure or trauma occurs. Usually, this is the last day of work before a worker is disabled or unable to continue because of the injury. For these types of injuries the time to give notice does not begin to run until the last traumatic exertion contributing to the disabling condition.
For the loss of hearing as a result of the long-term exposure to hazardous noise in the work place, the 120 days in which to give notice does not begin to run until the claimant learns from a physician or health care provider that they have sustained permanent hearing impairment in excess of 10 percent, and that loss of hearing is related to work place noise exposure.
Because the various ways in which a work place injury or work place illness can arise are quite varied, an injured worker should immediately contact one of our workers' compensation attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., as soon as possible, if they have any question as to their duty to provide notice. For example, an injury does not have to cause someone to miss work in order to meet the definition of an injury under the workers' compensation law. Consequently, an individual diagnosed with a work-related occupational disease has a duty to provide notice of that injury to the employer within 120 days even if the disease process has not yet caused them to stop working. The attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., are always available to answer a question, at no charge, regarding such issues as whether an injury has occurred and whether an employee has a duty to give notice to the employer of a particular injury so as to protect their rights to bring a workers' compensation claim.
Contact the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia workers compensation attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., by calling us at 412-567-1232 in Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania, 215-792-6153 in Philadelphia or Eastern Pennsylvania or toll free at 866-466-5789. You may also complete our online contact form. Initial consultations are free and confidential.
For your convenience, we are available to come to your home, hospital or union hall to talk with you and your family about your rights under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation laws.