Anatomy of a Workers Compensation Claim
Part I: Notice: What does the law require?
Minnesota Statute §176. 141 requires an injured worker to notify his/her employer that he/she sustained an injury at work. The statute contains three separate notice provisions, all of which are heavily litigated. Section .141 first requires an employee to notify their employer within 14 days in writing of a work-related injury. Failure to do so can result in denial of a claim. Employees
can be excused from that requirement IF they can show certain things like ignorance of the law, inability or lack of knowledge regarding how to report the work injury. There is also a “trivial injury” rule that can come into play
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an employee initially thinks the work injury is very minor but then it becomes much worse after the notice period has run.
The second period is 30 days and as long as the employer cannot show any prejudice by not getting notice, the employer cannot effectively deny the claim on notice grounds and even if the employer can show some prejudice they can only benefit to the extent they suffered prejudice. That means, they cannot deny all benefits and avoid responsibility for the injury.
The third period is 180 days. An insurer will often deny a workers compensation claim if there is any argument as to whether the employee gave the employer proper notice of their work related injury or condition. Injured employees should not, however, simply give up if they did not fill out a proper First Report of Injury within 30 days. The 180 day rule may apply
as long as the injured employee was not trying to act in bad faith or commit fraud by filing a claim or the injured employee can show a good reason for not giving notice then they may still be successful in establishing their claim for workers compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation attorneys can utilize creative arguments to establish proper notice, especially in cases where an injury did not result from one specific incident, but developed over a long period of time as a result of the cumulative trauma of an injured employee’s daily work activities and the cause of their injury is not easily determined or easily recognized by the injured employee. Workers’ compensation lawyers call these Gillette-type or cumulative trauma injuries and they are compensable under the workers’ compensation statute. Furthermore, the notice given for such an injury can often be argued even if the injured employee did not complete an actual First Report of Injury form.
Notwithstanding a good lawyer’s creativity, it is still critical that if you are hurt and you think your work activities caused or substantially contributed to the injury or condition, that you notify your employer immediately. If you are not sure how to accomplish that, most lawyers will talk to you about your circumstances and give some advice for how this can be handled. Make the call, it is free.
Part II. Notice vs. Statute of Limitations
Notice is different than the statute of limitations. The Statute of Limitations in workers compensation claims is three (3) years IF a First Report of Injury gets filed, but six (6) years, if one does not. Please note, however, that injured employees can fail to give notice and file their workers compensation claims well within
the statute of limitations and still have their claims denied based upon a failure to give notice. It is, therefore, critical that employees injured at work, if they believe their work activities substantially contributed to their injury and/or need for medical treatment, contact a lawyer to discuss the circumstances of their employment and also the circumstances of providing their employer with notice. This is the first step in successfully establishing a work related injury as compensable under the Minnesota Workers Compensation Statute. It is also absolutely necessary to get your claim investigated and moving forward within the system.