This employee says he suffered physical and mental injuries after being locked in a room at work for hours. However, he missed the one-year deadline to file for workers’ comp. Did he get benefits?
Nicholas Lechner says he was injured at work on Dec. 5, 2013 when he was locked in a small room without a functioning heater. It was 30 degrees below zero outside.
Lechner says he screamed and banged his fists and head for hours before someone let him out of the room. He says he “had a panic attack and was traumatized with severe anxiety, sleep disorders, and left unable to function normally.” He applied for workers’ comp on May 5, 2016 – 29 months after the incident.
North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) denied his claim because he didn’t file within one year after the date of the injury.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled Lechner shouldn’t receive benefits. A state court upheld that decision, and recently the North Dakota Supreme Court weighed in on his case.
Lechner claims he received a concussion during the incident. He argues his May 2016 claim was filed in a timely manner because his concussion wasn’t properly diagnosed for over two years.
The state’s highest court noted:
“We have held the date of injury for purposes of [North Dakota’s workers’ comp law] is the first date a reasonable lay person, not learned in medicine, knew or should have known that he suffered a compensable work-related injury.”
The court went on to say it’s not required that a doctor specifically tell the injured employee work caused his injury.
Lechner’s medical records were entered as evidence. The records show Lechner discussed the incident with multiple medical professionals in December 2013 and January 2014. Evidence shows he was advised to file a workers’ comp claim in 2014 by a medical professional but failed to do so.
The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld the ALJ’s decision that Lechner failed to file a timely claim and therefore shouldn’t receive workers’ comp benefits.
(Lechner v. WSI, Supreme Court of ND, No. 20180203, 12/6/18)