Typically, when an employee is injured a workers’ compensation claim needs to be filed in a timely manner for benefits to be considered. However, as an Arkansas appeals court recently found, there are some caveats.
On rare occasions, an injured worker may have been misdiagnosed, leading to the actual source of the injury being overlooked. In such situations, a claim for the real source of the injury may need to be filed much later than the law normally allows.
Forearm problems tied to neck injury
In Cooper Tire & Rubber v. Will Hill, the employer appealed a lower court decision that allowed Hill, the employee, to get benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome from an injury that occurred almost a decade before he filed a claim.
Cooper argued that Hill’s claim was barred by Arkansas’ two-year statute of limitations because he was aware of his injury as early as 2014, when he reported arm pain to his doctor, or as late as 2017, when he reported tingling and numbness in his forearms and hands.
Diagnosed with carpal-tunnel years later
However, medical evidence revealed that treating doctors misdiagnosed Hill’s gradual-onset injury, tying his reported issues to injury-related neck and back problems rather than carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from the same injury.
It wasn’t until late 2019 that Hill was properly diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, and he filed his claim in February 2020.
Filed claim as soon as he knew
An administrative law judge found Hill didn’t realize his symptoms weren’t related to his neck and back problems until 2019 when he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. The judge found those previous injury-related problems made it difficult to diagnose the real source of his hand and arm issues.
In February 2020, when Hill was certain the diagnosis for carpal tunnel syndrome was correct, he filed a workers’ compensation claim, which the judge found was well within the two-year limit.
The Court of Appeals of Arkansas agreed and upheld the judge’s decision, finding that the clock on the statute of limitations for gradual-onset injuries only begins to run once the injury becomes apparent to the injured worker.