Can an employee collect workers’ comp benefits even if he failed to report the injury until six months after it happened?
An Oregon appeals court found that in most cases, an employee has only 90 days to report an injury, with an extension of up to a year if there’s a good reason for the delay.
Thought it was a sprain, turned out he needed surgery
In The Matter of the Compensation of Johnson-Chandler, a campus community safety officer injured his thumb at work while strapping a bicycle to a roof rack.
He experienced intense pain at the time of the injury, but the pain subsided over several days. The officer thought he’d sprained his thumb, an injury he’d experienced before, outside of work. That previous injury healed on its own over time, so he didn’t report the work injury, thinking it too would heal on its own without medical attention.
The officer treated the injury with ice, heat, and wrapping and soaking it in hot water with Epsom salts, but the symptoms worsened. Six months after the injury, he sought medical treatment for what turned out to be a condition that required surgery. At this point, he filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Did he have a good reason?
The employer denied the claim because it hadn’t received notice of the injury within 90 days of the incident and the officer requested a hearing, claiming he wasn’t time barred from filing since he had a good reason for failing to do so.
An administrative law judge agreed with the officer that the notice should be extended to a year since there was a good cause for failing to provide notice within 90 days. The state’s workers’ compensation board reversed the judge’s decision and denied the claim, finding a good cause was not established.
What would a ‘reasonable person’ do?
The appeals court upheld the board’s decision, explaining that the board had adopted a “reasonable worker standard” that finds “that a reasonable person in claimant’s situation would have known of enough facts to be expected to give timely notice of the accident.”
In denying the claim, the board found the officer’s initial belief that his injury wasn’t significant enough to seek medical treatment didn’t excuse the untimely notice since the officer:
- had been trained to report such incidents
- suffered excruciating pain when the injury occurred
- adjusted work tasks to avoid pain in his thumb
- had self-treated the injury, and
- had worsening conditions within the 90-day period.
That led the board, and the appeals court, to conclude that the officer failed to establish good cause for his untimely notice.