A worker who failed to provide written notice of his injury to his employer can still collect workers’ compensation benefits since he verbally reported the incident, according to an appeals court.
The New York Appellate Division’s Third Department said the verbal account of the injury was sufficient since the state’s workers’ compensation board found the worker’s testimony credible.
Notified assistant manager as he was leaving work
John Galdon was working as an autobody technician for Robert Basil Inc. On Feb. 29, 2020, Galdon was at work lifting tires onto a board so he could paint the rims when he felt a pain in his lower back that went down his left leg. He left work shortly after this incident and informed the assistant manager of the injury but didn’t miss any other time and continued working until he was furloughed at the end of March 2020.
Galdon continued to experience pain while he was still working and this worsened while he was home during the furlough. He sought treatment in May 2020 when his left leg gave out while he was climbing stairs at home.
Doctors diagnosed a disc herniation that was causally connected to Galdon’s work incident. This led Galdon to file a workers’ compensation claim, which his employer contested, arguing that Galdon failed to provide proper notification of his injury.
A workers’ compensation law judge awarded benefits finding there was sufficient credible evidence to establish notice and a causal relationship to the workplace incident. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed the judge’s decision.
Substantial evidence supported Board’s decision
On appeal, the employer argued that Galdon’s failure to give timely written notice of his injury bars his claim for workers’ compensation benefits. A failure to provide notice of an injury generally bars the claim unless the Board excuses the failure on the ground that:
- notice couldn’t be given
- the employer or its agent had knowledge of the incident, or
- the employer wasn’t prejudiced.
Galdon didn’t dispute the fact that he failed to provide timely written notice of his injury. However, he argued that he did verbally inform the assistant manager on the day of the incident. The Board found Galdon’s testimony to be credible, despite the assistant manager claiming she didn’t know about the injury until June 2020.
The appeals court pointed out that the Board has broad authority to “make credibility determinations, to draw reasonable inferences from the record evidence and to serve as the sole arbiter of witness credibility.”
Because of that broad authority, and the fact that substantial evidence supported the Board’s decision, the court affirmed the decision to grant Galdon workers’ compensation benefits.