Many employers require workers to immediately report on-the-job injuries – no matter how small – as part of their company policy. Some take that provision too far and it borders on retaliation when workers do report the injury.
But O.C.G.A. 34-9-81.1 does require that employees report the accident immediately – but no later than 30 days after the accident – to the employer, employer’s representative, foreman or immediate supervisor. The statute specifically states that failure to do so could result in the loss of benefits.
There may be some allowances for instances in which a worker didn’t immediately realize he or she was injured or did not reasonably know the cause of the injury. But in general, as soon as you know you have suffered a work injury, you must report it.
The recent case of Wilson v. Conagra Foods, before the Idaho Supreme Court, reveals what can happen when workers do not immediately report injuries.
According to court records, plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation complaint to obtain benefits for a back injury she said was caused or aggravated on-the-job in March 2011.
Rewind to February 2008. At that time, claimant visited an emergency room in Arizona, saying she had been suffering back pain that radiated down her right leg for the past year, and that she was suffering intense pain in a flare-up. Her pain was rated 10 out of 10. An MRI later showed a herniated disc and some disc degeneration. She received several months of pain management.
Then in October 2010, she sought additional treatment for low back pain radiating down her right leg at a health clinic in Idaho. She mentioned the herniated disc and said she had re-injured it while shoveling potatoes at work (at the time, she was working at defendant’s facility, but only as a temporary worker, not an employee). She was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, but did not follow up with that surgeon until April 2011.
Several months earlier, she was hired as a full-time employee at defendant’s premises, where she was primarily responsible for manual labor, which included shoveling potatoes. When she sought medical attention in April 2011, she explained it was lower back pain that radiated down her right leg and that this pain started six months earlier, worsening in the days before with her potato-shoveling duties. When she first noticed it during a shift, she continued working nonetheless and only went to the emergency room after finishing an eight-hour shift the following day.
When employer learned of her emergency room visit, they took issue with the fact that she reportedly violated policy by not immediately reporting her work injury to her boss. When employer contacted the emergency room doctor, he reported patient was adamant she was injured at work, and his notes reflected this. She was suspended.
Then a few days later, claimant sought treatment from another physician, this time saying this was a chronic problem and not work-related. Doctor agreed it was not work-related and cleared her for normal duties.
However, the employer fired her for failure to immediately report a work-related injury in violation of policy.
Claimant sought unemployment compensation but was denied. She then sought workers’ compensation benefits. The matter went before a referee and then later to the Industrial Commission, which held claimant failed to prove her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.
She appealed, but the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error.
Failure to immediately report work-related injuries and to make sure they are properly and consistently documented by physicians is important to any claim. If you have questions, contact our experienced Atlanta employee injury attorneys.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.