Some on the job injuries occur which are so sudden and so extreme that knowledge of the accident is almost instantaneous. Sudden and graphic injuries require emergency medical transport. The construction worker who has an accident using a saw or the delivery driver who gets into a multi-vehicle crash- the immediate urgency of medical attention necessitates a report of the accident. But not all workplace injuries are instantaneously severe. Some injuries are less pronounced, but injuries none the less. A tweak in the shoulder or a slight pull in the back can be the start of a work injury which over time gets worse or manifests later to be much more serious that originally believed. These injuries need to be reported with as much diligence as those that require a 911 call.
As attorneys who represent injured workers, we see the gamut of work accidents- from minor injuries that resolve with proper treatment to permanent injuries from which people never recover. The hallmark to any of these work accidents, is that they must be reported by the employee to his or her employer. This requirement is codified in Virginia Code Section 65.2-600 which states, “every injured employee or his representative shall immediately on the occurrence of an accident or as soon thereafter as practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer a written notice of the accident.” The notice must be given to the employer within thirty days of the accident. Failing to give notice may excuse the employer from providing workers’ compensation benefits.
So what has to be in the notice? The code section gives a minimum set of requirements- the notice should provide the identity of the employee, his name and address, the date and time of the accident, and the nature and cause of the accident or injury. While the Commission has relaxed the strict interpretation that notice be made in writing, it is certainly easier for an injured worker to corroborate and prove he gave notice of the accident to his employer if it is in writing. He or she can, and should, retain a copy of written notice.
We most often see a problem with notice when the injured worker has what is initially believed to be a small injury and does not bother to report it. The pain or injury does not go away and sometimes months later the injured worker is surprised to learn he or she has a meniscus tear or a rotator cuff tear! A concrete diagnosis that finally explains why the pain has persisted. The lack of notice becomes problematic in filing a worker’s compensation claim when the employee either cannot remember the date of the accident, or the employer defends the claim on the grounds that it did not receive notice of the injury.
So remember, the next time an injury happens, it is always better to report it to your employer than to assume it will go away on your own. If you have already been injured and need to report your accident, please do so, but give us a call too. We are here to help those who are hurt at work.