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Delay in reporting a work injury could jeopardize a Workers’ Compensation Claim

February 1, 2023

By Richard P. Gaitens, Esquire

In Baumhauer v. Hydromotion, Inc. the Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) agreed with the Workers Compensation Judge (WCJ) that the injured worker did not give timely notice of his workplace injury and thus was ineligible for compensation benefits.

Kenneth Baumhauer injured his back when he was 18. He missed approximately two and half weeks of work due to this pre-existing condition, but was not under any formal restrictions. During his last week on the job, he worked in the electric assembly department, a departure from his regular duties and finished on October 4, 2019. His pain worsened over the weekend and he felt a pop in his back when picking up a laundry basket on October 6, 2019, two days after his last day at work. By the end of the month, the pain was so bad he could not get out of bed and he began treatment with his doctor. It was not until February 27, 2020 that he and his doctor had a conversation that led him to believe the injury was related to that last week of work and he sent an email to notify his employer.

Section 311 of the Workers’ Compensation Act states that no compensation shall be allowed unless a claimant gives notice within 120 days after the occurrence of the injury. The courts generally allow that the 120 day notice period does not begin until the employee “knows or by the exercise of reasonable diligence, has reason to know of the injury and its possible relationship to [his] employment.” The burden of proof is on the injured worker.

In this instance, the WCJ and the WCAB felt that even if the incident with the laundry basket, which occurred at home caused him to seek medical attention, the claimant needs to show reasonable diligence to discover the underlying cause of the injury; he should have spoken with his doctor immediately about the onset of pain coinciding with his new work duties.

What does this mean? Under the PA Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured worker has 120 days to notify his or her employer of a work injury. While some injuries are obvious, others, such as back pain, can take some time to worsen enough to seek medical attention. If you even suspect that your injury could be tied to your employment, you should bring this up with your doctor and get professional insight. It is always best to give notice if you suspect your injury was work related.

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