Under Pennsylvania law an injured worker has 120 days to notify their employer of an on-the-job injury. Many times reporting timeliness is a non-issue. I’m referring to those unfortunate incidents where workers are immediately injured and disabled by heavy equipment accidents, falling objects, or even work related car crashes. But what about those injuries that are not so obvious and the effects are not immediately disabling? Do you really need to report it right away? What if it’s just a pulled muscle and ultimately no big deal? After all, the law gives you 120 days to put your employer on notice if it turns out to be something serious.
Imagine this: You work as a laborer in a warehouse. You’re lifting and you feel a pull in your low back. You know something isn’t right but you suck it up and keep working. You finish your shift. It hurts but you keep telling yourself that you have a job to protect and a family to support. You have to keep working. You keep at it over the next several days and weeks. You’re in pain, it’s getting worse, and you you have yet to be checked out by doctor. You’re certain that something is off but the last thing you want to do is report an injury claim. Finally, after about a month of toughing it out you pull your foreman aside and tell him about what happened in the warehouse last month. The claim is reported to the insurance carrier well within 120 days required by law and of course the claim is …. denied. What?!?! Why?!?!
Why? Because the insurance adjuster who has never met you in person and has never seen the duties of your job can’t fathom how it could be that you were injured last month, kept working, and didn’t get around to reporting it until now. You must be making it up. Looking to “work a claim”, as they say.
Setting aside the immediate suspicion brought to the table by the insurance adjuster, much of the important evidence backing up your injury claim is no longer fresh and available. I’m talking about witness statements (including yours), photos, security camera footage, medical evaluations, etc. All of these items are important measures of honesty and validity in a claim; their existence or non-existence can make or break a case. For this reason it is important to act and to act immediately.
The bottom line: if you’re injured on the job report it immediately. Don’t assume that the 120 day reporting window will be your saving grace. Every hour and every day that goes by without making an incident report is another opportunity to for the workers compensation insurance company to fight your case. Insurance carriers are never short on reasons to dispute an otherwise legitimate and honest injury. Don’t give them any extra ammo. Report your claim, get evaluated by a good doctor, and get a lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation claims to guide you through the claims process.