Workers' Compensation: What Happens If I'm Late Reporting My Injury?

Question:

I slipped and fell at work about two months ago. At that time, my back was a little sore, but I thought it was a minor problem. I didn’t report the injury or seek medical treatment. But, as time passed, my back pain got worse and started to run down my leg. My primary care doctor thinks I seriously hurt my back during the slip and fall at work. My doctor also thinks that all the heavy lifting I do at work made even it worse. Is it too late to file a workers’ comp claim?

Answer:

When you suffer a work injury, it is important to report it promptly. Most states have relatively short deadlines for doing so, and late reporting may result in your benefits being reduced or automatically denied. Reporting deadlines vary from state to state. For example, the deadline is 30 days in California and 90 days in Iowa and Michigan. In other states, the deadline is much shorter. Colorado has a four-day reporting deadline, for example. Depending on your state, you may not have missed the reporting deadline yet. (To learn the deadline that applies to you, select your state from our page on filing a workers’ compensation claim.)

If you have an occupational illness or a condition that develops gradually, such as arthritis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the deadline typically does not start to run until you discover the condition and its connection to your work. Because your back injury worsened over time, you may still be eligible for benefits even if the deadline has passed from the date of the accident. However, now that you know your injury is work-related, you should report it immediately.

Additionally, in most states, there are exceptions that excuse late reporting under some circumstances. You still may be eligible for workers’ comp benefits, for example, if:

  • your employer was aware or should have been aware of the injury or illness (for example, if your supervisor witnessed the accident)
  • you have a good reason for late reporting (for example, you were incapacitated and couldn’t get someone to give notice for you)
  • delayed reporting would not harm your employer, and/or
  • your employer did not post legally required workers’ comp notices.

It is important to follow your state’s workers’ compensation laws and procedures. Some states will only excuse late filing up to a certain point (for example, up to 180 days).

Insurance companies often deny claims that are reported late, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your claim should be barred. If your workers’ comp benefits are denied, you have the right to appeal. You should consider hiring an experienced workers’ comp lawyer to handle your appeal. A lawyer can tell you what the deadline is in your state and whether any exceptions might apply to you. To find a workers’ comp lawyer in your area, select your state from our lawyer directory.

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