When Reporting a Work Injury — Do So Promptly!

How many times have you been at work, lifted something heavy and felt discomfort in your back only to expect the pain to go away on its own? While it does occur often that the employee is able to recover by simply resting and icing, that’s not always the case. Instead, many times that awkward lift and corresponding pain is something far worse than just a strain. That’s why it’s important to promptly report all work injuries or run the risk of limiting your entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits or worse, losing them entirely.

The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation laws stress the importance of reporting injuries promptly. Minnesota Statues section 176.141 provides three deadlines to an employee reporting an injury. Ideally, the employee must give notice to the employer within 14 days of the injury. Reporting the injury after the 14 day deadline opens up the employee to potentially reducing the amount of compensation it may be entitled to. It’s also worth noting that the employer has no responsibility to pay compensation until a notice of injury is received.

With that said, Minnesota law explains that so long as an injury is reported within 30 days of its occurrence, the employee is likely in the clear. However, if the employee fails to report an injury within 30 days after it occurred the employer can show that the delay has harmed them in some way (i.e. late notice undeniably harms the employer’s ability to investigate the work injury) and the employee’s entitlement to compensation may be reduced.  In these circumstances, the employee must then show the delay in notice was due to mistake, deceit, misrepresentation by the employer, etc.

The real issue occurs when an injury is not reported within 180 days of its occurrence. Minnesota Statutes section 176.141 states that unless notice is given within 180 days, no compensation shall be allowed. The only exception to this 180 day deadline is if the employee can prove his/her inability to give notice of the injury was the result of mental or physical incapacity.

So now that you understand the deadline for reporting a work injury, what is the appropriate method to report a work injury? Minnesota law requires that an employee give written notice of an injury to the employer, but verbal notice to a supervisor is also acceptable. The contents of the notice generally require the date of the injury and the specific details of the injury. It’s also important to name any witnesses who observed the injury.

In short, it’s in the best interests of an injured employee to report all work injuries quickly. The law provides a reasonable amount of time to assess whether that discomfort you felt in your back after lifting a heavy object is something more than just a strain. When in doubt; report it.

Please send any request for topic suggestions to rene@breenandperson.com.  Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know.  Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.