Employer must be aware of accident, injury to satisfy notice requirements
Case name: Siebken v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., No. 2008 MT 353 (Mont. 10/21/08).
What it means:
Under the Montana Workers' Compensation Act, an injury is not compensable unless the employee gives the employer notice of the time and place where the accident occurred and the nature of the injury within 30 days. The employer's actual knowledge of the accident and injury is equivalent to notice.
A law enforcement officer for the Federal Reserve Bank used physical force to subdue and restrain a resisting trespasser. The officer initially developed only a headache after the incident, but within weeks he experienced flu-like symptoms and low back pain, and later, balance problems, nausea, headaches and numbness. He was eventually diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, which required surgery. The Supreme Court upheld the WCC's denial of the claim on the grounds that the officer failed to timely notify the employer of his injury.
The officer argued that the written incident reports that he and his coworkers filed, along with his supervisor's actual knowledge of the incident, satisfied the notice requirements of the WCA. The Supreme Court disagreed, stating that "because the incident reports do not describe an unusual strain or trauma, it was incumbent on [the claimant] to notify his employer when he learned that he suffered an unusual strain because, under these facts, the employer could not have reasonably understood an injury had occurred."
The Supreme Court further reasoned that although courts may equitably toll the 30-day notice requirement in latent injury cases, the claimant should have notified the employer within 30 days of discovering that he had probably suffered an unusual strain in the incident.
November 20, 2008
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