Delay in reporting injury was reasonable, didn't prejudice employer's rights
Patterson v. Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, No. M2007-01115-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. Work. Comp. 09/05/08).
What it means: Under Tennessee law, an employee may be excused from giving notice of her injury to the employer within 30 days if she is unaware of the nature and seriousness of her injury during that period and the employer is not prejudiced by the delay.
Summary: An elementary school teacher claimed that she felt a popping sensation in her low back as she was packing boxes to move from one classroom to another. She mentioned the incident to four teachers during lunch but did not immediately report the injury to the principal or any other school official. A few months later, after noticing numbness in her foot, she met with the principal and assistant principal and advised them that she would be having surgery. The panel found that the teacher's delay in reporting the injury was reasonable under the circumstances and that the employer was not prejudiced by the late notice. It upheld the trial court's award.
The panel explained that in determining whether an employee has demonstrated a reasonable excuse for failing to give timely notice of an injury, Tennessee courts generally consider: 1) whether the employer had actual knowledge of the injury; 2) whether the employer would be prejudiced by allowing the late notice; and 3) the excuse or inability of the employee to provide timely notice.
The teacher provided notice to the employer approximately three months after the incident when she learned that surgery might be necessary. The panel found that the employer was not prejudiced by the delay because it was able to obtain statements from the four teachers who confirmed the claimant's account of the incident. In addition, it was able to obtain medical records from her primary care physician, the first doctor she saw after the injury.
December 2, 2008
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