Employer's knowledge of injury excuses claimant's delayed notice
Case name: Trico County Development & Pipeline v. Smith, et al., No. 2007-SC-000556-WC (Ky. 12/18/08).
Ruling: The Kentucky Supreme Court held that the claimant's delay in providing notice of his work-related injury to the employer was excused because the employer's insurance carrier had knowledge of the injury days after it occurred. Therefore, his application for workers' compensation benefits should not have been dismissed for failure to give timely notice of his injury.
What it means: Under Kentucky law, an employee must give notice of a work-related accident to his employer as soon as practicable after the accident occurs. An employer's insurance carrier may be deemed the employer's agent or representative for purposes of the notice requirement. In addition, an employee's delay in giving notice is excused if the employer, its agent, or representative had knowledge of the injury.
Summary: A bulldozer operator claimed that he injured his back, neck, shoulder, legs, and arms, and suffered a psychological impairment in a work-related accident. He also claimed that he was injured approximately three weeks earlier but did not report the first incident because he did not consider it to be significant. He contacted the employer's workers' compensation carrier within a few days of the second accident and was referred to a physician. The carrier filed a report within two weeks of the accident date.
An administrative law judge dismissed the claimant's application for benefits, finding that he did not give timely notice of the accident to his employer. The Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals' decision reversing the dismissal of the claim on the grounds that the claimant complied with Kentucky law by providing notice to the insurance carrier. The Supreme Court noted that the carrier had knowledge of the injury no later than 10 days after the claimant completed an injury report. Further, this date satisfied the statutory requirement that notice be furnished "as soon as practicable" after the accident.
Several judges dissented, opining that the ALJ did not err in dismissing the claim. The judges explained that the Kentucky statute governing notice of workers' compensation claims is explicit and "neither states nor implies that notice to the carrier constitutes notice to the employer."
February 5, 2009
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