As is likely true in every state, in Illinois it is important that an injured worker report a work accident to their employer as soon as reasonably possible after the accident. Giving timely notice of an accident is often critical for the worker to avoid a disputed compensation claim.
Delay In Giving Notice Can Be Fatal To A Workers’ Compensation Claim
Section 6(c) of the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act requires that notice of an accident must be given within 45 days after the accident. Notice may be given either orally or in writing, and should give the date and place of the accident. However, even though the law allows 45 days to give notice, a worker should never intentionally delay giving notice. Delay in giving notice calls into question whether the accident really happened, and can result an employer contesting a claim and the claim being denied.
Reasons for a delay in giving notice of an accident are numerous. Delay usually happens when an employee thinks the injury is minor and not likely to cause a problem or because the employee is new to a job and doesn’t want to cause a problem. After a few days or weeks, when it appears that the injury is more serious, the worker then reports the accident only to find that their employer is suspicious and unwilling to pay compensation benefits. Even a delay of a couple of days can cause some employers to deny compensation benefits if the timing of the delay is suspicious. For example, when a worker is injured on a Friday, and doesn’t report the accident until the following Monday morning, the employer may think that the employee was injured over the weekend and is now claiming to have been hurt at work.
Regardless of the reason, intentionally delaying giving notice of an accident for even one day can cause problems with a claim. Workers are well advised to immediately report any accident, or at least report it before leaving work for the day. Not reporting the accident can cause some serious problems.
What Notice Is Required?
In general, proper notice only requires giving information to the employer to let them know that an accident occurred and when and where it happened. So long they are provided with sufficient information to alert them about the injury and their need to investigate further, notice should be sufficient.
Sometimes, an employer will contest a workers’ compensation claim on the basis that the worker failed to fill out an accident report. There is an important distinction to be made here. The employer may have a policy requiring an employee complete an accident report following an accident. If so, the employee should follow the company procedure and fill out the report or risk getting in trouble with the employer. However, the worker’s compensation act only requires that the worker give oral or written notice to the employer, it does not require the employee fill out any reports. Simply telling the supervisor or other person in authority is all that is required to satisfy the notice requirements for workers’ compensation purposes.
Notice Of Repetitive Trauma Accident Under The Workers’ Compensation Act
With some injuries, like repetitive trauma accidents, there is no specific event that caused the injury. Therefore, it may appear difficult to say when a worker should have given notice of an accident. As a general rule, a worker should report a repetitive trauma accident to their employer when they first realize that they are having a physical problem due to the work they have been doing. This normally will coincide with the worker’s request for medical treatment or when the worker first learns from their doctor that the problems they are having were caused by their work.
If you have a question about giving notice of a work accident under in Illinois, give us a call.
Hanagan & McGovern is a Mt. Vernon, Illinois, workers’ compensation and personal injury law firm serving southern and central Illinois. If you have questions concerning this article or have other workers compensation questions, please contact us.