When do I give notice of a work injury?

I recently had a conversation with an individual who failed to give timely notice of a work injury to his employer. The employer was a friend. The injured worker “did not want to rock the boat”. As a consequence, he was later precluded from pursuing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits by operation of the notice statute. Simply put, his notice was too late.

Under Minn. Stat. § 176.141, unless an employer has actual notice of the injury, an injured worker must give notice within 180 days of its occurrence. Overall, the notice statute establishes a three-tiered approach:

• injuries occurring within 14 days are to be automatically compensated after notice is received;
• injuries reported after 30 days will give rise to compensation unless the employer can show prejudice; and
• injuries where notice is given after 30 days and before 180 days may give rise to compensation if the employee shows mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact or law – unless the employer shows prejudice by failure to receive the notice.

In limited circumstances, late notice will be forgiven. However, it is much better to give prompt notice to the employer as soon as possible after the injury has occurred. This notice can be verbal, in writing or by email. The latter two modes are best – should a dispute over notice later arise.

There are many reasons an injured worker fails to give timely notice to an employer. And the ultimate decision of whether to pursue a workers’ compensation claim against the employer rests with the injured worker. However, prudence dictates providing notice as soon as possible. Prompt notice protects the injured worker. By giving timely notice, the option to pursue a claim is left open in the future – unlike the above scenario.