Notice: critical to a successful workers’ compensation claim

Notice of a work injury or accident is critical. I’m often asked by injured workers when should they report a work injury? The answer is easy: as soon as you know you’ve had an accident or been injured at work.

That includes minor work injuries or minor work accidents.

I once represented a person who cut his leg and did not report the cut. It was a minor injury and the person thought it would heal. Unfortunately, it did not heal. In fact, the cut became infected, a staph infection. Eventually, the infection spread to the heart and brain.

The client eventually won his claim. However, the case took a lot more work because he did not give notice to the employer of the cut on his leg.

The notice section of the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act

Section 52-1-29A of the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act says the following:

Any worker claiming to be entitled to compensation from any employer shall give notice in writing to his employer of the accident within fifteen days after the worker knew, or should have known, of its occurrence, unless, by reason of his injury or some other cause beyond his control, the worker is prevented from giving notice within that time, in which case he shall give notice as soon as may reasonably be done and at all events not later than sixty days after the occurrence of the accident. No written notice is required to be given where the employer or any superintendent or foreman or other agent in charge of the work in connection with which the accident occurred had actual knowledge of its occurrence.
N.M. Stat. Ann. ยง 52-1-29 (West)

It’s a lot of words, but the most important thing is that an injured worker must report an injury within 15 days of being injured or within 15 days of discovering an injury.

The section says the notice of a work injury should be “in writing.” Most employers have an accident or injury report form. You should ask your supervisor for the form. The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration uses a “First Report of Accident” form. This may also be used. A copy of the form is here: e1.

Or go to this website: http://www.workerscomp.state.nm.us/downloads/acc_rpt.php.

If you fill out an accident report or are presented with a filled out accident form, you need to make sure that the information in the form is accurate. If you disagree with anything on the form, you probably shouldn’t sign it.

If your supervisor or a manager witnesses a work accident, then an accident form is probably not necessary. However, to be sure, it’s always good to fill out an accident report if you can. Just make sure to fill out the form accurately.

What if you don’t give proper notice?

The worst case is that you could completely lose your workers’ compensation claim. At a minimum, the claim will be delayed until a workers’ compensation judge decides the notice issue.

What is the purpose of notice?

  • So an injured worker can get medical treatment as soon as possible.
  • So an injured worker can get workers compensation money benefits as soon as possible.
  • So the employer can fix any unsafe conditions at the work site.
  • So the employer can notify its insurance company of a possible workers compensation claim.
  • So the employer can take start the process to get the injured worker back to work as soon as possible.

Conclusion: give notice of a work accident or injury as soon as possible.