Most employees know that if they are hurt during and in the course of work that they are likely entitled to workers' compensation benefits to help them with their lost wages and medical bills as a result of their personal injury. Few employees are aware, however, of the time limitations for providing a notice of personal injury or filing a workers' compensation claim and the consequences of late filing are huge.
Employees who fail to complete a notice of injury or fail to also file a workers' compensation claim within the appropriate time limits might lose out completely in their benefits if they are not careful.
Here is what you need to know about filing a notice, claim and appeal if you get hurt at work:
- Notice of injury.
Claims for workers' compensation injuries begin with something called a "notice of injury."
This is a written notice provided by the employee and given to the employer which details the name and address of the injured worker along with the date and place of the accident.
These forms can be obtained from the worker's employer or directly from the Department of Labor. https://www.nh.gov/labor/workers-comp/forms.htm
The notice of injury has to be given to the employer within two years from the date of the injury.
That said, there are limited exceptions to this time limit. The law allows for the fact that some employees might not immediately realize that they have suffered an injury. Often times a person doesn't realize that they have suffered a significant injury until days or weeks after the event. The injury might take time to manifest itself into symptoms such as with back injuries. In addition, it is not uncommon for employees to assume that the initial ache or pain from an injury will get better, and it's only when it doesn't resolve that the employee begins to realize that they may require medical treatment or time off from work. There are still other instances in which an employee simply doesn't put two and two together until they speak with the doctor who explains why a particular ache or pain is related to work activity. In instances such as these, New Hampshire's workers' compensation laws dictate that the two year time limit for filing a notice of injury will not begin to run until the earlier of the following:
1) The date the employee knows or by reasonable diligence should know of the nature of the injury and its possible relationship to the employment; or
2) In the event of death, the date any dependent knows, or by reasonable diligence should know, of the nature of the injury and its possible relationship to the employee’s employment.
- Time limits for filing claims
In order to be eligible for disability, rehabilitation, medical benefits, or death benefits under New Hampshire's workers' compensation laws, an injured employee must also file a claim; this is in addition to submitting a written notice of injury.
A workers' compensation "claim" must be filed with the Department of Labor within three years after the date of injury.
As with the notice of injury, there is an exception to the three year time limit in the event that the nature of the injury and its possible relationship to the employment are not immediately known to the employee. In that case, and in the event of death, the three year time limit will begin to run as of the date that the worker (or in the case of death, the worker's dependent) knows, or by reasonable diligence should know, of the nature of the injury and its possible relationship to the employee's employment.
It is worthwhile to note that the language of the statute talks about the "possible relationship" to the employee's employment. This means that any employee who has good reason to believe that an injury has occurred as a result of work should pay careful attention to these time limits.
3) Time limits for the workers' compensation insurance company to accept or deny a claim
According to the administrative rules for the Department of Labor workers' compensation division, an insurance company has 21 days to make a decision one way or the other as to whether to accept or deny a claim for injury which has been filed by an injured employee.
It can take time for the insurance company to gather the medical records necessary to make a determination. Therefore, it would not be unusual for an insurance company to initially deny a claim, pending further review of medical records. By now, you probably won't be surprised to find that if your claim is denied, you have a time limit within which you must file an appeal if you hope to overturn the insurance companie’s denial.
4) Time limitations for appealing denied claims
Once a workers' compensation claim has been denied by the insurance company the clock begins to tick again, and this time the employee has only 18 months from the date of the denial to request a hearing at the Department of Labor to appeal the insurance company's decision. This request for appeal must be sent to the Department of Labor.
As you can see, workers' compensation claims are rife with twisting time limitations which can trip up an injured employee, and there are even more! (We will address some of those in a future blog.)
In the meantime, if you or someone you know has been injured at work and you have questions, there is help you can afford and it is just a phone call away.
Most workers' compensation attorneys provide free telephone consultations, as we do at Rice Law Office. In addition, if after making that call you find that you do need legal help with your claim, it's much more affordable than you might imagine.
Workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys usually offer contingent fee agreements where the employee is not required to put any money up front. In these kinds of fee arrangements, the attorney gets paid either by the insurance company or when benefits are awarded.
So if you are seriously injured or worried because you are not getting better after an injury at work, don't hesitate to make the call.