When to Report a Work Injury: Be Quick and Honest to Protect Your Compensation

Protect your right to workers’ comp by promptly reporting work injuries to your employer. Get the facts about reporting and filing deadlines.

If you’re injured at work, report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. Failure to report even a minor injury could lead to the denial of valuable workers’ compensation benefits.

All states have laws that impose deadlines on when workers must report their injuries.

Depending on the state, deadlines can range from “as soon as possible” after an injury to within 180 days. If you delay reporting your work accident, you run the risk of your employer’s insurance carrier denying your claim.

Report a Work-Related Injury ASAP

Injured workers should notify their employers of all work injuries, even if an injury is relatively minor or you think it’s no big deal. Minor injuries or symptoms can sometimes lead to serious medical conditions or indicate the onset of an occupational disease.

For example, you may work in a clerical position and begin to feel tingling in your fingers. You decide not to report the condition because it isn’t painful and doesn’t affect your work output.

However, tingling in a person’s fingers is sometimes a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you become unable to work, your failure to report the developing condition might disqualify your work injury claim.

When reporting a minor accident, avoid exaggeration. Provide honest statements about your injuries. Exaggerations could lead to a workers’ comp investigation and the denial of your claim.

Prompt Medical Care and Notification Are Critical

When you’re hurt on the job, seek immediate medical attention or first aid. Immediate treatment not only protects your health, it’s also vital to link your injury to the workplace. Tell your medical provider where and when you were injured.

If you’re moving boxes at work on Friday and feel something pull in your back, don’t assume resting over the weekend will make it better. If you wait until you can’t straighten up come Monday morning, you might have a tough time convincing the workers’ comp adjuster that you were hurt on the job.

If your employer was not informed at the time of the work accident, notify them after you’ve received medical treatment.

It’s a good idea for injured employees to report their injuries in writing. While your state may allow for verbal reporting, written notification is typically better. Your company may have a standard injury form. If not, sending a letter or email will suffice.

Include the following information in your notice of injury:

  • Date of injury
  • ​Time of injury
  • Type of injury and body part
  • How the injury occurred
  • Treatment received
  • Contact information

Employer OSHA Reporting Obligations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also imposes reporting requirements. All employers are required to notify the agency when a worker is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

Employers must report a work fatality within 8 hours. They must report a hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss within 24 hours. Most states also have a standard “First Report of Injury” form which employers must complete.

Reporting Deadlines for Work Injury Claims

There are two deadlines affecting workplace injury claims: the deadline to notify the employer of your injuries and the deadline for filing a workers’ comp claim.

Each state’s workers’ compensation laws determine reporting and filing deadlines. Keep in mind that if you live in one state and work in another, you need to verify which state’s rules govern your claim.

See all 50 states’ deadlines for reporting work injuries here.

Deadlines vary widely. For example, a few states require a worker to report injuries to their employer “as soon as possible.” Colorado only allows four days to notify your employer, while most states allow 30 days from the date of injury.

Aside from state notification deadlines, many employers have company rules for reporting on-the-job injuries, usually as soon as an injury occurs. Don’t risk losing your job by failing to comply with company rules.

Worker vs. Employer Responsibility for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

In most states, a workers’ compensation claim must be filed within one to two years of the injury. However the sooner your claim is filed, the less likely it will be challenged by the insurance company.

The employer is typically responsible for providing the forms, helping with the paperwork, and filing the employee’s claim with the workers’ compensation insurance company. Larger companies will have a human resources department to complete these tasks.

If your employer refuses to assist you with the forms or fails to promptly file your claim, seek legal advice from a workers’ compensation lawyer.

You can also lodge a complaint with your state’s workers’ compensation official.

The Discovery Rule and Occupational Illnesses

Many states have a discovery rule that applies to the deadline for reporting a work-related condition. The rule says that the time clock for reporting an accident does not begin to run until you discover (learn about) your illness or injury. The discovery rule often applies in cases of occupational illnesses.

An occupational illness is an event or exposure in the workplace that either makes you sick or aggravates a medical condition you already have. A problem with these illnesses is they’re more difficult to determine. They lack one identifiable event that makes a worker sick.

Consider a worker in a state where employees must report an injury within 30 days. On January 1, 2021, the worker gets diagnosed with a serious respiratory condition. Medical specialists trace the illness to a toxic environment in a coal mine the worker was exposed to five years ago.

In this situation, it’s impossible for the worker to report the illness within 30 days of when it was caused. However, with the discovery rule, the worker can meet the deadline provided they make the report by January 31, 2021 – within thirty days of being diagnosed.

Impact of Late Reporting or Filing

A failure to meet a reporting or filing deadline can result in the denial of your workers’ compensation claim. A denial means you won’t qualify for workers’ comp benefits.

That’s why it’s critical to report your work injury immediately after it occurs. It’s also important to follow up with your employer to make sure they send your claim to its insurer.

All workers have the right to appeal a workers’ comp claim denial.

If your claim gets denied, your employer’s insurer will send you a letter explaining why your claim was denied, how you can appeal the denial, and the deadline for filing your appeal. State appeal deadlines are usually between 30 to 90 days.

If you file an appeal, you’ll attend an administrative hearing before the workers’ compensation appeals board.

During the hearing, you can present evidence showing you reported your injury on time and/or that your employer sent your claim to its insurer within the applicable deadline.

Employer Failure to Cooperate

​If your employer refuses to send your claim, you can contact the insurance company and submit a claim on your own. If your employer is trying to block your claim, you’ll need help from a workers’ compensation attorney.

Don’t wait to contact an attorney, most offer a free consultation to injured workers.

If you have reliable proof that your claim was denied because of fraud, administrative error, or another irregularity, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against your employer.

Your attorney will explain all your available options for pursuing fair compensation.

Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>