Hurt on the job in Alabama? Our workers’ compensation laws require you to provide your employer with notice of your accident. I’ve written about Alabama’s notice requirement several times. It’s an issue we see in many Alabama workers’ compensation cases.
What does Alabama law require? The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act states you must provide written notice of your accident within 5 days. Then, the statute continues by allowing up to 90 days in certain situations. While the statute says notice must be written, our courts have required employers to provide workers’ compensation benefits where actual notice is received, even where oral.
Over-and-over, we see two common problems with notice. Both can prevent you from obtaining needed workers’ compensation benefits.
Do NOT Wait To Tell Your Employer About The Accident And Injuries
You suffer a work-related accident. But, you wait to tell your boss. Employees wait for several reasons. Here are two big ones:
- The employee doesn’t initially think the injury is serious. I hear it all the time with both car accident victims and work-related accident victims. In the moments after the accident, they think it’s OK. Often, the employee thinks, “I just pulled a muscle.” Maybe the employee thinks, “I’ll work it out and be fine.” Sometimes, that’s true. Sometimes, it’s not. The problem is that you may not know whether or not the injury is serious for the first few days. If you wait, it can be too late. Instead, you need to report the injury.
- The employee is afraid of losing his or her job. Some people have a bad boss! When they suffer a work-related accident, they are afraid of losing their job. I understand. But, you need to think carefully about it. If your boss is really that bad, he is definitely going to run you off if the injury is serious. And, he is probably going to try and prevent you from getting benefits. If you have a work-related injury, it’s best to give your employer notice. You need to think about your future — Getting the medical care and benefits you need for long-term productivity and work.
Do NOT Give Oral Notice. Put It In Writing.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve had plenty of cases where the employee gave oral-only notice. The employee has an accident, tells his boss and assumes everything will be covered.
What if nothing is in writing and your boss suddenly “forgets” you told him about the accident? Over the last 25 years, I’ve tried numerous cases in court where the boss “could not remember” or, worse, outright denies notice. Don’t put yourself in the situation where you are asking a trial judge to listen and decide who is telling the truth about notice! Put it in writing at the time of your accident!
Last week I was reading an article about this situation in another state. According to the article, a worker suffered a bad eye injury on a construction site. He was hammering a nail when it bounced back and hit him in the eye. He told his boss. Instead of sending him immediately to the doctor, the boss gave him eye drops and told the employee to lie about the injury. The worker in this article eventually lost his workers’ compensation claim when the boss later “could not remember the accident” at the time of trial.
If you are thinking this is unusual or uncommon, you would be wrong. If you are thinking it’s unusual for a boss to ask an employee to lie about events, you would be wrong. I’ve heard similar stories following many Alabama construction-related injuries. I’ve heard more stories than I can count over the years about bosses who actually asked the employee to lie about it. In many of these cases, the boss tells the employee he needs to lie so it is covered under his separate health insurance. In other cases, the boss tells the employee he will personally pay if the employee lies. Don’t believe it. Don’t trust your boss to personally cover you if the injury turns out to be serious.
Why is the boss asking you to lie about the accident? In many situations, the employer is trying to avoid any increase in premiums for work comp coverage. In some situations, the employer failed to get coverage. This pressure often works when an employee is worried about his job. And, it often works because many employees want to trust their boss. In the end, the employee is often left with no medical care, no benefits, and no job.
While some bosses don’t actually ask the employee to lie, many will suddenly have a memory lapse in court. Don’t expect your boss “to remember” your accident a year later in court. Don’t even expect your boss to remember your accident a month later when you ask for medical care. Put it in writing.
If you are hurt on the job, give your employer written notice. In Alabama, our Department of Labor even has a form to report accidents. Most employers use this form. If your boss gives you trouble when you try to report the accident in writing, you can always call the Alabama Department of Labor. Or, call me. I’ll listen, discuss your options and get you a written form.