The Court of Appeals of Iowa recently affirmed a decision from the Commission that a report notifying the employer that an accident might have occurred, but did not specify that an employee had been hurt or injured, was sufficient notice in John Deere Davenport Works v. Dickerson.
Under Section 85.23, notice of a work-related injury must be given to the employer within ninety days of the incident for the claim to be compensable. Notice can be given in different ways, but in this case, the issue was whether a report that alerted the employer of the mere possibility of an injury would serve as sufficient notice to the employer.
In Dickerson, the employee suffered an injury to his head at work and then filed a “Near Miss Report.” During his deposition, the employee stated that a “Near Miss Report” was a report an employee would file if something unsafe happened at work so the employer could figure out some corrective action to reduce the risk of injuries. However, the employer argued that they had no notice of a claim as an affirmative defense, because the report did not state that an injury actually occurred, only that there was an incident where an employee could have been injured. The employer argued that this was insufficient notice. IOWA CODE §85.23.
The Commission, and Court of Appeals affirmed, that the employer was given sufficient notice of the injury from the “Near Miss Report.” Regardless of the title of the report, the employer was aware that an incident had occurred which could have caused bodily injury. The point of Section 85.23 is to make the employer aware of the possibility a claim might be filed, so they can investigate the claim accordingly. Being made aware of the possibility an injury occurred was sufficient notice because, if the employer wanted to know if the employee had indeed suffered an injury, they could have simply asked.
This ruling determines that if an employer is simply alerted of the mere possibility of a claim, then the employer is given sufficient notice, and must investigate the incident. This post was drafted by Emily Fehringer, a law student and law clerk at Baylor Evnen. If you have questions about what kinds of incident reports constitute notice of an injury, please contact Paul Barta or Micah C. Hawker-Boehnke at 402-475-1075 for more information.