WAITING TO DISTINGUISH WORKPLACE INJURY FROM PRIOR PAIN MAY NOT AMOUNT TO UNTIMELY NOTICE
In Candia v. Orchard Park Assisted Living, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court held that waiting 2-3 weeks to give notice was sufficient when that is how long it took for the employee to determine that the workplace incident was the cause of her pain as opposed to her pre-existing back problems.
In Candia, an employee felt a “pop” in her back while lifting a patient who had fallen. The employee had experienced previous episodes of back pain, so she initially treated her symptoms with over-the-counter medications as she had done before. After her pain persisted for 2-3 weeks without relief from the over-the-counter medications, the employee concluded that the back pain that resulted from the “pop” in her back at work was distinguishable from her previous episodes. She then notified her employer of her ongoing back pain that occurred while lifting the patient.
Under Section 48-133, a claimant must give his or her employer notice of injury “as soon as practicable.” The Court found that, because the employee notified her employer as soon as she knew her back pain was different from her prior unrelated back pain, notice was given as soon as practicable after the accident.
Therefore, if an employee waits to notify his or her employer of an injury in order to distinguish it from past episodes of pain, the facts and circumstances of each individual case must be evaluated. Factors such as the existence or non-existence of pre-existing conditions, whether the employee sought medical treatment, and when notice is given, in addition to other factors, can impact whether sufficient notice was given “as soon as practicable.”
This post was drafted by Ashly Helfrich, a law clerk at Baylor Evnen. If you have questions regarding workplace accident liability in your case, please call Paul Barta or Makenzie Falcon at 402-475-1075.