No matter how small an injury, a worker must “forthwith report” the accident and the resulting injury to the employer, according to Arizona Workers’ Compensation laws. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §23-908 (E)). The injured worker must report the injury when it occurs or as soon as she becomes aware of her condition. Failing to timely report a work-related injury could jeopardize the claim for workers’ compensation benefits and can lead to a difficult battle over whether the injury happened on the job.
The purpose of the forthwith reporting requirement is two-fold: 1) It enables the employer to provide immediate medical diagnosis and treatment with possibly minimizing the seriousness of the injury; and 2) It allows the employer to start an investigation of the facts surrounding the injury. (Thompson v. Indus. Comm’n, 160 Ariz. 263, 266 (1989).
A worker can satisfy the reporting requirement by immediately notifying a supervisor verbally, or, for example, by sending an email to the employer or supervisor stating that the worker is reporting the accident as a possible work-related injury. Creating a paper trail by notifying a supervisor or the employer in writing helps because the burden is on the injured worker if the claim is denied for failure to timely report the injury.
Under Arizona case law, the court has recognized as least two instances which may excuse the untimely reporting of a work injury. They are: 1) When the employee “had no way of knowing the injury occured or that the injury was causally related to employment,” or 2) When the employer has not been prejudiced by the worker’s lack of diligence in reporting the injury. (Douglas Auto & Equip. v. Indus. Comm’n, 202 Ariz. 345, 347, ¶ 7 (2002)).
However, the burden rests with the injured worker to show why the untimely reporting should be excused.
Other tips if you are injured on the job:
1) When you first receive treatment from an emergency room examining doctor, or urgent care provider, or your own doctor, tell them that this happened at work and make the medical note of the visit documents it.
2) If your employer requires a drug and alcohol test after a work-event injury, ask for a copy of the results.
3) Exercise your choice to see your doctor from the start. If your employer is not a self-provider, it can send you to a doctor of its choice for the first medical visit. However, if you continue treatment with this doctor beyond the first visit, then that doctor becomes your treating physician for the injury, and you have to ask for permission to change doctors. (Find out if your employer is self-insured and/or can direct medical care here.)
4) In addition to the forthwith reporting requirement, you must file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits within a year of when you became aware of the seriousness of the injury and its causal relationship with the work event. A worker’s report of injury form from the Industrial Commission of Arizona for filing a claim can be found here.