What Kind of Notice Must Injured Workers Give Their Employers?

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If you are hurt at work, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, S.C.Code §§ 42-15-10 et seq. In most instances, your Greenville, SC employer is required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. If you are injured at work during the course of your employment, you are entitled to benefits even if you might have contributed to your own injury or if one of your co-workers contributed to the accident.
At the same time, you have certain obligations and responsibilities to remain eligible for benefits. One such obligation under the Act is to notify your boss/employer of your injury immediately, but within no less than ninety (90) days of the injury. Then you must file your claim within two years of the notice. If you fail to comply with either of these requirements, you will lose your right to benefits.  In this article, we discuss a recent South Carolina Supreme Court case where the court discussed what constitutes proper “notice.”

Greenville SC Workers’ Compensation: Hartzell v. Palmetto Collision

Mechanic claim for workers compRecently, the South Carolina Supreme Court gave guidance on what is proper notice of of a workplace injury under the Workers’ Compensation Act. See Hartzell v. Palmetto Collision, LLC, 784 SE 2d 194 (S.C. 2016). In that case, claimant Richard Hartzell was 50 years old at the time of his injury and worked as an auto body paint technician. On February 25, 2009, Hartzell injured his back while moving tires, rims, and heavy frame equipment while cleaning up the repair/paint shop. He testified that he began experiencing lower back pain sometime in the late afternoon that day after finishing work and that he felt very sore in his lower back the next day.
Hartzell testified that, the next day, he told his boss — the owner of the shop — that he was “pretty sore,” and that he “must have hurt [himself].” According to testimony, Hartzell’s boss suggested that he go to the emergency room if he was having problems. Hartzell did not seek medical treatment at that time. Hartzell ended his employment in mid-March 2009 and testified that he and his boss discussed his back injury during the “last couple of weeks” before he quit. Hartzell filed a workers’ compensation claim on May 10, 2010.

Greenville SC Workers’ Comp: What is Proper Notice?

Hartzell’s employer denied workers’ compensation claim on the grounds that Hartzell did not give proper notice within the time required by the Workers’ Compensation Act (hereinafter “WC Act”). The WC Act provides that an injured employee must provide notice to his employer of a work-related accident “on the occurrence of an accident, or as soon thereafter as practicable,” but must do so “within 90 days after the occurrence of the accident.” S.C. Code § 42-15-20. The courts have held that the notice provisions of the WC Act “should be liberally construed in favor of claimants.”
Under the facts of the case, Hartzell argued that he gave notice the next day. His employer disputed that the verbal conversations occurred and claimed that the first notice he had of the injury was shortly after May 10, 2010 when he received the application for workers’ compensation. The Workers’ Compensation Commission held a hearing and heard testimony from both Hartzell and his boss. The Commission believed that Hartzell had given notice to his boss and that the verbal notice was sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the WC Act.
The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. The Court noted that the Commissioner — after hearing the testimony of both parties — found Hartzell more credible than his boss on this issue. The Supreme Court gives substantial deference to fact-finders on credibility questions. As such, the Court sustained the Commission’s ruling that proper notice had been given. The Court stated, “While reasonable minds could have reached a different conclusion based on the record, we must not engage in fact-finding that would disregard the Commission’s factual findings on these issues. We find the Commission’s findings are supported by substantial evidence.”

Greenville SC Workers’ Compensation Lawyer: David R. Price, Jr. P.A.

If you have been hurt at work, call the Greenville SC workplace injury lawyers at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. Our attorneys know South Carolina workers’ compensation law and are skilled and proven advocates for injured workers. Email us today or call directly at 864-310-7640.

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