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Failure to File Written Report of Work Injury is Not Always Fatal to your Claim

Section 287.420 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri requires an employee to give written notice of a work injury within 30 days of that injury.  Missouri law was changed in 2005 to require a judge to strictly read the workers' compensation statutes and interpret them as written.  Since the change in the law, employers and insurance companies have tried to defeat injured employees' claims by saying that the employee failed to give written notice within 30 days of the injury, when the law specifically says they must give written notice to maintain a claim. The statute says:  "No proceedings for compensation for any accident under this chapter shall be maintained unless written notice of the time, place and nature of the injury, and the name and address of the person injured, has been given to the employer no later than thirty days after the accident, unless the employer was not prejudiced by failure to receive the notice."

The italicized part of the statute's language is important, because it excuses the lack of written notice if the employee can prove that the employer was not prejudiced by failure to receive the written notice.  One way to prove this is to prove that the employer actually knew about the accident.  This is not a difficult thing to prove if a supervisor actually witnessed the accident.  But even if the employer did not witness the accident, it is still possible to prove that the employer was not prejudiced because they did not get written notice.  In a recent case, Sell v. Ozarks Medical Center, the Southern District Court of Appeals found that an employee who delivered a doctors' note to his supervisor the day after the accident informed his employer of the injury.  This shifted the burden to the employer to show that the lack of written notice hampered the employer in its ability to investigate the accident, or to show that the employer was denied the opportunity to minimize the employee's injuries.  The employer in the Sell case was unable to show that it was prejudiced and thus, the employee was able to maintain the claim even without having given written notice within 30 days of the injury.

The moral of the story is this---do not let your employer tell you that you cannot file a workers' compensation claim because you did not give written notice within 30 days of the injury.  You may very well be able to show that the employer was not prejudiced by your failure to give the technical written notice. 

Of course, if you want to avoid this battle in the future, if you suffer a work accident in Missouri in the future, make it a point to give your employer written notice of the time, place and nature of the injury. 
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