Nebraska law provides that once an employee sustains an accident, he or she is required to provide notice "as soon as practicable" to the employer of the accident occurrence and injuries. What does that mean? In short, the requirement is that the employee tell the employer about his or her injury as soon as is realistic or possible. Difficult is that there are no hard and fast rules in Nebraska regarding how and when notice must be provided. Is providing notice the day after the accident considered sufficient? Yes, likely. Is waiting a week to report the accident okay? Probably. Will telling the employer 2 or 3 or more months after the accident be considered sufficient notice? Here, it will depend on the facts and the credibility of the injured worker's justification for the delay.
Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-133 specifically states:
No proceedings for compensation for an injury under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act shall be maintained unless a notice of the injury shall have been given to the employer as soon as practicable after the happening thereof . . . The notice shall be in writing and shall state in ordinary language the time, place, and cause of the injury. . . A notice given pursuant to this section shall not be held invalid or insufficient by reason of any inaccuracy in stating the time, place, or cause of the injury, unless it is shown that it was the intention to mislead, and the employer, or the insurance company carrying such risk, as the case may be, was in fact misled thereby. Want of such written notice shall not be a bar to proceedings under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, if it be shown that the employer had notice or knowledge of the injury.
Despite the statutory language, an injured worker's claim for benefits will not be defeated for failure to provide written notice as long as the employer knew or reasonably should have known that the injured worker potentially suffered a compensable injury and the employer should investigate further. In other words, written notice is not required as long as the employer had actual or verbal notice of the accident and injury. Important for injured workers is to notify the employer as soon as possible after the accident happens and be as accurate as possible when providing the time, date and circumstances of the injury.
While lack of notice is rarely raised as a defense in workers' compensation claims, an injured worker's failure to notify his or her employer of the accident and injury can be fatal to the claim, even if the notice is provided a few months later. The justification for dismissal of an injured workers' claim due to lack of timely notice is because the purpose of the statutory notice requirement is both to allow the employer to complete a prompt investigation and to also provide immediate treatment with the goal of minimizing the injury, which cannot happen if the employer does not know of the accident and injury. See Williamson v. Werner Enterprises, Inc., 12 Neb.App. 642, 648, 682 N.W.2d 723, 728 (2004).
If you have questions regarding whether notice was provided and sufficient, feel free to call our office and ask to speak with an attorney.