Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured worker must give notice of his or her injury within 120 days of the injury. If this notice is not given within 120 days, a claim petition for workers’ comp benefits is barred.
When an injury is not known to be related to work, this time period may be extended. This is known as a “discovery rule.” In that case, notice must be given within 120 days of when the injured worker knows he or she has suffered a work injury.
A recent decision by the Commonwealth Court of PA, The Bullen Companies v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Hausmann), explored this issue. In this case, the injured worker was employed at a chemical plant for 17 years. The worker started getting treatment for kidney ailments in 2002, but did not notify his employer of a work injury until 2004, which the employer said was more than 120 days after the “injury” was suffered.
The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) found for the Claimant, and granted the Claim Petition. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) affirmed. The Commonwealth Court of PA also affirmed.
Importantly, the Commonwealth Court of PA, citing language from a decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, stating that the, “discovery rule ‘calls for more than an employee’s suspicion, intuition or belief; by its terms, the statute’s notice period is triggered only by an employee’s knowledge that she is injured and that her injury is possibly related to her job.'” Therefore, the 120 day period within which to give notice did not start until the injured worker was advised by a doctor that she had a work-related injury.