Is there a notice defense in New York?
New York employers must provide statutory benefits to employees who have an accident and sustain an injury, which arises out of and in the course of employment. The employee must provide notice to the employer within 30 days after the accident. WCL § 18. Timely notice gives the employer the ability to fully investigate the circumstances of the accident when information is available and witnesses can recall the event. Failure to give proper notice may prejudice the rights of the employer to the extent that it may be found to be relieved of its obligation to provide benefits under the law.
What constitutes Employer Prejudice?
Notice must come within 30 days – but the claimant can report it later – and get benefits – if the employer is not prejudiced by this late reporting. Whether or not late reporting prejudices the employer is a fact question for the Board.
New Case on employer prejudice.
In a new case decided December 15, 2011, the Appellate Division reviewed the denial of a claim based on the failure of the claimant to provide timely notice to the employer. In Dudas v. Town of Lancaster, the claimant allegedly injured his ankle in a slip on ice while working at Town Hall on February 28, 2007. The employee continued to work and did not seek medical treatment until 10 days later. The claimant reported the injury as work-related on June 27, 2007. The employer filed denial pleadings raising "notice" as a defense (see my "best practices" recommendations for filing denial pleadings). The employer also obtained the original emergency room intake records, in which the claimant was recorded as stating he was injured when he "fell off a porch" – a story at odds with his "slip on ice at Town Hall" claim.
Here, the Board disallowed the claim and the Appellate Division upheld that denial, as the claimant's failure to report the injury within the time period required by law (30 days) prejudiced the employer's ability to investigate the underlying accident.
Case: Dudas v. Town of Lacaster, 2011 Slip Op. 09050 (N.Y. App. Div., Decided December 15, 2011).