The Importance of a Timely Workers' Compensation Claim

Workers' compensation is a state-regulated insurance program that provides financial reimbursements for any work-related illnesses and injuries. Workers' compensation can cover a wide variety of injuries and illnesses, but what happens if a claimant waits too long to file a claim?

Posted: 07/30/2019

Workers' compensation is a state-regulated insurance program that provides financial reimbursements for any work-related illnesses and injuries. All employers in Montana are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, and, because Montana is a no-fault state, workers don't even need to prove employer negligence to take advantage of this program. However, "workers' comp" also protects employers from potential lawsuits, which is why an injured employee needs to file their claim in a timely manner.

A sick or injured employee can receive the following benefits through Montana's workers' compensation program:
  • Temporary Total Disability
  • Temporary Partial Disability
  • Permanent Total Disability Benefits
  • Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
  • Death Benefits

These benefits can cover an employee's wage losses, medical bills, loss of earning capacity, and more. The only vocational exceptions to this policy are agricultural laborers, federal employees, domestic servants, and railroad workers, and only because alternative compensation laws cover these professions.

To receive workers' compensation payments, an employee needs to follow certain procedures mandated by Montana law:

Report your injury to a supervisor, insurer, or employer as soon as possible.
  • Give notice within 30 days after the accident or incident occurred.
  • Schedule a doctor's appointment immediately and ask the physician to update your medical record.
  • Complete and sign a First Report of Injury (FROI) within 12 months from the date of the injury.
  • Submit this document to your employer, the workers' compensation insurer, or the Montana Department of Labor & Industry.

Per Montana Code section 39-71-601(1), "all claims in the case of personal injury or death must be forever barred unless signed by the claimant or the claimant's representative and presented in writing to the employer, the insurer, or the department, as the case may be, within 12 months from the date of the happening of the accident, either by the claimant or someone legally authorized to act on the claimant's behalf."

Workers' compensation can cover a wide variety of injuries and illnesses, but what happens if a claimant waits too long to file a claim?

The Case

In 2006, a security guard named Brian Richardson was working a graveyard shift at a clinic in Billings, Montana. At 1:25 a.m., he responded to an altercation involving a psychiatric patient in the facility's emergency department. Afterward, he described the incident in his Daily Activity Report and noted that the patient repeatedly hit him during the altercation.

Two years later, Richardson scheduled a doctor's appointment after suffering from chronic headaches and nasal obstruction. The physician attributed his symptoms to the untreated 2006 nasal fracture. Richardson underwent surgery on June 25, 2008. Afterward, he learned that his private insurance provider wouldn't cover the costs associated with the surgery.

Richardson tried to file a workers' compensation claim through his company, Securitas. Unfortunately, the company's insurer, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America, denied the claim "due to lack of notice and untimely filing." Richardson appealed the judgment, but the workers' compensation court ruled in favor of the insurer.

Although Richardson took the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Montana, he was unable to receive benefits because he:
  • Failed to note his nose injury in his Daily Activity Report.
  • Failed to seek medical care for his alleged injuries within 12 months of the incident.
  • Failed to complete or file a First Report of Injury with the insurer.

Do You Need to File a Workers' Compensation Claim?

The best way to protect your right to benefits after an accident is to discuss your legal options with a qualified workers' compensation attorney. Contact the award-winning lawyers at Odegaard Kovacich Snipes if you require legal guidance or representation. Our team has over 100+ years of collective legal experience as well as a comprehensive understanding of Montana's workers' compensation system. We can guide you through each step of this complex process, circumvent any legal pitfalls, and help you obtain the benefits you need.

Contact Odegaard Kovacich Snipes at (406) 222-2222 to schedule a free consultation.