Many jobs require physical labor, which comes with some risks of injury on the clock, especially for those who install and move equipment. Sometimes you get injured while working, and you think, “maybe I can just work through this.” However, if you attempt to work through an injury and don’t report it immediately to your employer, they may try to avoid paying you workers’ compensation benefits. This happened to James Payton, a veteran and previous employee of NASA. Payton’s case helps answer the question; Can I get Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Don’t Immediately Report My Injury?
James Payton began working for Sears in 2013. Before this position, Payton served in the military and worked for NASA for 31 years. He was hired at Sears as an appliance technician, which requires some physical labor. During a shift, Payton was installing a washer/dryer in a residence and injured his back. Payton had never been involved in another accident or had injured his back before his employment with Sears.
Payton continued working after his injury in the hope it would correct itself. Unfortunately, the injury worsened over the next few days, and Payton found it challenging to complete simple actions, such as getting out of bed or driving a car. After visiting a physician and receiving an MRI, it was confirmed that Payton had herniated discs in his lower back, and he was advised to avoid heavy lifting. He then reported his medical diagnosis to Sears approximately a month after the initial injury.
Because Payton did not immediately report to Sears that he had been injured on the job, Sears denied Payton workers’ compensation, claiming he did not follow their procedures and therefore did not qualify. Payton then filed a complaint with the court, asking for workers’ compensation so he could pay his medical bills for his injuries. After reviewing the medical evidence and both parties’ testimony, the judge ruled that Mr. Payton should be awarded workers’ compensation and have all medical expenses paid for by Sears.
Sears appealed this decision, which the Louisiana Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit then heard. Sears claimed that Mr. Payton did not adhere to the procedures required by the company to claim damages from his injury. Payton was responsible for proving to the court that his injury was received from actions expected of his occupation. See La. R.S. 23:1031A. Payton stated that he did not immediately report his injury to Sears because he wanted to receive a medical diagnosis to confirm his injury and make a good impression at his new job. The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court, holding that Payton deserved compensation for his injuries.
Sears had still not paid any medical benefits when the Court of Appeals decided and did not want to pay Payton’s attorney’s fees, which was asked for in the lower court. The Court of Appeals instructed Sears to pay Payton’s attorney’s fees under La. R.S. 23:1201F(2).
Workers’ compensation incidents are very common. If you have a claim, you should speak with an attorney about your next steps.
Additional Sources: Payton v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Writer: Ainsley Ayres
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