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Worker who delayed injury report entitled to disability benefits

Solar panel installer

A worker who did not report her on-the-job injury for more than a week may receive disability benefits and medical care, an Arkansas appellate court held Wednesday.

In M.A. Mortenson Cos. v. Reed, a three-judge panel of the Arkansas Court of Appeals in Little Rock affirmed an Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission decision granting the employee benefits after it determined that she was a credible witness.

Mae Reed worked as a solar panel assembler for Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson Cos. She claimed that on Nov. 18, 2017, she was holding a solar panel when a gust of wind blew the panel and her arm back over her head. She did not stop working but did stop the employer’s “safety man” as he drove around checking on employees. The workday ended early because of strong winds and rain and was her last scheduled day before a planned vacation out of the country. A few days later, she said she started experiencing pain but did not receive treatment until she arrived home after her trip and immediately went to the emergency room.

The ER records show that Ms. Reed was treated at 4:13 a.m. Nov. 28. She said she told personnel that her problems were work-related, but the record did not reflect this. Later that morning, she reported to the job site, and she received further treatment several times in the following two weeks, including steroid injections. Ms. Reed testified that the doctor told her that fluid had built up in her arm, which is why her shoulder did not hurt immediately after the incident.

An administrative law judge held that Ms. Reed had sustained a compensable injury and was entitled to temporary total disability and reasonable medical treatment. The Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission affirmed the decision.

Her employer and its insurer appealed, arguing that the evidence did not support the commission’s decision. The appellate court, however, disagreed and affirmed the commission’s decision.

Although Mortenson argued that the only evidence that the workplace incident even occurred was “Reed’s self-serving testimony” and that she only reported shoulder pains three days after a colleague said the staff was going to be laid off, Ms. Reed contended that she reported the incident on the day it occurred, and that even though she did not have pain immediately after the incident, she visited the ER immediately after landing from her trip and reported the injury that same morning.

The appellate court agreed with the commission that Ms. Reed’s testimony was credible, holding that her failure to immediately report an injury was not fatal to her claim because the administrative judge and the commission “apparently found her to be a credible witness” and therefore affirmed the decision.


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