The Two-Year Statute of Limitations (SOL)
As stated earlier, there are different statutes of limitations that apply in a workers' compensation claim. First, we will discuss the two-year SOL. In the situations discussed below, you have two years from the date you were injured to formally pursue the claim.
If you have been injured on the job, but have not been paid indemnity (cash) benefits or received salary in lieu of indemnity benefits, then the SOL is two years from the date of injury. Put simply, if the Employer/Carrier hasn't paid you workers comp benefits for being off work after an injury, then you must file a Petition to Controvert within two years after the injury.
A Petition to Controvert (PTC) is the formal document filed with the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission that officially begins litigation and prevents your claim from being barred by the SOL. In some ways, the PTC is similar to filing a lawsuit. This is what tolls or saves the SOL from running and barring your claim.
If your claim is medical only, meaning you are not off work, but are receiving medical treatment provided and paid for by the Employer/Carrier, then you still only have two years to file your Petition to Controvert.
This can catch people off guard because you may think everything is taken care of and there should be no way the claim would end arbitrarily, but you would be wrong. Unfortunately, we have seen people fall victim to this trap. They report the injury and continue to receive treatment that the Carrier is paying for only to receive a letter after two years informing them the claim is over.
The bottom line is that nobody has to tell you about the two-year SOL. The adjuster is under no obligation to inform you the claim could be barred. The law puts the responsibility to pursue your workers' compensation claim squarely on your shoulders! Don't fail to pursue your claim!
When Does the Clock Start?
Generally speaking, the two-year SOL begins immediately after you have been injured. In many cases, it's fairly simple to determine when the time begins to run. If you fall off a ladder and injure your back on February 7, 2016, then the standard two-year SOL begins on that same day. You would have until February 7, 2018, to file your Petition to Controvert. If you filed on February 8, 2018, or after, you would be too late and your claim would be barred.
But what about latent injuries or injuries that do not become apparent until later on? This can be a much more difficult proposition. Sometimes you may injure yourself and not know it or it may be an injury that occurs somewhat over an extended period of time.
A perfect example of this type of injury would be carpal tunnel syndrome. This type of injury can occur from overuse over an extended period of time. There may not be one single event that leads to the injury or makes you aware that you have been injured. So when does the SOL begin? It depends upon the facts and circumstances of your claim. If you have this type of injury, time is certainly of the essence and you should contact an attorney immediately before it's too late.
Why Contact An Attorney?
The two-year SOL applies when you have not been paid benefits and begins on the date of your injury. The key here is to recognize that you must pursue your claim and protect it by filing a Petition to Controvert if necessary. My advice is to contact an attorney early on. If you miss the SOL, then your claim is over.
Next week we will discuss the other SOL applicable in workers' compensation claims: the one-year SOL. Stay tuned for a discussion on if and when it applies, and how to file a claim in a workers' compensation claim.
If you have questions about your claim, call Richard Schwartz & Associates, P.A. today at (601) 869-0696.