Failing to file a timely denial of an alleged work-related injury could result in an employee collecting uncontested workers’ compensation benefits for life, according to a ruling made by the Connecticut Supreme Court earlier this year.

In Donahue v. Veridiem the court recently expanded a decision it made in the Harpaz v. Laidlaw Transit case of 2008. The court ruled in Harpaz that an employer who fails to contest a workers’ comp claim in a timely manner or begin paying benefits within 28 days of receiving a notice of claim may not, for the life of the claim, contest the compensability of the injured worker’s disability.

Expanding on Harpaz, the court held in Donahue that employers failing to meet the 28-day deadline will not only be precluded from contesting compensability but also barred from challenging the claimant’s proof.

According to the court, those employers would forfeit their ability to cross-examine the worker or any witnesses, obtain an independent medical exam, or even submit a legal brief. Only the state labor commissioner would thereafter be able challenge a workers’ compensation claim.

As unfair as it may seem, Donahue sharply underscores the importance of employers’ timely challege of questionable workers’ compensation claims. Otherwise, employers essentially could be shut out from the process altogether.

Given that Connecticut has historically had high workers’ compensation costs for employers and generous benefit levels for employees, Donahue forces employers to balance the costs and risks of contesting every claim, even if its premature or unnecessary, simply to preserve their rights to contest a claim in the future.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Kia Murrell at 860-244-1931 or kia.murrell@cbia.com.