Under California law, workers’ compensation claims are subject to a statute of limitations. As a general rule, most workers’ compensation claims must be filed by an injured employee within one year of the date of the accident or the “onset” of the injury/illness. If a worker fails to file a claim before the deadline, an employer can raise a statute of limitations defense.

However, courts have determined that employers can only rely on such a defense if they properly supplied Claim Forms and Notice of Rights to the employee. Here, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys provide a more detailed explanation of an employer’s obligation to provide notice before relying on a statute of limitations defense.

Know the Case Law: Reynolds V. Workmen’s Compensation Appeals Board

In November of 1974, the California Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Willard P. Reynolds v. Workmen’s Compensation Appeals Board. The ruling by the state’s top court set an important precedent regarding an employer’s right to raise a statute of limitations defense against a workers’ compensation claim.

Worker Suffered Heart Attack While Loading Heavy Objects

In 1968, a man named Willard P. Reynolds began experiencing pain in his chest and left arm while loading heavy objects for his employer, the California-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The pain became more persistent and severe throughout the day. Though the employee requested assistance, none was provided. Eventually, it became apparent to his supervisor and other co-workers that he was having a heart attack.

Took Time Off, Did Not File for Workers’ Compensation

While recovering from his medical emergency, Mr. Reynolds took several months off. During that time, he received unemployment insurance. Only after nearly three years did he decide to file for workers’ compensation insurance after being told by a relative that he would probably qualify for benefits. His claim was denied on statute of limitations grounds.

The Decision: Claim Not Time-Barred, Employers Failed to Meet its Obligations

Though the statute of limitations has technically passed, the California Supreme Court ruled that PG&E could not raise this defense. Under California state regulations, an employer has a legal responsibility to notify an injured worker of their right to file for benefits.

As PG&E failed to meet this obligation, it could not rely on a statute of limitations defense. In effect, the California Supreme Court set the precedent that the workers’ compensation statute of limitations will not start to run until an employer provides proper notice of rights to an employee. Or in other words, the employer should provide a Reynold’s notice.

Get Help From a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Central California

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense lawyers provide aggressive, effective guidance and support to clients. If you have questions about the statute of limitations defense, we are here to help. Send us a message today for your fully private case evaluation. With legal offices in Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sacramento, we serve communities in the San Joaquin Valley and throughout all of California.