Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 199 14
S. Martel
  • Board Directives and Guidelines (notice of accident)
  • Notice of accident (by worker) (disablement)

The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying the worker an extension of the time to file a claim for carpal tunnel syndrome.

The worker first began to experience pain in his right hand in 2007. In June 2011, he went to his doctor, who made a working diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome and sent the worker for tests. A specialist reported to the family doctor in August 2011, that he agreed with the working diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. The worker contacted his union in November 2011 about how to apply for benefits. In January 2012, the Board received a medical report indicating that the worker sought treatment for a possible work-related injury. The Board then wrote to the worker advising that he could file a claim. The worker filed a Form 6 in March 2012.
The Board originally found that the worker should have reported the claim in 2007. However, the ARO noted a lack of information regarding a medical appointment in 2007, and concluded that June 2011 should be used as the accident date. The worker should then have filed the claim by December 2011.
According to Board Operational Policy Manual, Document No. 11-01-04, on determining the date of injury, the date of accident in a disablement case is the date of first medical attention which led to the diagnosis or the date of diagnosis, whichever is earlier. In this case, that would have been in the summer of 2011. Document No. 15-01-03, which sets out the six-month time limit, states that the time limit in disablement cases runs from the date the worker reported the disablement as work-related, not necessarily the date the worker sought medical attention.
Section 22(1) of the WSIA states that a worker shall file a claim no more than six months after the accident. The Vice-Chair was of the view that the time starts to run from the date of the accident, whether or not the worker reports the condition as work-related. The fact that a worker may be unaware that the injury is possibly work-related is an important factor to consider in deciding whether there are exceptional circumstances that warrant an extension of the time limit.
The Vice-Chair agreed with the ARO that the date of accident in this case was in June 2011, when the worker went to his family doctor and a working diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome was made. Given that the worker did not initially relate his condition to work and that the delay in this case was short, the Vice-Chair found that there were exceptional circumstances warranting an extension of the time to file the claim. The appeal was allowed.