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Claimant’s Attorney’s Negligence May Be a Reasonable Excuse for Failure to File a Claim Within the Two-Year Statute of Limitations

Section 8-43-103(2) creates a two-year statute of limitations to file a claim for compensation. However, the statute also extends the statute of limitations to three years where it is established that a “reasonable excuse exists for the failure to file” a claim for compensation. An attorney’s negligence in filing the claim for compensation timely may constitute a “reasonable excuse” for extending the statute of limitations to three years. Aceves v. Genesis Fixtures/Leggett & Platt, Inc., W. C. No. 4-844-271-02 (November 14, 2014).

In Aceves, the claimant timely reported his injury on December 10, 2010, and the respondents filed an Employers’ First Report of Injury and two Notices of Contest. Claimant retained counsel on December 4, 2012 (two weeks before the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations), but claimant’s attorney did not file a claim for compensation (in the form of an Application for Hearing) until May 2013. The respondents sought to dismiss the claim for failure to file within the two-year statute of limitations. The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant’s attorney’s “negligence” in not filing a claim for compensation until May 2013 constituted a reasonable excuse for the failure to file the claim for compensation within two years, thus extending the statute of limitations to three years.

The respondents appealed, arguing that there was “no evidence” at hearing as to the reason the claimant’s attorney failed to file a claim for compensation timely. The ICAO, however, essentially found that the mere fact that the attorney did not file the claim within two years of the date of injury was “substantial evidence” to support the Administrative Law Judge’s finding of a reasonable excuse.

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