Workers' compensation law provides two important benefits if you get hurt on the job:
- Medical treatments to help you recover from your injuries
- Payments if you are not able to work because of your injury
These benefits help keep injured workers from financial ruin due to unpaid bills because of their injuries, but if you're not careful, you could end up losing out on any benefits at all.
If you've been hurt, the following are three important tips to help you try to protect your workers' compensation claim:
Tip No. 1: Report your injury to your employer.
One frequent mistake I see workers make is they fail to report when they get injured on the job. Maybe they felt like the injury was not serious at the time the accident occurred or thought it would get better over time.
I have often had clients tell me, "well, everyone knew about it so I did not think I needed to make a written report." But not reporting your injury can be a fatal mistake in a claim. It is often used as a reason for insurance companies to deny a claim - even if there are multiple witnesses to the event.
So if you are hurt, you must make your employer aware of your injury as soon as possible. You should also provide a written report. Most employers will have a form for you to complete. Even if they do not have a form, you can send your employer an email, text or written note telling them you were hurt on the job (just be sure to save a copy). This documentation is very important to try to ensure you're building the strongest case possible for the benefits you need.
Tip No. 2: Go to the doctor.
If you are injured on the job, seeking prompt medical care is the best way to obtain a full recovery. Even what seems like a minor sprain or strain could actually develop into a condition that will require surgical intervention. If you do not seek medical treatment right after you are injured, an insurance carrier may deny your claim for benefits.
I have had many clients who thought they could "tough out" an injury and continued to work, only to realize later they would not recover without getting medical treatment. Because they waited several days or weeks to go to the doctor, the insurance company denied their claim. Now this cannot always be avoided. Some employers do not always treat their employees fairly. And insurance companies have their own interests at heart. If you are hurt, ask your employer to go to the doctor. Seeking medical attention promptly will not only help you recover from the injuries, but it helps ensure that you're protecting your workers' comp claim.
Tip No. 3: File your claim at the Industrial Commission.
A workers' compensation claim is not a lawsuit against your employer. The Industrial Commission is the government agency that has what is called "jurisdiction" over all workers' compensation claims covered by North Carolina law.
If you do not file a claim for benefits, you may lose any right you have to receive benefits in your case - even if your employer has paid for medical care and no one disputes that you were injured on the job.
I have had to tell injured workers that because their claim was not timely filed, we could not help them with their case. The Industrial Commission has a specific form with instructions that can be found at www.ic.nc.gov/forms/form18a.pdf. This form may seem complex but it is really meant as a simple form for injured workers.
Filing the claim allows your employer's insurance carrier to appropriately respond to the claim. It provides documentation for your injuries. It can also help medical providers who have not been appropriately paid to have a form to seek reimbursement for medical care they may have provided you. The Industrial Commission has a help line of information specialists that you can reach at 1-800-688-8349 or (919) 807-2501.
Of course, the Industrial Commission does not provide legal advice, which you may need (especially if you've skipped any of the steps above).
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin you can get a free case evaluation on any workers' compensation issue you may have. Even if we cannot represent you or you decide you don't ultimately want representation, we're willing to review your situation and see if we can help you understand your rights and benefits under the law.
Just call us at 1-877-393-4980.