Nobody heads into work expecting to be injured, but workplace injuries unfortunately happen every day here in North Carolina, as well as elsewhere around the United States.
While some on-the-job injuries are catastrophic, others are minimal enough that workers debate whether they should even notify their employers. While it may be unnecessary to report every bruise or paper cut, it is prudent to formally notify your supervisor of all but the most minor injuries.
Benefits are not automatic
Although almost all companies must carry workers’ compensation insurance, these benefits only kick in after notification is made and a claim is properly filed. There’s also a common misconception that to recover any compensation, claimants must prove their company was at fault. That is not the case.
Seek medical treatment
While it’s important to timely file your workers’ comp claim, what is most important is seeking medical treatment for your injury. Doing so promptly may mitigate any ongoing damage that could come from a claimant continuing to work after an initial injury occurs.
Notification must be in writing
In an emergency, there is no time to issue your employer a written notification of your workplace injury. But once you have been evaluated, diagnosed and treated by medical professionals, you’ll need to submit a written claim in order to pursue any recovery. North Carolina law requires that a “written notice of the injury” and accident be given to the employer within the first 30 days. Failure to do so can cause the claim to be denied due to late notice.
You should also maintain a file of all treatment you received for your on-the-job injury. In some situations, injured workers are free to choose their doctors and other care providers. In others, they must seek treatment from specific providers. It may be possible to seek a second opinion if the first one appears lacking.
Be mindful of words when speaking with doctors– and beware of the “recorded statement” that the insurance adjuster requests from you!
After filing a claim for compensation, be very careful about the language you use when you answer or address your doctor and other medical professionals involved in your treatment. Your words can easily be misconstrued to the detriment of your claim. Consider the following scenario.
Your doctor strides cheerily into the exam room and says, “Hello there, Mr. Jones. How are you doing today?” Many patients may unthinkingly reply, “I’m fine; how are you?” or give another glib response. But consider how that could be reflected in your medical records:
Patient seen in office on 4/2/2019 and states that he is “fine.”
You’re not fine at all. You are actually in a great deal of pain from your dislocated elbow that wound up requiring surgery. The conditioned response of “I’m fine” that rolled off the tip of your tongue does not reflect the true pain you are feeling. Yet it could indeed be used to discredit and deny your claim.
And don’t give the insurance company a “recorded statement” without getting a free consultation from a workers’ compensation lawyer first. The adjusters and investigators are trained to ask those questions in a way that helps them to deny or defend your claim. Remember, it is not YOUR insurance. They don’t have an obligation to even tell you the truth about anything. They are only interested in not spending any money on you. So the “recorded statement” is their first effort to find a reason to not spend any money on you. If you fail to include all the correct details of how you got hurt, you may be out of luck. All because you gave a recorded statement without getting free legal advice first. So be smart, and call us first.
Injuries aren’t always initially apparent
You’re a laborer on a construction site pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with debris you’re removing from the site. As you move along, the heel of your work boot catches on an exposed root on the ground and you take a tumble.
At first, you think only your dignity took a hit. You stood back up, brushed yourself off and resumed your trek with the loaded-down wheelbarrow. But the next day upon arising, you take one step and realize how sore that ankle actually is.
By delaying even a day to make your report, your employer could credibly question whether your injury even occurred at work at all. This is not conducive to a successful claim resolution.
To recover compensation and other benefits after a workplace injury, it may be helpful to seek the counsel of a Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney. At the Bollinger Law Firm, we give free consultations to injured workers, so it will not cost you anything to contact us for some free advice on how to protect yourself and how to proceed with your claim.
Bob Bollinger, Board Certified Specialist in NC Workers’ Compensation Law