On the job injuries can often result in mental, physical, and financial stress. North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits are designed to assist you in this difficult time, but may not make you whole, and to top it off, the process to obtain those benefits can be complex. If you are concerned about managing your workers’ compensation claim on your own, you should strongly consider hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay attorney’s fees unless you recover something for your claim. If you do decide to manage your own workers’ compensation claim, avoid making these mistakes:
Failing to Report Your Injury to Your Supervisor: Even if you think you are probably going to be okay, report your injury! Failing to timely report your injury will most certainly result in the insurance company denying your claim and make it more difficult to challenge that denial before the North Carolina Industrial Commission (i.e., the workers’ compensation court). Report the injury immediately to your supervisor and make sure you document the circumstances surrounding how the injury happened.
Not Filing the Appropriate Forms with the North Carolina Industrial Commission: Reporting your injury to your supervisor is not enough. You must also file a Form 18 with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. While everyone’s circumstances are different, failing to file a Form 18 within two years of the date of injury will likely result in your claim being time barred–meaning you will not receive workers’ compensation benefits even if you would otherwise be entitled to benefits.
Not Reporting Your Injury to Your Doctor: During your first visit with a doctor following your injury, you MUST tell the doctor exactly how you got injured and describe in detail each body part that hurts as a result. Workers’ compensation judges (called Deputy Commissioners) place a significant amount of weight on how the injured employee first reported the injury to the doctor.
Failing to Properly Complete a Form 18: You must include ALL injured body parts, and you must describe how your injury occurred with sufficient particularity. If you do not include enough detail about how your injury happened, the insurance company may deny your claim and the Industrial Commission may side with the insurance company when you challenge that denial. The Form 18 is so important, that we recommend having an attorney complete it.
Going to the Wrong Doctor: In North Carolina, if you have an accepted workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company has the right to direct medical treatment. If you want the insurance company to pay for medical treatment, then you must go to their doctors. Pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act, you are entitled to a second opinion with a doctor of your choosing; however the process for obtaining this second opinion is complex and choosing a doctor that is not helpful to you can have catastrophic repercussions.
Not Taking Advantage of Your Right to A Private Appointment: If you have an accepted workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company may assign a Nurse Case Manager to go with you to your doctor’s appointments. The Nurse Case Manager will likely want to be with you during the course of your visit with the doctor; however you are entitled to a private visit with the doctor, and you should take advantage of this.
Not Following Your Work Restrictions: Your workers’ compensation claim and, more importantly your health, depend on you following any work restrictions your doctor has ordered. Your employer may try to push you into doing work that your doctor says are not able to do. Always be polite, but also be firm. There is a reason a doctor assigns work restrictions, and if you do not follow them you could injure yourself even worse.
Not Looking for Work Within Your Restrictions: If you have work restrictions that your employer cannot accommodate, you must make every effort to find employment that meets your restrictions. You need to keep a record of your job search, including when and to where you applied and whether or not your received a response from the prospective employer. If you want to later contend that you are entitled to lost wage benefits, you will need this documentation.
Not Telling the Doctor the Extent of Your Pain: Don’t ignore ongoing pain, and do tell the doctor about what you are experiencing. The doctor will not know how to fix the problem if you do not report what is bothering you. Obtaining the appropriate medical treatment is vital to your health and recovery.
Going Back to Work Too Soon: If you have been out of work as a result of your injury, you likely want to get back to work as soon as possible. Going back to work when you and the doctor agree that you are able is essential to protecting your right to workers’ compensation benefits. However, the insurance company or your employer may try to get you to come back to work before you are medically able to do so. Don’t let the insurance company or your employer bully you into doing anything.
Attempting to manage a workers’ compensation claim on your own can be overwhelming. If you have questions regarding how to protect your right to workers’ compensation benefits, contact us today for a FREE initial consultation.