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If you suffer a work injury in North Carolina, then you must do two separate things in order to preserve your rights under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act: (1) provide notice to your employer of the injury (or illness) you have sustained, and (2) file a workers’ compensation claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The injured employee must do so even when the employer is well aware of the accident and resulting injury, and even when the employer is already paying for some related medical treatment. It is a common misconception that it is the responsibility of the employer to “file” the workers’ compensation claim. Ironically, the employer cannot; only the employee may do so.
Among the most important things to remember about filing a workers’ compensation claim, are the time requirements associate with the claim. If an injured worker does not take all appropriate actions with the specified time, then his or her right to compensation may be lost forever.
According to the NC Workers’ Compensation Act, an “injury-by-accident” claim must be filed with the Industrial Commission within two (2) years of the date of injury. Generally speaking, if the defendants have paid medical expenses, then the claim must be filed within two years of the last payment for that treatment.
Also according to the Workers’ Compensation Act, a claim for an “occupational disease” must be filed with the Industrial Commission within two years of the latter of 1) the date the employee is advised by a doctor that he or she has a work related disease, or 2) the date the employee is first disabled as a result of the condition. If the defendants have paid for medical treatment for the disease, the claim generally may be filed within two years of the last payment of medical expenses.
The employee should provide written notice of an injury by accident as soon as possible, but no longer than thirty (30) days after the accident and injury.
Perhaps the most efficient and effective way for an injured worker to meet both the notice and filing requirements is to file a Form 18 Notice of Accident with the NC Industrial Commission, and to send a copy to the employer.
An injured worker must use extreme caution in describing how the injury occurred when completing the Form 18, as the precise description of the accident can determine whether or not it satisfies the requirements of an “injury-by-accident” under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.
After an injured worker files his or her workers’ compensation claim, the defendants should either accept the claim and begin paying benefits, or deny the claim. If the claim is denied, the injured worker has the right under North Carolina workers’ compensation law to Request a Hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission, in order to challenge the defendants’ denial of the claim.