Anyone can experience an injury while at work. However, you should not have to shoulder the burden of paying for your medical expenses and suffering the consequences of lost wages. As explained in the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Employee Handbook, workers’ compensation is designed to help those who are injured on the job recover from work-related injuries. But where should you start?
Starting the Process of Claiming Workers’ Compensation
If you are injured while working, you should immediately report your injury to your employer or direct supervisor. If your manager is not on duty at the time, report the injury to any other supervisor who is present. You can report your injury orally or send an email or letter to your employer. It is advisable to try to document all communications between you and your employer. Providing documentation can build a stronger claim when filing for workers’ compensation.
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A Workers’ Compensation Approved Medical Provider
You should then seek appropriate medical treatment at either your employer’s on-site healthcare provider, such as a designated company clinic, or seek treatment at a hospital emergency room. Once you seek treatment, you should inform them that your injury was work-related so that the treatment can be billed under the category of a workers’ compensation claim. Medical treatment can fall under three types of categories:
- General medical services: These services include surgery, nursing, rehabilitation, and, possibly, attendant care services if approved.
- Medical supplies: Supplies could include medicine, prescribed medical equipment, sick travel, and vocational rehabilitation.
- Prosthetics: Both the initial prosthetic and subsequent replacements that are prescribed by your healthcare provider may be covered under workers’ compensation.
You Have 30 Days to Report Your Injury
If your company has a workers’ compensation administrator (WCA) or an equivalent department, you should report the injury to them no later than 30 days after the incident. If your injury is reported too late, your employer may be able to refuse compensation. The notice itself does not have to be a highly detailed report of the injury; it can be a simple statement that consists of just the date of the accident and a brief description of the injury or disease. If you are incapacitated at the time and cannot write a statement, you can ask a family member or friend to write the statement for you. It is strongly recommended that you keep a copy for yourself, as well as copies of all documents that are produced during the process of filing a claim. If your injury can be classified as an occupational disease, you should give notice to either your supervisor or WCA once you are diagnosed by a certified medical professional. Some examples of common occupational diseases include allergic and irritant dermatitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and fertility and reproductive abnormalities.
Filing a Claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission
Once your employer receives notice of your injury, to file an official claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC), you must complete and file a Form 18. Completing a Form 18 is the first step in formally filing for workers’ compensation. Some other additional forms include Form 18B, which is filed as a claim for occupational lung disease, and Form 18M, which is filed as a request for additional medical compensation.
Once you have formally filed for workers’ compensation, your employer will decide whether they will accept or deny your claim. If your claim is accepted, your company will authorize the coverage for your medical expenses. If they deny your claim, you can request a hearing with the Industrial Commission. They will examine your case and determine if you are entitled to compensation. If the Industrial Commission rules in your favor, your employer’s insurer will be legally obligated to cover your medical treatment. Your treatment will be paid for up to the point that you have fully recovered or your condition has reached maximum improvement.
Your healthcare provider will then determine the long-term symptoms of your condition and if you are permanently unable to work. You will be assigned a disability rating if you have not been able to recover from your injury. If you are still in pain or suffering from the symptoms of your injury and do not agree with your healthcare provider, you can challenge this decision.
If you are unable to return to work, it is imperative that you submit all documents that are related to your work status from an authorized physician to your WCA or equivalent department.
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We Can Help You Contest a Workers’ Compensation Denial
If you have been injured on the job, the process of claiming workers’ compensation can appear to be difficult and time-consuming; especially if you are recovering from a severe injury or managing a disease caused directly by your workplace. This is where we come in. Our workers’ compensation lawyers can help you navigate the process of filing a claim so that you can recover with peace of mind.
Call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today at (828) 286-3866 to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.