In 2021, 67,700 workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in North Carolina. A total of 179 fatal work injuries occurred, with transportation accidents being the most common cause of death. Exposure to harmful substances or environments, followed by slips, trips and falls, accounted for the second and third most common causes of workplace fatalities.
There are many ways a workplace injury can occur. Still, regardless of how an accident happens, there can be severe health effects that require time off work, treatments like physiotherapy, surgery, and even long-term disabilities. In the worst case, accidents at work can cause death.
The impact of a workplace injury can be widespread, not to mention costly. This is where the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (NCWCA) comes in.
The NCWCA provides much-needed benefits and financial support to employees hurt at work or while performing their jobs. A workers’ compensation claim pays for medical bills, a percentage of wages when time off work is needed, and permanent disability for those unable to return to work. Accessing these benefits is vital, allowing those injured on the job to focus on their recovery.
But a specific process and deadlines must be met after a workplace injury in North Carolina to ensure a workers’ compensation claim is approved and provides the coverage needed. Unfortunately, some employers fail to fulfill their responsibilities for these claims, and insurers delay the process or unfairly deny claims. This leaves workers who are vulnerable and injured in a bind, forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical treatment and without the wage support they’re entitled to.
While injured workers in North Carolina have rights, filing a workers’ compensation claim can be confusing and overwhelming. With so much on the line, consulting with a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can be beneficial to help navigate the process. And if your workers’ compensation claim was denied, the insurance company is only paying part of your injury-related expenses, payments have been delayed, or there’s been retaliation from your employer, an attorney can fight on your behalf to get the benefits owed.
What To Do If Injured at Work in North Carolina
Countless workplace hazards can lead to minor to fatal injuries. Regardless of the seriousness of your work injury, it must be reported, and a workers’ compensation claim needs to be filed to access the support and benefits necessary for your recovery. While you aren’t required to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer for your claim, they can help build a strong case and protect you from suffering financially.
At the very least, follow these steps if you’re the victim of a workplace injury in North Carolina:
1. Tell Your Employer and Seek Medical Treatment
Your health is the top priority when a workplace injury occurs, and you need to get appropriate medical treatment. When a workplace accident happens, tell your employer. They need to know you’re injured and can remind you where to seek medical attention.
Some workplaces have an on-site healthcare provider or a specific healthcare facility you should visit if injured at work. If they don’t, or your injury is serious, go to the hospital or call an ambulance to take you there if needed. Otherwise, you can see your family doctor or go to a clinic if you don’t have one.
It’s important to consider what happened during the workplace accident too. See a doctor immediately if you hit your head, ingest or inhale something harmful. Don’t let other employees or a supervisor downplay what happened. Advocate for and focus on your health and safety.
2. Inform Your Healthcare Provider It’s a Work-Related Injury
When you seek medical care for a workplace injury, you need to inform whoever treats you that the injury occurred at work or while performing your job duties and provide your employer’s name. Healthcare providers must bill the appropriate insurer when a patient is treated, and when it’s a workplace injury, they’ll bill the treatment you receive as a workers’ compensation claim.
Another reason this is a crucial step after a workplace injury is that it formally documents it as job-related. Since North Carolina workers’ compensation claims require employees to disclose that the injury occurred at work when seeking treatment, this part of the process must be done correctly. If not, your claim could be denied, or you might not receive full benefits.
3. Notify a Supervisor or Manager
The next step in what to do after a North Carolina workplace accident is to notify your manager or supervisor, or owner of the company, that you’ve been hurt at work. If the injuries you sustained make you unable to personally notify them, have a loved one or medical provider do it for you. This step is less formal than what you need to do next, but it can’t be skipped; waiting to tell your supervisor or manager could ultimately affect your workers’ compensation claim.
4. Formally Inform Your Employer
In North Carolina, anyone who suffers a workplace injury must formally inform their employer of the incident by providing a written statement and an in-person account of the date of the accident, what happened, and the injuries. Both verbal and written notice of a workplace injury must be done within 30 days of the accident.
If you cannot provide this notice due to your injuries, a friend, family member, or healthcare provider can do it for you. Regardless of who formally informs your employer, keep copies of everything you submit; it’s evidence and proof that you fulfilled this requirement of a workers’ compensation claim.
Sometimes employers don’t report a workplace injury to their insurer, even though they’re required to do so immediately following the incident. If this happens, the injured worker needs to file Form 18a, Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim of Employee, Representative, or Dependent, within two years of the date of injury or occupational illness. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help ensure the required documents are completed properly and submitted on time.
5. Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
The NCWCA exists to help people recover from workplace injuries and provide financial support when they cannot work in the short- and long-term. Another step to follow after you’re hurt in a workplace accident is to do what your doctor says. The medical professional who treats you knows what needs to be done to heal from your workplace injury, so whatever you’re instructed to do, such as take time off work, perform only light duties, or attend regular physiotherapy, do what they say.
Not only does this ensure your health is prioritized and restored as best as possible, but failure to follow your doctor’s orders can affect your workers’ compensation claim. In fact, your claim can be denied if you don’t listen to your doctor, and the appeal process can be lengthy and won’t guarantee the reversal of the decision. Having to pay medical bills out-of-pocket or take unpaid time off work can cause financial struggles, not to mention your health will suffer.
How to Strengthen Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
The above steps are necessary for a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim. However, there are additional things you can do to ensure your claim gets approved and that you get the full benefits.
If possible, take photos of the accident scene. Visually showing where it happened and anything that contributed to or caused your injury will strengthen your claim. You should also take pictures or videos of your injuries as early as possible to adequately demonstrate the full extent of the damage. Copies of medical reports and bills, and other evidence are also beneficial. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help collect these. If others witnessed the workplace accident, ask them to provide statements of what happened.
Why Hire a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
There are several requirements for a workers’ compensation claim. The process can be confusing and challenging when dealing with a workplace injury and its many ramifications on your health, family’s well-being, financial stability, and future. But far too often, there are roadblocks and challenges that negatively affect the benefits you receive.
Employers sometimes retaliate against employees for filing a claim, even though it’s illegal for them to do so, and many workers’ compensation claims are denied, only partly paid, or unfairly delayed.
Between strict filing requirements and issues with insurers and employers, it’s worth consulting with an experienced North Carlina workplace injury lawyer. As long as you didn’t intentionally cause the workplace accident and fulfill the workers’ compensation claim requirements, you should receive support thanks to the NCWCA. And yet, many injured workers struggle with accessing the benefits that are there to provide essential assistance.
The lawyers at Whitley Law Firm have helped clients injured at work with their claims. We assist in collecting evidence, file documentation, and provide guidance on what’s required throughout the process. Our workplace injury attorneys can alleviate some of the burdens so you can focus on your recovery.
There’s a lot that needs to be done after a workplace accident, and it needs to be done quickly. If you were injured in the workplace and need help with your workers’ compensation claim, your claim was denied, you aren’t getting the benefits you should, or your employer has retaliated against you for filing a claim, we’re here to help.
Contact our North Carolina workplace injury lawyers online or at (800) 785-5000 for a free case consultation.
The Whitley Law Firm is a family affair—in all the ways that matter. Partner Ben Whitley works with his father and brother to create a formidable force when representing clients. After all, helping injured individuals—people who have the deck stacked against them when fighting corporations—is why the Whitleys got into the business in the first place.