Regardless of the type of work you perform, you may sustain a serious injury in an on-the-job accident or develop a condition such as a repetitive stress injury or hearing loss caused by your job. If you have a serious injury, it can adversely affect every aspect of your life. In addition to jeopardizing your physical health, a work-related injury can create financial stress on your family and affect you and those you care about for years to come.
At Hardison & Cochran, Attorneys at Law, we help people who have work-related injuries obtain the worker’s compensation benefits they are due. Unfortunately, our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers frequently meet injured workers whose claims have been denied, either as a result of a worker’s failing to follow the employer notification procedures after an accident or an employer’s refusal to recognize the injury. To make sure your rights to compensation are protected, you should be sure that you know the required steps to follow in the first weeks after a work-related injury occurs.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides paid medical care and income benefits to workers who suffer occupational injuries and illnesses. Most employers in North Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to assist injured workers.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than four million workers suffer injuries on the job each year, while over 4,000 others die as the result of these injuries. When job-related illnesses and injuries occur, it can take a heavy toll on the worker, as well as the worker’s family. In addition to medical bills and treatment costs, workers often face financial hardship if their injuries prevent them from working temporarily or if they are left with lasting disabilities.
Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, employers in the Tar Heel state with three or more employees are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage as a form of insurance in the event an accident or injury occurs. Benefits provided under the program include the following:
- Medical benefits, including hospital costs, doctor visits, medications and physical therapy;
- Temporary disability benefits, which replaces a portion of your lost wages if your injury prevents you from returning to work or performing different functions on your job on a temporary basis;
- Permanent disability benefits, which compensate you for lost earnings as the result of permanent disabilities;
- Death benefits, which cover funeral costs and provide financial help to the immediate family of a worker killed on the job.
Important First Steps in Filing A Workers’ Compensation Claim
The North Carolina Industrial Commission administers workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina. There are a number of rules, regulations, and timelines that applicants must follow. Within the first 30 days following your injury, it is important to do the following:
- Report your injury immediately to your employer.
- Get medical care for your injury, either through an employer approved provider.
- Make sure the doctor who treats you knows your injury occurred on the job, and have the doctor’s office bill it as a workers’ compensation claim.
- Provide written notice of your injury to your boss or the company’s human resource’s department within 30 days of the accident. Give the date of the accident and the injury you suffered. Keep a copy of the letter and send it via certified mail, making sure to keep the receipt with your records.
- Follow all of your physician’s instructions. Do not return to work or engage in prohibited activities until you are cleared to do so.
- Check with the Commission to ensure your employer has filed your claim.
- Contact an experienced worker’s compensation lawyer if you are having any difficulty obtain benefits or if your employer is refusing to recognize your injury or disease as work related.
In the event you suffer from an occupational illness due to exposure to hazards in the workplace, such as asbestos, or toxic chemicals, you should notify your employer as soon as your doctor informs you of your condition. Once your claim has been filed with the Commission, you should begin receiving benefits within a two-week period.
Whether you have suffered an on-the-job injury or a work-related illness, if your employer refuses to submit your claim to the Commission you may submit it yourself by filing Form 18: Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim of Employee directly with the Workers’ Compensation Board.
What If the Workers’ Compensation Board Denies My Claim?
Under Section 97-18(c) of the NC Workers’ Compensation Act, you will be notified within 14 days of your injury being reported if further information is needed or if your claim has been denied. In the event your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you will receive by mail the following:
- Notice that your claim is denied;
- The name of your company’s insurer, and the specific grounds under which your claim was denied;
- Notice of your right to appeal the decision.
You then have an additional 14 days to notify the workers’ compensation board of your intent to appeal. Once you have given notice of your intent to appeal, you will be scheduled for a mediation conference.
You, your legal representative, and your employer’s insurance representative will meet with the mediator, who will make a decision based on the evidence presented in your claim. In the event you disagree with the mediator’s decision, you may request a hearing before an administrative judge.
How Our Experienced North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Can Help
On-the-job injuries result in serious hardships for workers and their families, and could jeopardize your future ability to work or provide for your family. If you or a loved one is injured on the job and you are having any difficulty obtaining benefits, contact the law offices of Hardison & Cochran right away.
Our experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers can answer your questions and explain your rights, while assisting you in making sure your workers’ compensation claim is filed correctly. In the event you have had a claim denied, we can represent you in mediation and appeals hearings, gathering the available evidence so that you can present the strongest case for full benefits.