Injured on the Job
When an employee or their loved one suffers an injury on the job, it can be a stressful and confusing time. It is important to know the proper steps to take when a work injury occurs. Here’s what we advise, based on our years of experience handling workplace injury claims.
First and foremost, as common sense would dictate, if the injury is severe or life threatening, 911 emergency should be called immediately and emergency steps should be taken to obtain immediate medical help for the injured worker.
Once the injury is stabilized so that a life threatening emergency does not exist, it is extremely important to immediately report the injury to a supervisor or other representative of the employer in a position of authority.
North Carolina Law On Reporting Job Injuries
Why must you report the injury to your employer? Here’s what the law states:
N.C.G.S. § 97-22 provides that “Every injured employee or his representative shall immediately on the occurrence of an accident, or as soon thereafter as practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer a written notice of the accident, and the employee shall not be entitled to physician’s fees nor to any compensation which may have accrued under the terms of this Article prior to the giving of such notice, unless it can be shown that the employer, his agent or representative, had knowledge of the accident, or that the party required to give such notice had been prevented from doing so by reason of physical or mental incapacity, or the fraud or deceit of some third person;”
The law further provides that “no compensation shall be payable unless such written notice is given within 30 days after the occurrence of the accident or death, unless reasonable excuse is made to the satisfaction of the Industrial Commission for not giving such notice and the Commission is satisfied that the employer has not been prejudiced thereby.” N.C.G.S. § 97-22.
Reporting Your Injury on A “Form 18”
The official written notice is supposed to be given to the employer within 30 days on a North Carolina Industrial Commission Form 18. The Form 18 needs to be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission at the same time it is provided to the Employer and/or the Insurance Carrier.
The Form 18 may be downloaded and printed from the North Carolina Industrial Commission website, or one will be mailed upon request. Many employers have their own accident or injury report forms which should also be completed if required by the employer.
If a Form 18 is not immediately available, we recommend that the injured employees provide a written notice via email, fax or handwritten note, signed and dated. This notice should be witnessed by coworkers, a supervisor, or other individuals if possible. It is also important to get the names, contact information (including phone number), and addresses of any witnesses to the accident. Testimony of witnesses could be crucial to winning your case.
Many workers’ compensation claims are denied by employers for an alleged lack of written notice so it is very important to be able to prove that notice of the accident and injury was given to the employer.
Many injured employees are reluctant to report injuries, major or minor, for fear of retaliation by their employer. However, if the injury is not promptly reported in a manner that can be proven at an Industrial Commission hearing, it can be fatal to an injured worker’s case, even if the injury turns out to be significant, serious, and long term.
What You Need to Know About Medical Treatment
The next most important thing for injured workers to do is to continue to get medical treatment, and to diligently attend all appointments and follow up with all treatment recommendations. In nonemergency situations, the employer and/or their workers’ comp insurance carrier has the right to direct medical care.
Here’s what our law says about emergency and nonemergency treatment:
N.C.G.S. § 97-25 provides “If in an emergency on an account of the employer’s failure to provide medical compensation, a physician other than provided by the employer is called to treat the injured employee, the reasonable cost of such service shall be paid by the employer if so ordered by the Industrial Commission.”
If it is not an emergency, the employer or insurance carrier is entitled to direct medical care. N.C.G.S. § 97-25 provides that “medical compensation shall be provided by the employer.”
The statute further provides that “the refusal of the employee to accept any medical compensation when ordered by the Industrial Commission shall bar the employee from further compensation until such refusal ceases, and no compensation shall at any time be paid for the period of suspension unless in the opinion of the Industrial Commission the circumstances justified the refusal.”
In summary, employees are obligated to go to the medical providers chosen by the employer and/or insurance company and to follow all treatment recommendations, or risk having their benefits suspended or denied. An employee can seek second opinions or Industrial Commission intervention to obtain further medical treatment.
Next Step: Hiring a Qualified Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The next step that an employee should take, particularly in circumstances of a serious injury, is to contact an experienced and qualified workers’ compensation attorney to obtain advice and representation, if necessary. Most workers’ compensation attorneys will not charge a consultation fee and there is no obligation on the part of the employee. We recommend against employees giving a recorded statement to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier before talking with an experienced attorney and obtaining advice regarding their claim.
Remember that all attorneys have a legal and ethical obligation to keep client communications confidential, so your employer will have no knowledge of the consultation, unless or until an official notice of representation is filed with the Industrial Commission, the employer, and the insurance carrier.
Once an attorney has undertaken representation, all communications with the employer or insurance carriers should go through the attorney, and employees should follow the advice of their attorney with respect to the claim.
Takeaway Points On Your Workplace Injury
In summary, there are three very important things to remember when injured at work:
- promptly notify the employer of the injury in writing & file this written notice with the North Carolina Industrial Commission;
- seek prompt medical treatment, as directed by the employer or the insurance carrier except in the event of an emergency; and
- obtain the advice of a workers’ compensation attorney. We have a North Carolina State Bar Certified Specialist in Worker Compensation ready and able to help answer your questions.
In the event of an on the job injury or if you have questions regarding your rights in workers’ compensation, please speak to our Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyers at (800) 525-7111.