After a work injury, there are so many uncertainties that will likely leave an injured worker overwhelmed with stress. Taking the right steps will help ensure that you get the recovery you need, but missteps could be a detriment to your claim and reduce your compensation.
Knowing what to do and what not to do after a work injury will help to protect your legal rights and financial well-being. Learn more about the workers’ comp process and some essential work injury “dos” and “don’ts” to give you the support you need when seeking workers’ compensation.
What Is a Work Injury?
A work injury is any physical or mental injury that arises from normal work activities. Work injuries can occur suddenly, such as a fall or a collision, or develop gradually over time, such as repetitive strain injuries or hearing loss. In the state of North Carolina, some common types of work injuries include:
- Construction workers being struck by falling objects
- Janitors slipping on wet floors or tripping on debris
- Drivers getting into car accidents while on duty
- Cooks burning themselves on hot equipment or suffering cuts from sharp utensils
- Warehouse workers injuring their backs while lifting heavy objects or operating machinery
These are just a few examples of work injuries that can happen in different occupations and industries. It’s worth noting that work injuries can happen to anyone, regardless of their job title or level of experience. Workers’ compensation benefits can help cover your medical expenses and lost wages while you recover.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a system of laws and insurance that provides benefits to employees who are injured or disabled on the job.
This system operates on a “no-fault” basis, which means that injured workers are entitled to compensation regardless of who caused the injury. In other words, an employee can receive workers’ compensation benefits without having to prove that their employer was negligent or at fault for the injury.
An employee who is harmed as a result of their job can receive workers’ comp benefits only if their employer is required under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act to carry this insurance.
Even though most injured employees are entitled to workers’ compensation, many employers are reluctant to grant their employees the deserved compensation. Rather than granting their employees compensation, many employers will attempt to mislead employees so that they will say things that hurt their case and prevent them from receiving compensation.
They may try to dissuade employees from filing a claim or even deny the claim outright. However, injured workers have the right to receive benefits under the law. By following the necessary steps and working with an attorney, you can increase your chances of obtaining the benefits you need to recover and move forward.
What Not To Do After a Work Injury
Don’t Let Your Employer Pay Your Medical Bills out of Pocket
Some employers will, in the event of an injury, pay the medical bills out of their own pocket without informing their insurance agency of what has happened.
Even though this may appear to be a generous act, it prevents the worker from building a case and obtaining greater compensation if necessary. For instance, if the injuries proved more severe, required further treatment, or caused chronic pain down the road, the insurance agency would have no record of the accident.
Don’t Use Your Medical Insurance
You are entitled to workers’ compensation insurance, and, as such, you may use this insurance to pay your medical bills. If you choose to deal with medical expenses using your personal medical insurance though, you may end up forfeiting a valid workers’ comp case and be partly on the hook for your own injuries.
Additionally, if you do receive compensation from your personal medical insurance, you may be required to pay back those expenses if you later receive workers’ compensation benefits for the same injury.
Rather than using your medical insurance to deal with your injuries, be sure to use the workers’ compensation insurance benefits you’ve been awarded.
Don’t Speak to an Insurance Agency Without a Lawyer
The goal of an insurance agency in this context is to minimize the amount of compensation paid out. Speaking to an insurance agency without a lawyer present can easily lead to your workers’ compensation claim being denied.
Even seemingly innocent conversations can be used against you by the insurance agency to deny or minimize your claim. For example, if you make an offhand statement about your injury being minor or not really affecting your ability to work, the insurance agency could use that statement to argue that you don’t deserve benefits.
No matter the conversation you are having, make sure that you have a lawyer with you while speaking with an insurance agency. Your lawyer can guide you on what to say and what not to say, intervene if the conversation starts to go in a direction that could harm your case, and ensure that your claims are strengthened, rather than weakened, in all of these discussions.
Don’t Sign Anything
You may be pressured by your employer or their insurance company to sign documents, such as a settlement agreement or a medical release form, but it is crucial to resist this pressure and not sign anything without consulting your lawyer first.
Signing documents related to your work injury without proper understanding or legal guidance can have serious consequences on your workers’ compensation claim. For example, a settlement agreement may contain a clause that waives your right to pursue any further legal action related to your injury, even if your condition worsens in the future.
Your lawyer can review any documents presented to you, explain their contents and implications, and advise you on whether or not to sign them.
What You Should Do After a Work Injury
Report the Injury Immediately
Injuries at work should be reported immediately after the accident takes place. If you were in an on-the-job accident, go to your employer and write up what happened, how it happened, and what you are experiencing at that moment.
When reporting your injury, be sure to provide as much detail as possible, including the date and time of the incident, the location, the names of any witnesses, and the circumstances surrounding the injury. In most cases, you have 30 days from the date of the injury to report it to your employer. If you fail to report your injury within this timeframe, you may forfeit your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Soon after you file this report and speak with your employer, you will need to obtain a copy to serve as a record of your claim and the events surrounding your injury.
You should also inform your healthcare provider that your injury occurred at work so that they can properly document it. Even if you do not believe your injury to be severe, see a medical provider for an evaluation and obtain a written record of your injury.
Speak With a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Soon after filing a written report to your employer and obtaining a copy of that report, seek legal representation from a workers’ compensation lawyer. We are here to help you understand your rights and what you need to do to obtain the compensation you are entitled to. We can also advise you on what not to do, especially when it comes to dealing with the insurance agency.
After speaking with one of our lawyers, you will have an action plan in place and feel confident that your case will be resolved to your benefit.
You are entitled to workers’ compensation, but obtaining benefits can be very challenging for injured or disabled workers. Workers’ comp denials can be even more devastating, but they don’t have to be the end.
By speaking with a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer at Lewis & Keller today, you can get the assistance you need to tackle the legal process with ease and efficiency.