The guide contains six steps injured workers' should take in North Carolina to protect themselves and preserve their claims.
Report to the Employer
Report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. A written accident report is best, providing details of how, when and where you were injured. Many injured workers hesitate to file claims with their employers promptly for various reasons. Some people fear losing their jobs, others don't think it important to file until they know whether or not the injury is "serious." You cannot be fired for filing a claim and as to the severity of the injury, it is better to be safe than sorry by filing your claim quickly because you can miss out on certain types of benefits if you do not file a written report of your accident within 30 days.
Report to the Industrial Commission
The North Carolina Industrial Commission, in Raleigh, is an administrative agency that governs workers' compensation cases in North Carolina. To preserve and protect your claim, you should file what is called a Form 18 with the Industrial Commission. You can obtain a copy of one to complete from the Commission's website, by emailing the Commission, or by calling and requesting a copy.
Get treatment. In North Carolina, you should ask your employer FIRST where they would like to go for treatment. Under North Carolina law, the employer has the "right to direct care." It is more complicated than it may sound but does include the concept that with limited exceptions, if a case is accepted, the employer / insurance company determine what doctors you see. If your employer or their insurance company refuse to tell you where to treat, then you may seek medical attention with a provider of your choice but you should tell them to bill the workers' compensation carrier and you should also consult with an attorney to ensure you are not penalized for seeking "unauthorized" care. Follow the doctor's instructions as to treatment and work restrictions. Failure to follow medical directions can not only impact your health but affect your workers' compensation benefits.
Approach to Work
Keep your employer updated as to any work restrictions your doctor may assign. The best practice is to give them a copy of your precise restrictions. Do Not work outside of your restrictions and if your employer insists that you do so or you feel harassed at work because of your claim, always consult with an attorney before quitting your job. Quitting your job, even under these circumstances, can have a negative impact on your case. An attorney can guide you as to how to ensure your restrictions are honored by your employer or how to properly go about coming out of work if your employer will not abide by your restrictions.
Do Not Assume That Your Employer or the Insurance Company Are Protecting Your Rights
Your employer nor their insurance company are required to tell you all of the benefits to which you may be entitled, under the law. Furthermore, they are not required to answer all questions that may arise about your claim. No matter your relationship with your employer, workers' compensation claims are business, not personal. It is not in your employer's or their insurance company's business interests to ensure you obtain all the benefits you deserve. If any questions or concerns arise, you should consult an attorney who is a Board Certified Workers' Compensation Specialist.
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