How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Charlotte, NC
After a work injury in North Carolina, you will need to carefully follow a set of specific steps in order to protect your rights and avoid losing out on crucial employment benefits provided by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Minor mistakes at any step in the process can become very costly, setting you back or even eliminating your ability to receive compensation.
If at any point you need help or just want to discuss your situation with an experienced Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyer, contact Stewart Law Offices, for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team is here to help you through this difficult process and pursue the full benefits you need to recover.
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Step 1: Tell Your Employer and Seek Medical Attention
You should always report your injury as soon as possible to your employer. There are several reasons for this:
- Deadlines. In North Carolina, you have just 30 days to let your employer know that you were hurt at work. Fail to do so, and you lose your right to make a claim altogether. Of course, just because you have 30 days does not mean you should take that long to report your injury. You don’t want to accidentally get busy and forget or miss the deadline.
- Medical care. The sooner you report the injury, the sooner you can begin getting necessary medical treatment.
- Not reporting the injury right away could delay your compensation.
- It can be difficult to find witnesses or locate other evidence related to your accident if you wait too long. Memories can fade, and physical evidence can disappear or be cleaned up.
If you are badly injured, chances are your employer will know you’ve been hurt because they may be participating in notifying local emergency responders to send an ambulance. However, if this is not the case, you will need to report your injury. Then you need to seek medical treatment immediately.
Do not delay; do not wait to see if it gets better. Go directly to the hospital if it is a serious injury. Ask your employer if they want you to go to a specific provider or hospital in the area.
Step 2: Alert Your Medical Provider That This Is a Work-Related Injury
Your employer has a right to direct you to providers that are in their insurance company’s network. In this way, employers do get a say in who provides your medical care. However, this is not absolute.
Many times, with serious injuries, there may not be time to do this. You may be taken directly to a hospital, or you may end up going to your primary care physician. If so, make sure you communicate the following information to your provider:
- Make sure they know your injury is work related. By telling your provider that this is a work injury, it allows them to bill your care as workers’ compensation claim, rather than collecting payment from you directly or billing your health insurance.
- Make sure they know the name of your employer.
- Be careful when describing your injuries. Keep it as factual and simple as possible. Remember that your provider will be keeping notes and documenting everything you say. If you go into a bunch of unrelated or unnecessary details, these could end up part of your medical chart that is reviewed by the insurance company.
Some employers may have an onsite infirmary or nurse’s office. Depending on your employer’s instructions and policies, you may need to go there first (assuming your injury is not life-threatening and does not require emergency care). When notifying your employer, check to see their policy on this.
Step 3: Give Written Notice of Your Injury to Your Employer (or Have a Family Member Do So)
Even if you told your employer that you were injured immediately after the accident, you still need to make sure you give written notice of your injury.
Reporting a claim is simple. There are several ways you can do this, but all the North Carolina Industrial Commission requires is a written statement of the date of the accident and what happened. You must do this within 30 days of your injury.
A fax or email to a supervisor or human resources department will usually suffice because there is clear proof it was transmitted. However, you can also just hand-write it on a piece of paper and give it to a supervisor. Just be sure to keep a copy and ask the supervisor to sign for it so you have proof. Here’s an example you can use to notify an employer:
Date of Injury:
Name of Supervisor Informed:
Description of Injuries (example): I was lifting a 50-gallon barrel onto the platform, when the barrel slipped. I felt a snap in my shoulder, followed by sharp pain.
As you can tell, it doesn’t have to be much. You don’t want to go into deep detail, and you should not volunteer any additional details.
However, keep a record of anything else you think might be helpful in your claim, such as the names of witnesses and any photos you may have taken of the accident scene. You do not need to give these to your employer right away, but you should give them to an attorney when meeting to discuss your case.
Step 4: File Form 18 with the N.C. Industrial Commission
Workers’ compensation law is purely based in administrative rules and procedures. Therefore, deadlines and forms are very important. If you have any doubts about what forms to use or how to fill them out, get legal help right away.
- Form 18 is the official form you will use to file your claim for compensation. You technically have up to two years to file this form with the N.C. Industrial Commission, but there is little to no good reason to wait that long. In most cases, waiting will just delay your treatment and lead to the loss of temporary benefits and health care that may be necessary.
- Form 18B is a variation of the claim form, and it is used to file for benefits for occupational diseases that are incurred due to your work. It is just for asbestosis, silicosis, and byssinosis claims.
- Finally, Form 18M is used to make claims for additional medical benefits for claims arising after July 5, 1994.
Once you make your formal claim for benefits with the appropriate Form 18, you will need to continue receiving medical treatment until you are released from care and given a return-to-work order by your treating physician.
At times, an employer’s selected physician may try to release you back to work too soon. In these cases, you may need to get a second opinion with a different doctor who can help to show that the injury is too severe and returning to work prematurely could create a worse problem.
Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you understand the claims process and your rights.
Step 5: Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
This is always a point of contention in workers’ compensation cases. You will probably be treated by a doctor whom your employer selected. That doctor gets a lot of business from the employer’s insurance company, so one could easily make the argument that the doctor is a bit biased and usually has a financial interest in making injuries seem relatively minor – even when they are not.
That said, most doctors will treat you fairly and provide quality care. Under most circumstances, you should follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully. If he or she tells you not to lift more than 10 pounds, pay attention and heed the instructions. The point of workers’ comp is to help you get better, so you can get back to work. If you get reinjured because you were not following doctor’s orders, then you could face limitations in getting the compensation and medical care you need.
There are other reasons to follow a doctor’s orders, too:
- You will ensure you stay on the path to physical recovery.
- You will avoid having the insurance company argue that you ignored instructions and weren’t really hurt.
- You will preserve your clear right to a second opinion.
- You will strengthen the value of any second opinion you get that may conflict with the initial treating physician.
Getting a second opinion or changing doctors should be done with caution. Here is what you need to know about getting a second opinion:
- You have a right to get a second opinion if you disagree with the employer’s chosen provider.
- You have a right to have your care plan reviewed by a doctor of your choice.
- To get the second opinion, you will need to ask your employer’s permission at least 14 days in advance. The employer then has 14 days to agree or disagree in writing.
- If the employer agrees, then you can go see the second physician.
- If the employer disagrees or fails to respond in writing, you must take your request to the Industrial Commission and seek an order permitting you to get the second opinion.
- The employer is required to pay for the second opinion if it is ordered by the Commission or if the employer agrees and permits you to go.
Speak with an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today for Free
It can be frustrating to deal with medical bills, collections companies, employer representatives, insurance adjusters, and all the other elements of a work comp claim. From proper reporting to filling out the workers’ compensation claim form, there are a lot of parts to the process and plenty of things that can go wrong.
With law offices in Charlotte, N.C., and throughout South Carolina, Stewart Law Offices, has the manpower, experience, and resources to handle most cases, large or small. Contact us today for a free and private consultation with one of our attorneys. We will review the details of your workers’ comp claim and explain your legal rights.
Learn More About the Workers’ Compensation Claims Process
To get more information about filing a workers’ compensation claim, you can visit the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s website at www.ic.nc.gov. There, you can find additional details on the workers’ compensation claim process and the appropriate workers’ compensation claim form for your case.
If you want to obtain information about your employer’s insurance carrier, you can go to the North Carolina Insurance Search System to look that up.