North Carolina Workers' Compensation Claim Timeline
Many employees who are hurt on the job in North Carolina are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are designed to provide monetary support and medical treatment for workers, so that they don’t face unnecessary financial hardships while they heal.
The workers’ compensation process in North Carolina has many steps. It’s not easy to know what the workers’ compensation timeline should be or what to do if complications arise. Talking to a N.C. worker’s compensation lawyer can clear up the confusion and get the claim on the right track.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, Stewart Law Offices can help. Our hardworking legal team will strive for you to receive maximum benefits for your injuries. That can include coverage for medical care, wage replacement, and disability compensation.
The time to act is now. Filing for workers’ compensation has many sensitive deadlines. You don’t want to miss out on compensation just because you didn’t file on time. Contact Stewart Law Offices, and we’ll get it done swiftly and correctly.
If you need assistance filing your workers’ compensation claim or your claim has been denied, reach out to one of our workman’s’ comp attorneys at Stewart Law Offices.
N.C. Workers’ Compensation Laws
The rules for obtaining workers’ compensation in North Carolina are governed by the N.C. Workers’ Compensation Act. Its purpose is to provide prompt compensation to employees in the event of a work injury or illness, regardless of who may have been at fault.
The no-fault workers’ compensation laws protect both employees and employers. Qualifying employees have guaranteed access to benefits, and in exchange employers cannot be sued for negligence. A very rare exception would be if an employer’s intentional actions were “substantially certain” to cause a worker’s injury or death. This is sometimes referred to as a “Woodson claim.” In those circumstances, a personal injury lawsuit against the employer may be possible.
An employee may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a co-worker if that worker’s intentional actions injured him or her. The important distinction is that the civil claim would be filed against the co-worker, not the employer.
Intentional conduct also plays a role in workers’ compensation denials. An employee may be denied workers’ compensation benefits if the injury was caused by his or her own intentional or reckless actions. Fooling around on the job, being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and attempting to harm oneself or others are examples of actions that could lead to a workers’ compensation denial. That said, an employee can still receive benefits if they unintentionally caused their injury or illness.
Finally, North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws do permit a worker who has suffered a work-related injury or illness to file a personal injury lawsuit if an outside third party was responsible for their injury or occupational disease. This might happen if an employee was hit by a reckless driver while driving to a destination to perform work-related duties. In that case, a personal injury claim could be filed against the at-fault driver.
Timeline of a Workers’ Compensation Claim in N.C.
The workers’ compensation claims process begins with notifying your employer. A workers’ compensation claim must be reported to your employer, in writing, within 30 days of the date of your injury. If the employer has actual knowledge of the accident, that knowledge may be enough in some cases.
Within five days of your report, your employer should file the necessary forms with its workers’ compensation insurer or with the N.C. Industrial Commission. Within 14 days, your employer or its insurance company will notify you that your claim has either been accepted or denied. It’s also possible for the insurer to begin paying benefits while reserving the right for 90 days to ultimately deny your claim.
If your worker’s compensation claim is accepted, payments will immediately begin for medical treatments. However, if you miss time from work, you will need to wait seven days after your injury to begin receiving partial wage replacement benefits. You will only be compensated for those first seven days if you miss work for at least 21 days following your injury.
You have two years from the date of your injury to file a workers’ compensation claim with the Industrial Commission. If your claim is denied or you do not receive the full benefits you believe you are entitled to, you can dispute the case in a hearing before a Deputy Commissioner. But first, you will need to attend mediation to see if the dispute can be resolved with the help of a neutral third party. It’s a good idea to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer before the mediation stage. An attorney can advise you throughout the process and help you work toward a full and fair outcome for your case.
If no agreement can be reached, it will take 30 to 60 days to get a hearing scheduled with a Deputy Commissioner. If you haven’t hired a workers’ compensation attorney already, Stewart Law Offices strongly recommends that you do so at this point. Hearings operate similarly to trials, with the opportunity to submit evidence and cross-examine witnesses. If the proper procedures and forms are not filed, the case could be dismissed.
You have 15 days from the date of the Deputy Commissioner’s decision to appeal your claim to the Full Commission. If either party is dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision, they may appeal to the courts.
Because the workers’ compensation timeline from injury to settlement is so deadline-specific and detail-oriented, you’d be well-advised to start working with a lawyer well before the appeals stage.
How to Protect Yourself on the Job
Employers with three or more employees in North Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Before starting a job, confirm whether the employer has insurance or has been certified as self-insured for workers’ compensation purposes. If they are violating the law, they should be reported to the Industrial Commission.
Otherwise, your responsibility is to do everything possible to stay safe on the job. What that means will differ based on your occupation. In general:
- Follow all posted safety rules.
- If protective equipment is required for your job, make sure to use it every time.
- Notify your supervisor immediately if you notice safety hazards or co-workers who are not following safety standards.
- Don’t ignore injuries or symptoms of an occupational illness. Get them checked out so that your claim can be filed on time.
Taking every possible precaution can’t prevent all workplace injuries from happening, but they can lessen the likelihood of an accident and give you the best possible chance of obtaining maximum workers’ comp benefits.
Steps to Take after a Workplace Injury
If you’ve suffered a workplace accident and injury, you can best protect your rights to a workers’ comp settlement by taking the following steps:
- Report your accident and injury to your employer. You should report your injury to your employer as soon as possible after the injury occurs. If you try to tough it out and wait too long to report your injury, the insurance company may deny your claim citing insufficient evidence or lack of proof that your injury occurred on the job. Remember, you have only 30 days to file a report of your injury with the N.C. Industrial Commission.
- Document the accident scene. If possible, you should take photographs or video of the accident scene. Try to include shots of whatever caused your injury and any visible injuries you suffered. If others witnessed the incident, try to get a short statement from them.
- Seek medical attention. Once you report your injury, your employer should direct you to a medical provider for examination and treatment. If your employer doesn’t instruct you to see a medical provider, you should still follow up with your own doctor, but you will need to provide evidence and get approval from the Industrial Commission to see another medical provider.
- Follow doctor’s orders. Once you begin treatment for your injuries, you should follow all the physician’s instructions and recommendations. If you don’t, the insurer may argue your injury has resolved and stop workers’ compensation payments.
- Speak with an experienced N.C. workers’ compensation lawyer. Finally, you should meet with a workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can review the facts of your case, explain what benefits may be available to you, and help prepare your workers’ compensation claim so that it is accurate and complete. You’ll also be able to get advice about whether the benefits you’re receiving are full and fair or whether you should consider an appeal.
Call a Dedicated North Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyer Today
At Stewart Law Offices, we understand how a job accident or illness can put your entire financial situation in jeopardy. Our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney is a skilled trial lawyer with experience representing clients in complex cases before the N.C. Industrial Commission.
Don’t wait another day to start receiving the workers’ comp that you need and deserve.