Reporting an injury or occupational illness is a crucial part of any work injury claim. This includes filing for workers’ compensation, making a personal injury claim against a negligent third party, or both.
However, although reporting the injury promptly is of the utmost importance, it is also important to proceed with caution. Mistakes on a worker’s part can lead to denial or loss of benefits, as well as affect the ability to exercise additional legal options.
If you have questions about how to report a work injury and protect your rights, please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 today. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help with your work injury claim.
How to Report a Work Injury in North Carolina
While reporting a work injury might seem fairly straightforward, there are specific requirements you need to meet in order to preserve your workers’ compensation eligibility. For example, Section 97-22 of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires employees to report their injuries “immediately on the occurrence of an accident, or as soon thereafter as practicable.” If you wait longer than 30 days to file a report, you could lose your rights entirely.
To properly report a work injury, you should:
1. Document the Accident
If you are able to do so, you should document the accident that led to your injuries by taking photos and videos with your phone. This will help prove how and when the accident happened in the event that your employer disputes your claim for benefits. You should review the photos and videos to make sure you include all pertinent information in your written injury report.
2. Notify Your Manager or Supervisor
You should notify your manager or supervisor of any workplace accident right away. If your manager or supervisor isn’t available or if you aren’t comfortable telling your manager or supervisor what happened, you can notify your HR representative instead. When you do this, you should receive a list of approved doctors (or “designated health care offices”) where you can go for treatment.
3. Seek Medical Treatment from an Approved Doctor
After suffering a work injury, obtaining medical treatment should be your first priority. This is important for protecting your health and your legal rights. To ensure that your medical bills are covered, you must see a doctor from your employer’s approved list.
4. File a Written Injury Report
The key to preserving your right to workers’ compensation benefits is to file a written injury report. When you notify your manager, supervisor, or HR representative of the accident, you may receive a form to fill out. If you don’t receive a form, you can prepare your own written statement or you can use the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s Form 18.
Remember, you should provide the written injury report to your employer as soon as possible.
5. Follow Up
Once you file a written injury report, you should follow up to make sure it has been received and that your claim is being handled appropriately. If your employer and/or the workers’ comp insurer needs any additional information, you will want to submit this information promptly.
There is nothing to prevent you from handling this process on your own. However, a knowledgeable lawyer can work to maximize your workers’ compensation benefits while you focus on your physical recovery.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Reporting a Work Injury
When taking the steps discussed above, you will need to be careful to avoid some potentially costly mistakes. For example, some of the key mistakes to avoid when reporting a work injury in North Carolina include:
- Failing to Describe the Cause of Your Injury – When reporting your work injury, you should describe the cause of your injury in as much detail as possible. For example, rather than simply saying “I was stacking boxes,” you should include key details such as “A box fell on my foot and I felt pain immediately.”
- Misrepresenting Any Facts – It is extremely important that you do not misrepresent or embellish any facts on your work injury report. If you say anything that isn’t true, this could lead to accusations of fraud and denial of your benefits.
- Making Any Assumptions – Likewise, you should avoid making any assumptions when filing your work injury report. It is OK if you don’t have all of the facts, but it is not OK to say something that turns out to be false or misleading.
- Allowing Your Employer to Influence Your Report – In some cases, supervisors and managers will try to influence what employees write in their work injury reports. Even if you feel pressured to misrepresent what happened or downplay the severity of your injury, you still need to file a complete and accurate report.
- Waiting Too Long – Finally, as mentioned above, you should not wait any longer than necessary to report a work-related injury. Unnecessary delays can lead to unnecessary problems, and waiting too long could leave you without the benefits and other compensation you deserve.
Get Help with Your Work Injury Claim
Filing a workers’ compensation claim can be more challenging than you think. Although the vast majority of workers in North Carolina are entitled to workers’ comp benefits if they get hurt on the job, being fairly compensated for a work injury is not guaranteed.
Reporting a work injury promptly and accurately is essential for preserving your rights under workers’ compensation. Thoroughly documenting the accident that led to a work injury or illness is also key for determining whether you have a viable personal injury claim against a third party.
At the Whitley Law Firm, we believe in Whole Hearted Care. That means standing with you when times are hard and thoroughly exploring all options for recovering the compensation you deserve.
Contact the Whitley Law Firm today to discuss your work injury claim. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.