Like most states, North Carolina requires every employer with a minimum of three employees to also provide for workers’ compensation. This is not a new concept; workers’ compensation arrived decades earlier to ensure that employees who were injured in the course of their regular work received sufficient medical care. Prior to that mandate, workers were often injured in the workplace with no recovery option except out of their pocket and personal care. Many were permanently maimed in early years and lost income earning power as a result without any safety net.
Today, aside from a few industry exceptions such as domestic employment and farming as well as shipping and railroad companies, employers carry both the cost and provision of workers’ compensation insurance for all employed staff and management on their payroll. This requirement is in place under Chapter 97 of the North Carolina General Laws, and it’s similar to other states with comparable requirements in place for their workers. The regulatory agency overseeing the application is the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
Modern Worker Protection in North Carolina
As an employee, most people’s first exposure to workers’ compensation tends to be the notices displayed prominently in the lunch areas or common hallways bulletin boards of work areas. You might have even been provided a copy of how workplace injuries are handled with related references when you were first hired by an employer. These details spell out how workers’ compensation procedures are taken, which medical provider the employee should use if injured, and whom to contact in the event of an injury. Most, however, don’t fully understand how the language operates until it’s time actually to file a claim.
Technically speaking, workers’ compensation in North Carolina provides more than just routing an injured employee to a medical response. The program, which is paid for by employers, provides for lost income and wages due to being hurt, especially when a doctor specifies restricted work conditions or requires a patient to be off work altogether. The program also addresses the most common issues of medical cost responsibility, compensation if an injury causes permanent harm, travel to medical appointments, and even work-related rehabilitation. Finally, workers’ compensation also provides resources for immediate families when there is a death caused by a work injury or sickness. That tends to be a primary fund source to help address related burial expenses.
Problems Happen Because of Bad Decisions
However, despite all the above, some employers look for ways to curtail employee rights, filing for claims, or even get medical attention. The misguided logic is based on the idea that if the employer has too many claims, their workers’ compensation insurance costs will increase. So, by stemming reporting or response, the assumption is that the employer avoids unnecessary costs. In reality, this strategy is illegal.
In other cases, the definition of an accident creates an ambiguity which can be a problem for hurt employees. The interpretation issue hinges on the definition of a valid “accident.” Technically, North Carolina does not require employers to pay for medical costs or responses not associated with an on-the-job injury. A common example of on-the-job would be losing a finger to manufacturing equipment while operating it on the assembly line. A problem injury not caused by direct work but associated with working would be slipping in the company hallway and breaking a hip bone on impact. Because the hip injury was not directly associated with a work action, employers argue they are not responsible for those costs.
What to Watch Out for And How An Attorney Helps
The key step for an injured employee is to avoid trying to take on the employer yourself. Instead, it’s time to bring in legal representation trained and skilled at holding an employer responsible under state law. Ideally, the employee should communicate about the matter as little as possible and instead should speak about the matter through a lawyer. Doing otherwise could give the employer statements or materials to further their argument of denying coverage.
Second, workers’ compensation processes are very form-heavy, with specific deadlines on dates when documentation needs to be completed. Where an employer requires forms to be filled out, the employee needs to do so by the deadline stated. However, the employee can definitely consult with their attorney on how and to what extent.
Third, the employee should be prepared for an investigation of the incident. To participate in workers’ compensation, everything is subject to review, including the medical records for treatment provided. If an employee doesn’t want to share such information, a claim can’t go forward. So, a worker needs to be prepared for the scrutiny involved. There really isn’t much privacy in a workers’ compensation claim case.
File Your Injury Claim the Right Way
An attorney can help with all the above and guide your responses through the workers’ compensation claim process. They can be with you during investigation interviews and explain the evidence gathered. Counsel can also assist with interpreting documentation, what records the employer will have, and how those records will be used, including your related medical records. Most importantly, qualified counsel can help with the drafting, preparation, and submission of your claim as well as any related appeal if there is a denial of a claim. Many claims are denied not because there wasn’t an actual injury but because the forms were filled out wrong. Avoiding this mistake upfront can save a lot of frustration and keep a worker’s recovery on track.
The Sumwalt Anderson Law Firm regularly takes on workers’’ compensation in Charlotte cases for workers in Charlotte, N.C., unfairly denied their medical protection and recovery for work-related injuries. We can resolve the matter and help with appeals, even if the original claim has been denied. Give our team a call for an initial consultation. There’s no reason for you to have to deal with injuries, pain, and income loss because an employer is trying to avoid their obligation to take care of you.