I’ve Been Hurt At Work. Now What?

In North Carolina, just because a worker gets hurt at work does not necessarily mean there is a compensable claim under the NC Workers’ Compensation Act.  An injury and an accident are not the same thing.  Accidents occur when the work routine has been interrupted, and unusual conditions are created.  If you trip, fall and break your leg while doing your job, that is a compensable accident and injury.  If you are doing your normal job, in its normal manner, and experience an injury, you may not have a compensable claim.  You should call a workers compensation attorney if you have questions related to the circumstances of your injury.

The two main kinds of compensable injuries in NC are accidents and occupational diseases.  There are a few other categories of injuries that will qualify you for benefits, including back injuries attributable to a specific traumatic incident, and hernias under certain conditions.

The most important thing to remember is if you are hurt at work, you need to report it to your supervisor immediately and seek medical treatment as soon as possible.  Any delay in seeking treatment can be used to undermine the validity of your claim.

When you do seek medical treatment, be sure to fully explain to the medical provider how you were hurt at work.  The more documentation in the medical record supporting the way you were injured, the stronger your case will generally be.

The court which oversees work injuries in North Carolina is called the North Carolina Industrial Commission.  They have a great website at www.ic.nc.gov.  There you can find FAQs, the forms you will need to file to preserve your rights, as well as a great deal of other helpful information.

It is important you report the injury in writing to the employer, the workers’ compensation carrier, and the North Carolina Industrial Commission within thirty days, if possible.  The form you need to file is a simple document called a Form 18 –  Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim.  You can find it on the Industrial Commission website.

Be aware that forms your employer may give you to fill out about the accident may not be the Form 18.  You may think you have filled out a Form 18, when it was in fact just some internal report of the employer.

It is common for the employer or its representative to want to take a recorded statement of you about the incident.  Although this is not sworn testimony, it can be used against you if you later want to clarify facts.  For example, you may be asked if you were doing your normal job in its normal fashion when you were hurt.  A classic misunderstanding is for the employee to answer “yes” without clarifying that maybe there was really something unusual that day – for example the employer was short-staffed so the work was at a higher level, or some piece of equipment was not working properly and contributed to the injury.

The safest way to proceed is to call an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.  Remember – it is always free to speak to an attorney in NC about a comp claim.  Attorneys cannot ethically charge you a fee unless it is approved by the Industrial Commission.

Anna Hamrick is a Workers Compensation Attorney at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP

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