Archive for the ‘Workers’ Compensation FAQ’ Category

Reporting a Workplace Injury: Put it In Writing

Posted on

Want to know the simplest thing you can do to help your workers’ compensation claim?

As soon as possible, report the injury to your employer – and be sure to put it in writing.

Particularly with back, shoulder and knee injuries, it’s important to report the injury early and in writing. Not doing so could affect your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries or make it harder to your claim accepted and approved.

Here’s a common scenario we encounter: The client lifts something on the job and tweaks his back. He’s definitely hurt. But he doesn’t officially report the injury to his employer in writing, figuring the aches and pains will subside with time. But they don’t, and the condition worsens. After weeks or months of being in chronic pain, the client finally goes to see a doctor and mentions that this all started that day he tweaked his back in the warehouse. When he reports the injury to his employer, the insurance company refuses to accept the claim.

Just telling your supervisor about the injury is not sufficient. You need a written, dated record that it was reported.

Some employers may have you fill out an internal form reporting an injury. But many will not. The gold standard in workplace injury reporting is to complete a Form 18 to be submitted to the N.C. Industrial Commission (NCIC). (It is best if this form is filled out by your attorney representing you in your workers’ compensation claim.)

But there are other types of written documentation that are legally acceptable written methods of notifying your employer of an injury. These include:

  • a text message or email outlining what happened and when
  • a letter to your employer
  • a signed statement
  • an accident report form
  • a recording of a voicemail or phone call in which you report the injury to your employer
  • a work note from your doctor, indicating that you sought treatment after a workplace injury

Always make sure you keep a copy of this notice of an injury – whether it’s a form, email message or recording. Make a photocopy or take a photograph of this documentation so you and your attorney have it. Keep it in a safe place and make backup copies so you don’t lose it.

If you’re unsure about how or who to report an injury top at your workplace, consult your employee handbook. Most companies have formal systems in place for dealing with workers’ compensation injury reports. Telling a coworker you were injured will probably not count as notifying your employer. But telling your supervisor or a dispatcher you were hurt on the job likely satisfies the legal requirement. If you’re unsure who to tell about your injury, ask your boss or someone in human resources. A board certified workers’ compensation attorney can also help.

Surveillance Not Uncommon in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Posted on

surveillance in workers compensation

Private investigators and hidden camera surveillance might seem like the stuff of suspenseful TV shows.

But getting “caught” on camera can be a concern in a workers’ compensation case.

In fact, it’s much more common than you might think. A worker gets hurt at work and sees a doctor. The doctor gives the worker restrictions and says, “These are the things you are not supposed to do or else you could hurt yourself. Don’t do these things and you will get better.”

The worker goes about their life, and their case progresses towards a mediation.

Then the worker and their attorney get to mediation and the attorney for the employer and insurance company pulls up a video that the insurance company claims to show the employee doing things that they were not supposed to do. The case is now in trouble.

In workers’ compensation, we call this surveillance.

Insurance companies routinely hire private investigators to video a hurt worker in the hopes that they will “catch” them doing something that is inconsistent with the restrictions the doctors set.

Even if you think you’re aware of your surroundings and that you would know if you were being watched, that’s often not the case.

A good private investigator is invisible and if they do their job well they stay that way.

I’ve seen video taken from a private investigator in a car, in a van, and even posing as a customer in a restaurant. And in this day in age where everyone has a mobile phone with a built-in video camera, you’re probably not even aware of how often in a day you could potentially be on camera. (You should also be careful about what you share on social media because those posts could be used against you, as well.)

Clients have asked me, “Is this legal? He filmed me at MY house and when I was in my yard!”

The answer is yes, it is legal.

It’s legal for anyone to videotape you in your yard, or anywhere else in public view. There is no expectation of privacy when you are in view of the public.
Clients have also said to me, “But I wasn’t doing anything outside my restrictions and the investigator’s report says that I was lifting or carrying more than my restrictions without any apparent difficulty. How would they know that?”

It is very easy for an investigator who was hired by an insurance company to say that you “appear” to be doing something outside your restrictions, or that you were lifting, carrying or walking without any apparent difficulty. We see those types of phrases in investigators’ reports all the time.

While we can always argue that the investigator is biased or just plain wrong, it’s much easier if we simply don’t have to make these arguments.

So, what does this mean to your case as an injured worker?

Does it mean you can’t live your life or that you should be paranoid about everyone around you? Draw the curtains at home and never go out? No.

It means you should be mindful of your surroundings and made sure you are following your doctor’s restrictions all the time regardless of where you are.

That means that if you have a lifting restriction of 20 pounds that you should not be trying to carry in that 40-pound bag of dog food from the store.

If you aren’t supposed to be standing more than 15 minutes at a time then at 16 minutes you should be finding a chair at the church luncheon.

Following your doctor’s restrictions all the time — both inside and outside of work — will not only help keep your worker’s compensation case on track, it will also help you heal and get better faster.

If you think you might be under surveillance on your workers’ compensation claim and you would like help, please contact us as soon as possible.

Beware Bad Tax Advice About Workers’ Compensation Payments

Posted on

If your tax preparer tells you that you need to claim your workers’ compensation payment as income, it’s time to find a new accountant.

Workers’ compensation benefits, whether paid as weekly checks or settlements, are NEVER taxable.

Now that tax season is in full swing, we’ve been getting calls and questions from clients who are being told otherwise by tax preparers.

The IRS is very clear about this:

Amounts you receive as workers’ compensation for an occupational sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax if they are paid under a workers’ compensation act or a statute in the nature of a workers’ compensation act. The exemption also applies to your survivors. 

There’s a reason you didn’t receive a W2 or 1099 or any other type of tax document summarizing your workers’ compensations benefits for the last year. Those payments, including settlements, temporary total disability and ratings, ARE NOT taxable.

If you’ve heard the opposite from your accountant or tax preparer, please do not file your tax returns without first talking with another financial professional or someone who is familiar with your workers’ compensation case.