Reporting a Workplace Injury: Put it In Writing

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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.

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