Confronting Uncooperative Employers: Addressing Workplace Injuries
Typically, when someone is injured on the job in North Carolina, their employer will acknowledge the injury, file an accident report, and provide the worker with instructions for how to get medical treatment as part of a workers’ compensation claim. Problems arise when an employer refuses to acknowledge a workplace injury.
Reasons for Uncooperative Employers
Uncooperative employers present significant challenges when dealing with workplace injuries. Reasons for their reluctance include lacking workers’ compensation coverage, fearing insurance rate hikes, dismissing injury severity, citing mitigating circumstances, and misleading about delayed reporting.
Understanding these motives empowers injured workers to take appropriate actions to protect their rights and seek the compensation they deserve.
1. Lack of coverage
Your employer may not carry the workers’ compensation insurance. Most employers are required to carry insurance and cannot legally choose to not have it.
Your employer may want to avoid an increase in their insurance rates. An employer has a legal obligation to report injuries and is already violating the law by not reporting an injury.
3. Mild or repetitive injuries
The employer may claim the injury isn’t severe enough to require medical treatment. This determination should be one for a doctor. Sometimes employers claim that repetitive motion injuries are not covered. This is not true.
4. Mitigating circumstances
Your employer may believe the circumstances surrounding your injury relieve them from legal and financial responsibility.
5. Delay in reporting
Your employer may tell you that because you did not report the injury to them right away that you cannot file. This is not true.
If you are injured on the job, you have the right to receive medical treatment and to have that treatment covered by workers’ compensation even if your employer refuses to acknowledge the injury or tries to discourage you from reporting it.
No matter what your employer says or does, your first priority in an emergency should be getting medical treatment. If you need medical treatment urgently, don’t wait to go to the ER, urgent care, or the doctor because you think you need to report your injury first.
In North Carolina, there are several steps things you can do following a workplace injury to preserve your workers’ compensation claim.
Reporting the Workplace Injury:
When possible, report your injury immediately to your employer and file an accident report. When reporting your accident, it’s important to both verbally inform your employer you have been injured and provide written notice in the form of an accident report. Make sure the accident report accurately reflects what happened and is clear that your injuries were caused by a work-related accident. Try to keep a copy of the accident report for your own records.
Your Rights: Pursuing Medical Treatment and Compensation
As I mentioned above, seek medical treatment right away. Even if your employer is uncooperative or refuses to acknowledge your injuries or tries to get you to handle things “off the books,” continuing to work while hurt or delaying treatment can make your injuries worse. Delaying treatment may also make it harder to prove your claim later.
If your employer is refusing to send you for treatment, you can use your own health insurance to get treatment at your doctor. Workers’ compensation can reimburse you and your health insurance later. If not, there are a number of clinics that will treat uninsured patients. Keep track of your mileage to and from medical appointments. If you drive your vehicle more than 20 miles roundtrip to receive treatment, you are entitled to reimbursement.
Be sure to tell the doctor your injury occurred at work and provide the physician with your employer’s name and contact information. Medical records that document how you were injured and that you were injured at work can serve as evidence where your employer has refused to file an accident report.
Preserving Your Claim: Steps After Workplace Injury
Within 30 days of your injury (but preferably as soon as possible), provide a detailed written statement to your employer that describes your workers’ comp claim. This should detail what happened, what injuries you sustained and the steps you took to receive treatment. Even if your employer is already aware of your accident, providing a written statement you can help prove that your injury was properly reported. Keep a copy of this statement for your records.
Following Medical Advice for Claim Success
Be sure to follow the advice of your doctor. If time off work is recommended, make sure the doctor includes a note in your records. If your doctor suggests follow-up appointments or refers you to a specialist, be sure to continue the treatment plan so you don’t jeopardize your workers’ compensation claim.
After visiting the doctor, check to ensure that your workers’ compensation claim has been filed correctly with the N.C. Industrial Commission by completing and submitting a Form 18, which is available online and in paper form. It is best if this form is filled out by your attorney representing you in your workers’ compensation claim.
Navigating the Workers’ Compensation Process
As your workers’ comp claim and treatment progresses, you’ll be asked to complete lots of paperwork and sign lots of forms. Know that all this paperwork can have a bearing on your case. Don’t submit or sign any paperwork without fully understanding it.
Finally, keep copies of all records pertaining to your injuries, including the accident report, medical treatment records and any correspondence from your employer, their representative or the Industrial Commission.
When you’ve been injured on the job in North Carolina, you have the legal right to receive medical treatment and pay for lost wages covered by your employer’s insurance company. If your employer refuses to follow the law, an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can help you receive the compensation for medical bills and your lost time.