Getting injured or sick on the job can be tough. North Carolina offers a way for workers to get help through a system called Workers’ Compensation. This guide will walk you through the steps to file a claim in North Carolina for the year 2023.
Know the Basics
First, understand what Workers’ Compensation is. It’s a type of insurance that employers must have. It helps pay for medical expenses and some wage loss if you get injured or sick because of your job. Importantly, this is a no-fault system. It doesn’t matter if the accident was your fault, your employer’s, or no one’s. As long as the injury happened while you were doing your job, you should be eligible.
Report the Incident
Let’s see how to File a Workers’ Comp claim? The first step is reporting the incident to your employer. Tell your supervisor or human resources department right away. North Carolina law gives you 30 days to do this, but do it as soon as possible. Delaying can cause problems for your claim.
Get Medical Attention
Your health is a priority. Seek medical attention immediately after the injury or as soon as you realize you’re sick. Make sure to tell the healthcare provider that your condition is related to your job. This will be crucial when you file the claim.
Complete the Necessary Forms
Your employer will give you a form called “Form 18” which you’ll need to fill out to start the claim process. This form asks for information about you, your job, and how the injury or illness happened. Fill it out carefully and return it to your employer. They will then send it to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees Workers’ Comp claims, and their insurance company.
Follow Medical Instructions
Once you’ve filed the claim, follow all medical advice and treatment plans. This shows that you’re serious about getting better and returning to work. Not following medical advice can hurt your claim.
From this point on, keep records of everything. This includes medical bills, travel expenses related to your treatment, and any correspondence with your employer or their insurance company. These records will help if there are any disputes about your claim.
Cooperate and Stay Informed
Your employer’s insurance company will investigate the claim. They may ask you questions or require more documentation. Cooperate with them but also stay informed. Know your rights and responsibilities under North Carolina law. If the insurance company denies your claim, you have the right to appeal. An appeal means you ask the North Carolina Industrial Commission to review the denial.
Seek Legal Advice
If at any point you feel overwhelmed, consider hiring a Workers’ Comp lawyer. They can help you understand the process, fill out forms correctly, and represent you if you have to go to a hearing or appeal a denial. Legal advice is especially useful if your case has complications like pre-existing conditions, denial of benefits, or if you are facing long-term disability.
Understand Possible Outcomes
After you’ve filed your claim and gone through the investigation process, several outcomes are possible. If the insurance company approves your claim, you should receive benefits that cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. If they deny your claim, you can file an appeal with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
Prepare for an Appeal
If you have to appeal, prepare thoroughly. Use the records you’ve kept as evidence to support your claim. At this stage, having a lawyer can make a significant difference. They can help you present your case effectively and understand the legal language that you might encounter.
Your appeal will likely involve a hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission. You’ll need to attend this hearing, where you and your employer (or their insurance company) will present evidence. This is your chance to make your case, so come prepared. Bring all necessary documentation and consider having witnesses testify on your behalf.
Finalize the Claim
Once the North Carolina Industrial Commission makes a decision, both parties will be notified. If they rule in your favor, you will begin receiving benefits. These could include medical bill payments and wage replacement. If the Commission denies your appeal, you still have options for further appeals, but these can be complex and time-consuming.
If your claim gets approved, you will start receiving benefits. These typically cover medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages. Keep in mind that the insurance company may ask you to undergo periodic medical evaluations. This is to check on your progress and see if you still qualify for benefits. Keep attending these check-ups and follow all medical advice.
Returning to Work
Depending on your medical condition, you might get the clearance to return to work. This could be either full-time or part-time, based on your recovery. If you return to work part-time, you may still receive partial wage loss benefits to make up the difference. Your employer should also provide reasonable accommodations, if needed, to help you ease back into your role.
Ending the Claim
Your Workers’ Comp claim officially ends when you’ve recovered and returned to work or when you’ve received a settlement. Settlements often occur in cases where the injury leaves lasting effects that make it impossible for you to return to your previous job role. In such cases, a lump sum or structured settlement is paid out, closing the claim.
Even after your claim ends, certain responsibilities continue. For instance, if you received a settlement that involves ongoing medical care, make sure you adhere to treatment plans. Failure to do so might cause complications with your settlement or benefits. Also, keep all records related to the claim and treatment for future reference.
Filing a Workers’ Comp claim in North Carolina involves several steps, from reporting the injury to following medical advice and cooperating with insurance investigations. It’s crucial to act quickly and keep thorough records to support your claim.
If you find this process overwhelming, consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in Workers’ Comp cases. They can guide you through the intricacies of North Carolina law and help improve the chances of your claim’s success.