By definition, no one plans for an accident. That is why insurance plans exist, to help you manage the costs of recovery after an accident.
But what happens if you were injured on the job?
In most cases, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation. Under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act, commercial employers with three or more employees must carry some form of workers’ compensation, though a few exceptions apply.
How to file a workers’ compensation claim is not always clear, especially if you have never encountered the law before. In general, here are five steps to help you pursue a successful claim:
1. Seek medical attention if needed.
Even if you think the injury is minor, having medical documentation early on can help establish the fact that your injury occurred at work or as a result of your work. Be sure to tell your health care team that your injury is related to your work, and name your employer specifically.
Some employers have preferred health care providers or health care facilities on site. Use these facilities if possible to help maximize your success.
2. Report the accident to your employer in a timely manner.
Obviously, emergency situations do not always allow you to call your manager or HR representative right away. That said, notify your employer as soon as possible after the incident, or have a coworker or family member do so if you cannot. Waiting too long to report a work accident or injury could jeopardize your ability to make a successful workers’ comp claim.
3. Follow-up in writing.
Legal claims are built on paperwork. If you called your manager or representative, send them a follow-up letter or email listing the date and time of the accident and a brief description of your injuries. It’s best to do this within 30 days of the accident. Again, have a friend or family member help you if cannot write or type due to your injury.
4. Follow your doctor‘s orders.
Workers’ comp is a rehabilitative system – it is designed to help you return to work successfully. Those who start cutting corners or skipping their therapy and rehabilitation efforts could find their benefits cut off prematurely.
5. Consider hiring an attorney.
Even when following these steps, it can be difficult to navigate the paperwork, the deadlines and the stress of managing a legal claim while in recovery. A lawyer who handles workers’ compensation claims can take care of these details for you, or assist you in filing an appeal if your initial claim was denied.