Archives for November 2010

Injured at Work in NC – Here’s what you do

One of the scariest things that can happen to a worker who depends on their hourly wage to support their family is to get injured and be unable to work.  If you live in North Carolina, and you are injured on the job, than you will be covered under the Workers Comp statutes.  In North Carolina, Workers Comp is administered by the NC Industrial Commission, which has provided similar guidelines in the even you are injured on their webpage.

The steps you take in your first few hours and days after your injury are important, and if you don’t take the right steps, the insurance company is going to do everything it can to deny your claim or cut off your benefits.  If you don’t properly document and report your accident, you will be facing an uphill battle from the very beginning of your case.  So here are some things that you need to do when you are injured on the job in North Carolina:

  1. Report your accident as soon as it happens.  I know this sounds like common sense, but many people fail to take this critical step, and keep working as if nothing happened.  Maybe it is because you don’t want to “ruffle any feathers” with your boss, or perhaps you don’t want to look weak to the other employees.  But this is extremely important.  As soon as you have been in an accident, you absolutely must report it to your supervisor.  The law says you have 30 days to report your accident, but insurance companies will routinely deny claims where the worker waited until after the weekend to report it.
  2. Remember that your employer is not a lawyer.  Often, employers will try to give you “helpful” advice, such as – you can’t bring this claim because you didn’t report it immediately.  They may also ask you to rest a little while, and then see how you feel.  While helpful, this advice will hurt your claim.  So just remember that anything your employer tells you is probably wrong from a legal standpoint, and is very likely to hurt your claim.
  3. Report your accident to the right people.  Don’t just tell a co-worker.  Don’t just tell your supervisor.  Tell everyone you can.  Tell your supervisor and your human resources officer or safety officer.  Write down what happened to you and who was with you when it happened.  Make sure your supervisor makes a written report and gives you a copy.  Be as accurate and specific as possible in the report and include as much detail as you can.
  4. Get information from your co-workers that were with you.  Get their names and telephone numbers.  See if they will write you a quick paragraph about what they saw.  Be nonchalant about it – most co-workers will be happy to help.  Later on when the insurance company instructs your supervisor to tell them to stop talking to you, then the fact that you already have their statement will be extremely helpful.
  5. Go see a doctor.  Your employer may have a doctor that they want you to see, or you may be able to pick one on your own.  Regardless, when you see the doctor, explain to them in detail what happened to you and how it has affected you.  Be sure to tell the doctor that your accident occurred on the job – you would be surprised how often this fact gets left out.  Ask for a copy of your medical records so that you can review the doctor’s narrative and make any corrections if necessary.
  6. File a Form 18.  Don’t rely on your employer to do this for you – make sure you complete this form and file it yourself.  You can download a copy of Form 18 here.  If you have questions or need help completing and filing the form, let us know.  We would be happy to assist you with this without charge or obligation that you hire us.  If you do it yourself, send it by fax and keep a copy of the fax confirmation sheet showing that it was received.

Bottom line – dealing with the insurance company can be difficult enough, even when you do everything right.  Don’t put yourself at a further disadvantage – make sure you properly report and document your workplace injury as soon as it happens.

As always, if you have any questions along the process, please feel free to call The Hart Law Firm at (919) 460-5422 or fill out our contact form.

The Rehab Nurse – Who do they really work for?

If the insurance company decides to accept liability for your workers comp claim, then they are able to direct your care.  As part of that care, the insurance adjuster will assign you to what is called a Rehabilitation Nurse to manage your care.  According to the NC Industrial Commission Rules for Utilization of Rehabilitation Professionals in Workers’ Compensation Claims, the purpose of these Rehabilitation Counselors is to provide for the “medical and vocational rehabilitation of the injured worker”.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission has also provided a brief summary of these “Rehab Rules” for the injured worker.

Although the Rehab Professional is supposed to be working to help you with your care, in reality they are working for and with the insurance company to assist in the effort to terminate your Worker’s Compensation benefits.  The Rehab nurse is an employee of the insurance company, and often times works side-by-side with the adjuster assigned to your case.  These nurses have a clear understanding of who signs their paychecks and how their company makes money.  No bones about it – they will do what they can to turn off your benefit checks.

While we encourage all of our clients to follow closely the instructions of the Rehab nurse very carefully, there are some things that you need to watch out for which are clear violations of the Rehab Rules outlined above.  If you nurse engages in any of the following behaviors, it is a violation of the Rehab Rules and you should contact an attorney immediately:

  1. They attempt to tell the doctor what to do or when to release you to return to work;
  2. They attempt to tell the doctor where to send you for an MRI or physical therapy, or they tell the doctor which specialist to refer you to;
  3. They attempt to give you legal advice regarding the merits of your claim or tell you what will happen if you go back to work;
  4. They are corresponding with doctors or other healthcare providers or to the insurance adjuster without copying you on those communications;
  5. They are talking to your doctor without you being present, or they insist on sitting in on your examination with your doctor; or,
  6. They try to get you to sign a release that authorizes them to talk to your doctor without you being present.

There is another type of rehabilitation specialist called a Vocational Rehab professional, whose job is to find you a new job.  The pitfalls related to these professionals will be discussed in a future post.