Just received a Form 24 – What now?

In North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system, many injured workers think that they can handle their case on their own, especially if the case is accepted by the insurance company (meaning that you are receiving weekly benefit checks and medical treatment from the insurance company). Unfortunately, many of these same workers don’t realize the mistake they have made (by not hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer) until their benefits have already been cut off.

One of the biggest threats to an injured workers’ benefits in North Carolina is called the Form 24. Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation system, once an insurance company accepts a claim, there are only two ways that they can stop paying benefits to the injured worker: 1) if the worker returns to work, or 2) if the Industrial Commission approves their Form 24 application.

What most workers don’t realize is that the fight to defend against a Form 24 begins long before the insurance company submits this application to the Commission. And unfortunately, once an unrepresented worker receives the Form 24, it is often already too late to do anything about it.

In order to be successful on a Form 24 application, the insurance company must have a legal basis for asking the commission to turn off benefits. Here are some examples of legally sufficient reasons that the industrial commission may grant a Form 24:

  • The injured worker has failed to comply with their medical treatment (a workers’ compensation lawyer will help you stay on track)
  • The injured worker has refused an offer of suitable employment (only a workers’ comp attorney can advise you on whether the job offered is “suitable”)
  • A doctor (usually one hired by the insurance company) has returned the worker to full duty work (a lawyer can help you request a second opinion from another doctor)

Getting an attorney involved early in the process, before the worker receives a Form 24, can greatly increase your chances of defeating this insurance company tactic, and more importantly, keep your benefits from being turned off.

The Workers’ Comp Doctor: What to do on that first visit…

I just finished up a report on what to do and what not to do on that first trip to the dreaded workers’ comp doctor. Here’s a quick overview/summary of my recommendations:

  • Be nice, even if you don’t like the doctor
  • Be prepared with notes explaining exactly how you were injured – explain this to the doctor. Rinse, and repeat.
  • Do like your parents taught you – don’t lie or exaggerate your symptoms. Workers’ Comp doctors have a way of knowing.
  • Don’t say or do anything that you don’t want the Industrial Commission to find out about.
  • Order your records after the visit to insure that they accurately reflect your visit.
  • Talk to the doctor about their opinion with regards to return to work restrictions.
  • Don’t let the doc have a meeting with the nurse without you.
  • Don’t talk bad about the nurse or Workers’ Comp carrier in front of the doctor.  You can call me and do that.
  • Even if you hate the doctor, don’t lose your temper. Again, call me and shout all you want.
  • Don’t get treated for an unrelated condition while you are seeing the Workers’ Comp Doctor.
  • Don’t tape the visit, unless you are being sent to an IME – in which case you probably need a lawyer. Feel free to call me.
  • If you decide not to tape your IME, make notes of the visit.

If that is too much for you to read – remember to be nice, keep notes, don’t lie. That’s about it. Questions? My number is (919) 460-5422.

Anatamy of a Workers’ Comp Case

If you have been injured on the job in North Carolina, you are probably scared (about your health and possibly loss of income/job security), nervous and a little uncertain of what the future will hold.  However, knowledge is power – so the more you know about how the process will unfold, the more confident you will become.  Here is a quick rundown (big picture stuff) of the Workers’ Comp process in North Carolina from A-Z…

  1. You are hurt in an accident at work.
  2.  If you haven’t already, you should immediately report the accident to your employer.
  3. Seek medical treatment for your injuries.  Your employer may have a doctor on-site, or they may direct you to a designated health care provider.
  4. Tell the medical services provider that your injury occurred at work, and give them the name of your employer so that the treatment can be billed as a Workers Comp claim.  (Give the doctor as much detail as possible about how the accident occurred, what it did to your body, what you felt/experienced at the time of and immediately after the accident, and any other details that are necessary for the doctor to adequately understand what happened to you and how it has affected your body.)
  5. Give written notice to your employer of the accident.  The law requires that this notice be given within 30 days of the accident.  It would be prudent to copy the notice and give it to several people, in addition to keeping a copy for your files and to give to your attorney (should you require one).
  6. You can use Form 18 to provide the notice in #5 to your employer.  A Form 18 must also be filed with the Industrial Commission within two years of the accident.
  7. Follow the instructions and restrictions provided by your doctor.
  8. Return to work – hopefully without being out for too long.
  9. In the event that your claim is denied, you should speak with a Workers’ Comp lawyer to help you decide what to do next.  You will probably have to request a hearing and will need the help of an attorney to do this.
  10. If you are out of work longer than 7 days, or get terminated as a result of the injury, you should speak with a lawyer about what to do.

Most people are cleared to return to work after only being out a couple of weeks.  However, if you have sustained a more serious injury that involves a complete or partial disability, then you may be out of work much longer than that.  Since Workers Comp benefits can go on indefinitely, the insurance company will do everything they can to cut off or limit the amount of those checks.  Many people are more than capable of handling their claim on their own – but as with everything in life, the more complicated the claim, serious the injury, or difficult the adjuster is being, the more likely you are to need an attorney to help you.

 

Who do you help at The Hart Law Firm?

I often get asked about the types of clients I represent.  In a nutshell, we help people who have been injured at work.  However, injured employees can take on many different forms, and have many different jobs.  Here is a broad sampling of the kinds of people that I work with in my practice:

  • Employees at Textile plants
  • Injured Factory Workers
  • Flight Attendants exposed to Toxic Chemicals or injured at work
  • Walmart Employees
  • Truck Drivers
  • Construction Workers
  • Forklift Operators
  • Workers who have signed an agreement and are having second thoughts
  • Disabled workers who need help applying for social security disability
  • People in need of attendant care to help a disabled worker

In a nutshell, we work with workers who have been injured at work and need assistance.  Oftentimes, people who call us just don’t know what to do next and need help filing the proper paperwork so that they can obtain the benefits they deserve and are legally entitled to.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a workplace accident, you should strongly consider calling a Raleigh workers compensation lawyer to answer your questions. Raleigh Workers Compensation Lawyer James Hart is available at (919) 460-5422 for your free consultation.

 

Flash Fire at Sherwin Williams Plant leads to burned worker

A Flash Fire at the Sherwin Williams Plant in Greensboro has burned a worker, reports CBS News.  The fire happened Thursday morning and burned the worker on his arms and face.

This unfortunate incident was the result of chemical vapors igniting, reports fire investigators, and is yet another reason that workers must be vigilant in maintaining a safe work environment.

The Raleigh Workers Compensation Lawyers at The Hart Law Firm understand how devastating a tragic event such as this can be.  Chemical burns are a serious danger of working in any factory.  When you or a loved one is involved in an accident like this, it is important for you to consult legal counsel about your rights.

The actions you take in the initial hours and days after a workplace accident can have a significant impact on your case and how it gets resolved.  The insurance companies will do anything they can to deny your claim or limit the workers compensation benefits you are legally entitled to – don’t let that happen to you.

One of the first things that this worker or his family must do is inform his employer (Sherwin Williams), in writing, of the accident.  Seems like a pretty simple thing to do, right?  But six months or a year from now, nobody will remember how severe this accident was, and if he failed to write this very important letter, it could be used against him in court.  In a severe workplace accident, such as a flash fire, this very simple step is often overlooked.

After getting appropriate medical treatment, the next thing I would advise this worker to do is contact an attorney to learn more about his rights.  A workers compensation lawyer can help him to navigate this treacherous and complicated claim – and make sure nothing is overlooked.

If you or a loved one was injured in a Flash Fire or Other Workplace Accident, contact a Workers Compensation Lawyer today.

Call the Raleigh Workers Compensation Lawyers at The Hart Law Firm to schedule a free consultation at (919) 460-5422.  Alternatively, you may complete our online contact form and a representative of our office will call you back within 24 hours.

Is your Workers Comp Lawyer easily accessible?

Is it easy for you to talk to your Workers Compensation Lawyer?  Do they return your calls promptly?  Do you feel cared about and that your case is being handled properly and with professionalism?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, perhaps you don’t have the right attorney handling your case.

At The Hart Law Firm, we are different than other attorneys you may have come across – from your first meeting with an attorney, through the conclusion of your case, you will find that we are not your ordinary personal injury law firm.  For starters, we are a small law firm – not a 50 lawyer firm that is forced to settle cases quickly to pay their overhead.  Because we are a small firm, we are able to give personal attention to each of our clients – which is what you deserve.

I’ve heard stories of attorneys that handle upwards of 150 cases at one time – in my opinion, that is just too much work for one attorney.  Assuming a 50 hour workweek (many attorneys work many more hours than that, but go with me here…), an attorney with 150 cases will be able to spend approximately 20 minutes on each file each week.  Obviously, the attorney will probably spend some time in hearings, client meetings, and attending to other administrative matters during the week – squeezing the attention they can give each file even more.  Chances are, with that kind of workload, the attorney will utilize one or two paralegals to assist with their cases.  That means that when you call with an emergency or because you have a question for the attorney, you pretty much have no chance that they will even remember your name, let alone be able to talk to you intelligently about your file.  You will get passed off to the paralegal.

Not at The Hart Law Firm.

I have chosen to limit the number of cases I will take at any given time so that all of my clients will receive the prompt and careful attention that they deserve.  When you call my firm, you will talk to an attorney – me – if not right away, then certainly within 24 hours.

We care about our clients because you are our livelihood.  Our goal is to make you happy so that you will refer your friends to us.  How can we expect you to do that if you don’t feel cared about or satisfied that we are looking after your case?  You can’t.

At The Hart Law Firm, we care about our clients and your satisfaction.  To schedule your initial consultation, please call (919) 460-5422 or fill out our online contact form.

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.