Hurt at Work in NC? What to Do Next.
Our Greenville workers’ compensation attorneys at Ricci Law Firm, P.A. help injured workers across North Carolina. Here are some common questions we see:
I got hurt at work. What’s the first step?
Notify management immediately – even if you think everyone knows. Often, injured workers hope to heal quickly, so they do not bother reporting an incident. Do it anyway! And put it in writing. In more cases than we can count, a text or email to a supervisor ended up saving the day when the boss later played dumb. Also, gather the contact information of co-workers and witnesses.
But I’m not sure if my accident is covered…
We see two big mistakes here. First, some injured workers assume they will not qualify for benefits. Maybe their boss pays them in cash under the table, or they are undocumented, or the boss calls them a “temp” or an “independent contractor.” Don’t fall for it. The Employee Fair Classification Act protects North Carolina workers from these common ploys. Bottom line? If you think you may be an employee, you probably are.
Second, some workers (without talking to a lawyer) figure that their medical condition is not work-related. Maybe they have some long medical history, or the accident happened off-site, or the insurance adjuster denied the claim. Don’t play lawyer! Compensable workers’ compensation claims range from car accidents while traveling for work, to repetitive motion pain, to psychological conditions due to stress or harassment, to aggravation of prior conditions; and the list goes on. When in doubt, call a workers’ compensation attorney.
Should I see a doctor?
Yes. If you get hurt at work – even if you think your injuries are minor – workers’ comp must pay for an evaluation with someone like a plant nurse, urgent care or emergency room. Go! Many injured workers try to tough it out, waiting for days or weeks to see a doctor. Meanwhile, they keep working, their pain increases, and when they finally request an appointment, the insurance adjuster denies the claim on the basis that the symptoms started too late. Not fair, but we’ve seen it happen! Not only will a doctor’s visit put your mind at ease, it will document when the pain first started. When you do see the doctor, explain to everyone – at the front desk, on the intake sheet, to the nurses, and to the doctor – that your injury occurred at work.
But I need to work and earn money – how will I pay my bills?
We get it – you need the hours and the paycheck, not a dreaded out-of-work note. That’s exactly why North Carolina has a workers’ compensation system. If your condition is compensable and causes disability, you are entitled to weekly benefits until you get back on your feet. Workers’ comp benefits are slightly less than the normal pay rate, but they are tax-free. Plus – and this is where a good lawyer comes in – the compensation rate often can be adjusted to consider wage history, overtime, benefits, and prior sick or vacation time. When your first check arrives, look closely to avoid getting short-changed.
The North Carolina workers’ compensation system is meant to help injured workers just like you, so use it wisely to get the help you need. If you have more questions regarding a potential case, contact us at Ricci Law Firm, P.A. for a free consultation.