I live in Hickory and got hurt at work. What should I do?

Workers' Compensation

I live in Hickory, North Carolina, and I got hurt at work, but I’m not sure how bad I’m hurt and don’t want to look like a whiner or make my boss mad. What should I do?

Whether you work for one of the more prominent companies in the Hickory, North Carolina region, or a smaller one, there’s always a risk of getting hurt at work. When it happens, no matter how serious the injury might appear to be at the time, there are some simple but crucial steps that you need to take immediately to protect your rights under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

An injured worker’s primary responsibility is to report the injury to their supervisor or human resources. They should ask to get checked out by a medical professional to be safe. Often, larger companies in the Hickory, North Carolina area have a routine procedure of sending employees to specific medical facilities such as urgent care for initial treatment. By getting checked out, an injured worker confirms that they are reporting a work injury. Even at small companies that don’t require written reports after an accident, an injured employee can still give clear notice of the accident and their intent to get checked out.

One way to deal with situations with no clear company policy or documentation for reporting an injury is to text a supervisor or boss who may not have witnessed the accident. Let them know that you were hurt and need to get treatment. A text can and has helped quite a few injured workers prove to an adjuster that they did tell their employer, and the employer failed to inform the insurance company. If there are witnesses to the accident, you should get them to report it if they are willing.  Remember, giving notice to your employer means the insurance company is deemed to have notice as well, even if your company fails to report the injury to them. If the employer does not tell the insurance company what happened, that’s not your problem.

After reporting an accident, an employer should provide an injured worker with a “Form 18” that the worker must file with the industrial commission. Many employers do not do this, so be sure to ask for a Form 18 or go to the North Carolina Industrial Commission website to download the form. This form gives notice to the Industrial Commission that you have a claim and is very important. If you are concerned about what to put on the form or how to do it, you should probably consult an attorney to see if you want to retain an attorney.

What if I try to tough it out and do not get better? What happens to my claim?

Not immediately reporting a work accident (or as soon as possible) can have significant repercussions for an injured employee, including lack of medical treatment and disability benefits. Let’s look at how trying to be tough can make things challenging for your workers’ compensation claim if you later need benefits.

Example: What about Bob?

Bob has worked at one of the furniture companies in the Hickory, North Carolina area for ten years. He’s proud of his work ethic and that he’s rarely missed a day due to being sick in his long time working for the company. It’s the end of a long week, and Bob has been pulling a lot of overtime. Right before his day is over, the lathe machine he is operating malfunctions. As Bob is trying to fix the issue, his shirt gets caught in the machine. As he tugs his shirt to free himself, he falls backward onto the concrete floor. Embarrassed, he gets up, red-faced, worried about whether a co-worker saw his accident. His back is excruciating, but it’s Friday, and Bob decides he will rest his back and be better by Monday. Unfortunately, his back is even worse on Monday, and he feels burning pain down both legs. Bob tries to work as usual but cannot do it. He uses several sick days, but his back worsens, so three weeks after the accident, Bob’s wife convinces him that he needs to go to a doctor.

Bob finally goes to his supervisor and tells him he got hurt on the job and needs to see a doctor. The supervisor asks why Bob never said anything when he fell because Bob knows company policy is to report an injury immediately. The supervisor takes the report and sends him to urgent care, where he’s told to see a specialist. A spine doctor tells him he needs an MRI because he may have injured a disc, and he’s written out of work. But the insurance company then denies Bob’s claim because he failed to give timely notice, arguing he did not get hurt at work. Now Bob cannot work, needs an MRI and possible treatment with a specialist, but has no health insurance. He can ask for a hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission to fight the denial of his claim, but it won’t be a quick process. While workers’ compensation insurance companies like to find reasons to deny a claim, here by his inaction right after the accident, Bob has provided the adjuster with a clear – if untrue – reason to deny the claim. Bob may well win in the end, but it will be a long, complex process during which he may not get treatment or earn wages.

Injured workers should always report an injury, even if it makes them feel weak or might even ruin a company safety program tracking the number of days since the last accident at the workplace. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be strong and keep working. Reporting an injury will not prevent an injured worker from trying to do just that if possible, but not reporting is just choosing not to protect oneself. Report an injury and get checked out, even if it is inconvenient and you think you are not severely hurt. Rest assured, insurance companies and many employers will not be worried about protecting injured workers, even those who try to “tough it out” like Bob. If you need help with your work injury case, our experienced attorneys in Hickory, NC are here to help.

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