What you need to know if you're injured at work

We often relegate "injured on the job" situations to the construction or manual labor industries, but accidents can happen anywhere, anytime.

Posted Updated
Latisha Catchatoorian
, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

We often relegate "injured on the job" situations to the construction or manual labor industries, but accidents can happen anywhere, anytime.

If you're in a more corporate setting, for example, it could be something as simple as a tumble up the stairs that leaves you with a broken wrist and months of costly physical therapy. Impaired vision from staring at screens for hours a day, carpal tunnel and compromised backs from sitting are all examples of injuries sustained in a more traditional office environment.

There are endless ways people have been injured at work, ranging from a man who broke his hip trying to shake something out of a vending machine to a trash collector who fell while riding on the back of a garbage truck. Regardless of the injuries sustained, or how peculiar the scenario, individuals who have been injured while on the job deserve to be fairly compensated.

If you’ve been injured at work, here are a few key things you should keep in mind.

Workers' compensation

If you've suffered a work-related injury, you may be eligible for certain workers' compensation benefits through your employer.

Workers compensation is a benefit program that covers the expenses of both your medical bills and the wages you may lose if you are unable to work for a time. This is mandated by the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act.

Workers' compensation is a "no-fault" system, which means that you do not have to prove that the events of the injury were anybody's fault. What you do have to prove is that the accident took place while you, the employee, were working.

Things can get tricky if your employer or your employer’s insurance carrier are being unagreeable. This is when an injury lawyer comes in handy.

"Many workers' comp cases are routine and don’t require an attorney; workers' comp pays the injured worker's medical bills, and the worker is back at work within two to four weeks," said Bob Whitley, an attorney and founder of Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. "The real issue, and I think when injured workers do need to retain an attorney, is when the injury is serious enough that they're not certain of their being able to return to work. Those kinds of claims can end up being a lot more hotly contested than a routine minor injury."

Claiming workers' compensation

Workers' compensation can get complicated, as it has very strict rules and deadlines. You only have 30 days from the time the incident occurs to submit an official report, in writing, about the injury.

An official form from the North Carolina Industrial Commission, called Form 18, must also be filed within two years of the incident. Whether you'e been injured accidentally or due to employer negligence, it's critical to file a claim within the appropriate time frame as to not lose out on the benefits you're entitled to.

Even if you feel like an injury is "minor" you will want to follow procedure, in case it turns out to be more serious than you anticipated.

Third-party claims

It may happen that you have a worker's compensation claim and a personal injury claim for the same incident. These are called third-party claims because they occur when a person is injured while on the job, but due to the negligence of a third party.

Be aware that if you have workers compensation that pays money towards your medical bills and covers the cost of your wages, and you have recovery from a negligent third-party found to be at fault, then you’re expected to pay back the money that workers' compensation provided. Essentially, you can't double dip.

Mistakes to avoid

If you've suffered a work-related injury, make sure to avoid the following mistakes when it comes to reporting a claim:

  • Not submitting a claim in time
  • Not specifying to your doctor each part of your body that is in pain
  • Improper filling out of appropriate forms to be filed with the N.C. Industrial Commission

A Whitley Law Firm client who was injured on the job felt the victory of enlisting an attorney to buoey his case.

"After working with [Ben Whitley] on my case, which we won thanks to Ben and his staff, we are not just a client and a lawyer, but we are friends," he said.

Whitley added, "You cannot rely on an insurance company to look out for your best interests, you have to have somebody that will speak for you against the insurance company and be willing and able to take your case to court if it's denied or devalued by the insurance company."

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.