How to Self-Destruct Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim

November 19, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you have been injured at work — or hurt while on the way to or from a work function or while otherwise engaged in company business — you may be entitled to a wealth of North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits, including replacement for lost wages, vocational training and placement, help with medical bills, and compensation for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, if you mishandle your claim, you can miss out on these benefits.

So what are some of the common ways in which claimants ‘self-destruct’ their cases?

1. Ignoring the injury/accident.

Obviously, a claimant who falls off a ladder and breaks her leg is not likely to ignore her injury; however, not all job injuries are acute. Some are chronic. For instance, repetitive stress injuries — such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and thoracic outlet syndrome — can all significantly impair your quality of life, make job duties harder, and lead to thousands of dollars in medical bills and therapies. If you don’t report a claim in time, you may miss out on key workers’ comp benefits.

2. Failing to get appropriate treatment.

Not only can delaying your treatment lead to a worsening of your health problems or injuries, but neglecting to take proper care of yourself can provide insurance companies leverage to deny your claim. Delaying can also make it more difficult to demonstrate that the injury sustained was a direct result of your on the job accident.

3. Failing to realize that the insurance company will continue to investigate your situation even after your claim has been approved.

This shouldn’t be a problem as long as your claim is real (ongoing investigations are designed to probe for instances of North Carolina workers’ compensations fraud). But insurance companies generally do all they can to avoid paying long term claims. They may look for any loophole to deny your claim and/or reduce your coverage — even retroactively. Insurers have gone as far as to secretly videotape claimants to look for evidence to deny claims.

4. Trusting employers or insurance companies to ‘do right.’

As the old adage goes: trust, but verify. As we just discussed, insurers and employers may have sympathy for you. Some individuals may even go out of their way to help you figure out your rights and fill out paperwork. But make no mistake. These companies are in business to make money — and that means they have a strong motivation to deny claims and/or to limit them as much as possible. Thus, if you disclose too much information — or the wrong kind of information — to an insurance company investigating your claim, you could significantly impair your chances of collecting of a good settlement.

5. Settling for far too less.

Many claimants are desperate for any money to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and therapies. They thus will often quickly settle with insurance companies to get some active cash flow. However, usually an insurance company’s first offer is not the best offer. A reputable and time-proven North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney can likely help you get much more for your claim.

6. Waiting too long to consult/retain an attorney.

The longer you wait to speak with an experienced attorney about your injury/accident on the job, the greater the likelihood that you will make some error of omission that could damage your claim or cause it to be dismissed altogether. The laws governing workers’ comp benefits and payouts can be extremely complicated; thus, your case may require delicate finesse to get you the most compensation and in the fairest possible terms. Furthermore, a qualified and creditable workers’ compensation attorney can help you develop a plan of action that will reduce your anxiety and uncertainty.

More Web Resources

North Carolina Industrial Commission

North Carolina Office of Economic Opportunity