Workplace injuries are an unfortunately common occurrence. Though workplace accident rates in North Carolina are slightly lower than the national average, many people are severely injured yearly.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies severe injuries as those that require days away from work or other work restrictions.
Most workers have an inherent risk of injury associated with their jobs. This is why employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
The best way to protect yourself from workplace injuries is to ensure your company follows federal, state, and local safety rules.
However, even with the utmost caution, injuries happen. When you are injured at work, protecting your rights and ensuring you receive compensation for your workplace injury is crucial.
To protect your rights, you must know what to do after an accident at work.
Common Injuries and Their Causes
There are many common injuries that workers experience every day. Further, the causes of these injuries tend to be similar.
Slip-and-fall accidents are one of the most common ways workers can be injured on the job site. Unmarked slippery floors, hidden hazards, cluttered workplaces, and other shortcomings on the job site cause these accidents.
Slip-and-fall accidents often cause head trauma, broken bones, deep lacerations, contusions, and musculoskeletal injuries.
The misuse of heavy equipment is another common cause of severe workplace injuries. These injuries also tend to be much more serious than other workplace injuries.
Accidents involving heavy equipment can lead to a broad range of injuries and are among the most likely to cause the death of a worker.
Improperly lifting heavy objects is a leading cause of injury on many job sites. Lifting an object that is too heavy just once can cause severe injury, often in the lower back.
Other times, repetitively lifting smaller objects can cause gradually increasing strain over time and lead to a severe injury if not treated correctly.
Though not a direct cause of injury, stringent quotas and an unreasonably fast pace of work are associated with many workplace injuries.
For example, multiple Washington State investigations found a direct link between the pace of work at Amazon and the increased rate of injury its workers suffered. Amazon is not alone in this practice.
Many employers put a higher emphasis on productivity than safety. An unreasonably fast pace of work can increase the likelihood of almost all types of workplace injury.
Steps to Take After a Work Injury
If you have been injured at work, you deserve compensation.
To protect your rights and receive compensation, taking several steps after suffering an injury from a workplace accident is essential.
1. Inform Your Supervisor or Employer About the Accident
You should inform your supervisor and a Human Resources representative of workplace injuries as soon as possible.
Reporting your injury within a certain deadline is required to collect workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina.
Notifying your employer will also begin a process that they must follow. This process will ensure that they fulfill their obligations.
It will also create a paper trail that you can use if you have to file a workers’ compensation claim against them later.
2. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If you are injured at work, seek professional medical attention immediately. Anecdotal reports suggest workers at companies like Amazon are often given advice akin to “take an aspirin” or “walk it off.”
Your supervisor is not a medical professional. Only a medical professional should give you medical advice if you are injured.
Unfortunately, in North Carolina, the workers’ compensation insurance company often gets to choose the doctor you see. These doctors are sometimes unsatisfactory to their patients.
If you are unhappy with the doctor selected by the insurance company, you can choose from several legal options to get a second opinion.
A North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can help guide you through these options.
3. Gather Evidence to Establish Your Workers’ Compensation Case
You will need evidence that the injury occurred at work to prove your workers’ compensation claim. First, you should write down everything you remember about the incident.
Take detailed notes documenting the time and place of the injury, how it happened, how the company responded, and anything else you think may be relevant.
Also, try to get witness statements from co-workers if you can. Videos and pictures of the scene and your injuries will also help prove your case.
Evidence from your doctor will carry a lot of weight in court. If you suspect anything suspicious from your doctor, it is important to contact a lawyer and get a second opinion.
4. File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
In North Carolina, your employer must provide any worker who reports a workplace injury with the Industrial Commission’s form 18. You must fill out this form and return it to your employer.
Your employer will submit the form to the Industrial Commission along with form 19.
Your employer or their workers’ compensation insurance company will provide you with additional documents throughout the process.
Make sure you fill out and return this paperwork promptly. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you complete the paperwork correctly.
5. Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help protect your rights throughout the workers’ compensation process. The earlier you get an attorney involved, the better.
An attorney will help you determine the best way to complete each step. They will also help ensure you get the compensation you deserve once the process is complete.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Sue My Company Directly for a Workplace Injury?
Rarely. In North Carolina, an employee can sue an employer directly only if the employer engages in willful misconduct that leads to an injury.
This standard sets a high bar. An attorney can help you determine if willful misconduct led to your injury.
Can My Employer Fire Me If I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
No. Under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, an employer can not fire you or take adverse action against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Can I Appeal a Workers’ Compensation Decision I Think Is Wrong?
Yes. However, the appeal process is complicated, so you should hire a workers’ compensation attorney to help.
Mehta & McConnell, PLLC Can Help
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, Mehta & McConnell knows how to help.
With years of experience working for big companies and insurance firms, our attorneys know how to fight for our client’s rights effectively.
Contact Mehta & McConnell for a free consultation today so we can fight for you.