When To Hire a Workers' Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program covering employees who are injured on the job as a result of an accident or who suffer from an occupational disease. It pays for medical bills and a portion of lost wages. It is no-fault insurance that most employers in North Carolina are required to provide for eligible employees.
Unfortunately, some injured workers have valid claims disputed or denied by insurance companies. If you are having trouble obtaining workers’ comp benefits, you may need the guidance of a N.C. board-certified workers’ compensation attorney. Board certification by the N.C. State Bar indicates an attorney has received extensive training and passed an exam in a particular area of law.
A workers’ comp lawyer can review your claim at no charge and discuss the appropriate steps to take next. You may need to file an appeal with the N.C. Industrial Commission, which hears disputes involving workers’ compensation claims. If an attorney handles your claim, the attorney will charge a percentage of the final workers’ comp settlement or award as a fee. If there is no settlement or award, there is no charge.
Here are three reasons you should hire a workers’ compensation attorney:
- Your Employer Disputes Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Your Serious Injury Creates a Complicated Workers’ Comp Claim
- Your Employer says to Return to Work After a Workers’ Comp Claim
Your Employer Disputes Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Medical care for serious injuries quickly becomes very expensive. It is not uncommon for an employer or their insurance company to dispute an injured employee’s claim, particularly if it is apparent the medical care will be costly.
A common ploy is for the employer or insurance company to claim the injured worker is a contractor and not an employee, and therefore not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Another tactic is to claim the employee was not on the job when the injury occurred, or that the injury or illness grew out of a prior condition.
The Industrial Commission hear appeals of denied claims, but the burden of proof is on the injured worker. If you need to appeal a denied claim, you should hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to gather and introduce evidence to support your claim.
Your Serious Injury Creates a Complicated Workers’ Comp Claim
It is one thing to break your leg in a fall at work and, after six weeks at home in a cast, to return to the job. It’s much different to suffer multiple broken bones and nerve damage in a crush injury and be laid up for months while your doctors wait to see whether you remain paralyzed or regain mobility.
As injuries become more complex, there are more variables in a workers’ comp claim — more doctors and doctors’ exams, more diagnoses that may be questioned, and potential changes in the type of benefits you deserve.
If you are granted a disability rating, which affects the amount paid, it is ripe for challenge. An injured worker can challenge a disability rating if he or she disagrees with it. Furthermore, if you are not able to return to your old job, the issue of finding new suitable employment will also need to be addressed.
Your Employer says to Return to Work After a Workers’ Comp Claim
Another situation to consider hiring an attorney is if you disagree with the doctor’s decision that you are fit to return to work.
The issue is that you are required to follow the orders of the doctor assigned to your claim. You may have some choice, but the doctors are chosen by the insurance company or employer. Some employers demand that workers return before they are fully recovered because resuming work ends or reduces payment of workers’ compensation benefits.
If the doctor has released you to return to work on light duty and you disagree, you have a right to ask the Industrial Commission to approve a change in treating physicians or allow you to see a doctor of your own choice, if you have valid justification. This is a formal legal procedure requiring evidence, possibly including your doctor’s testimony.
An appeal is best pursued with the assistance of a legal professional who knows workers’ compensation law.