What if you (or a loved one) were injured at work, or came down with a disease related to work? I see common problems happening in cases before they come to me. Those problems can result in a valid claim being denied, or reducing the case’s value. Sometimes, those problems turn a winning case into a lost cause.
Usually, those problems happened because the employee didn’t know how Workers’ Comp works, or because the employee fell into a trap set by the insurance company.
Here are my TOP 3 WAYS to MESS UP your Workers’ Comp case, and some tips to avoid them:
- MOST COMMON MISTAKE – DON’T REPORT YOUR INJURY OR ILLNESS TO MANAGEMENT PROMPTLY. It’s human nature. You pull your back lifting something at work, and it hurts, but you don’t tell your manager when it happens. You think it will be fine in a few days. You don’t want to make waves. Maybe you’re the stoic type who doesn’t want to admit that you are hurt. The problem is, North Carolina law requires that injuries be reported promptly, at least within 30 days, sooner if possible. Delaying notice to your employer (even within that 30 days) gives the insurance company a chance to say that the injury must have happened somewhere else, and you belatedly blamed it on work. Claims are more likely to be accepted when reported as soon as possible and when medical evaluation and care begin timely.
- MOST DEVASTATING MISTAKE – DOING A RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH THE INSURANCE ADJUSTER WITHOUT YOUR LAWYER ON THE CALL. Insurance adjusters always want to take a recorded statement soon after the injury. Without your lawyer on the phone, some insurance adjusters take advantage by asking trick questions or asking questions in a way that will likely trip you up. The adjuster knows the law. You don’t have a reason to know it. I have seen trick questions or intentionally unclear questions sink a valid claim. You can and should avoid or delay the interview if you are in pain or on pain medication (as those can affect your thinking) or if you have not gotten a lawyer to help you with your case. Your duty to cooperate with the insurance company means you will probably have to do the interview at some point. However, being prepared, being able to think clearly, and having your lawyer on the call will avoid unfair tactics yielding bad surprises.
- MOST COMMON MISSED OPPORTUNITY – NOT GETTING A SECOND MEDICAL OPINION. Many workers representing themselves do not understand that there is a process to get a second opinion from another doctor on treatment and/or on an assigned disability rating. Your lawyer knows when and how to exercise those rights. Also, your lawyer and the insurance adjuster know that there may be two equally capable doctors, but one typically does all they can to help patients with their case, whereas the other one tends of favor the insurance companies. If you ask the adjuster for a second opinion on your own without a plan, which doctor do you think the adjuster is likely to send you to?
Lawyers typically do not charge to discuss your Workers’ Comp situation. If you do not wish to hire an attorney, you may find helpful information from the Information Specialists at the NC Industrial Commission at (800) 688-8349. Don’t hesitate to get help so you can avoid problems like the Top 3 Ways to mess up your case.
Kim K. Steffan is an attorney with Steffan & Associates, P.C. in Hillsborough. She can be reached at (919) 732-7300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.