Filing A Workers’ Comp Claim? It’s Not Personal
Amanda has worked as a stylist at Patty’s Cut and Style for seven years. Patty hosted Amanda’s baby shower and even gave Amanda a day off when her son got pink eye. Patty buys lunch for the gang on Staff Appreciation Days and lets workers leave early on Saturdays. Life is good at Patty’s Cut and Style.
But Amanda’s wrist pain is getting worse, and she needs to see a doctor. Amanda is a hard worker. Not the type to sue. What does she do?
- Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim is a legal right
If Amanda files a workers’ compensation claim, she is not filing a lawsuit against Patty, or “suing” Patty. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers with the legal right to file a Form 18 when they are injured at work. This report of accident is not “litigation,” but merely notifies Patty and her insurance company of their legal obligations. A responsible employer like Patty will address the Form 18 like any other important notice, by forwarding it to her insurance company to handle.
- Failing to file a Workers’ Compensation claim is dangerous
If Amanda, worried about hurting Patty’s feelings, chooses not to file a claim and instead sees a doctor on her own, she puts everyone at risk. Amanda’s deadline to file a claim may expire during her treatment period, meaning that she will abandon her legal rights even if her condition later requires surgery or time out of work. Plus, Amanda may end up hurting Patty by depriving her of prompt notice and the option to assign light job duties or make other accommodations for Amanda’s condition.
- Workers’ compensation is no-fault
Unlike a civil lawsuit, a workers’ compensation claim does not involve any accusation of employer wrongdoing. If Amanda files a workers’ compensation claim, she is not blaming Patty. In fact, if Patty had intentionally exposed Amanda to some hazard, a workers’ compensation claim probably would not be Amanda’s best option anyway. Amanda is simply exercising a legal right, just as she would call her car insurer if she crashed her car.
- Workers’ comp insurance, not the employer, pays claims
Amanda may worry that Patty cannot afford to pay extra bills. No worries there, either. Assuming at least three workers (including Patty) work at Patty’s Cut and Style, then Patty must have workers’ compensation insurance. Most likely, after Patty sends the first form to the insurer, Patty will not even be involved in Amanda’s claim. Patty’s insurance company probably will assign an insurance adjuster to pay Amanda’s benefits, not as some cushy fringe benefit or personal favor, but as her basic legal right.
- Attorneys are not personal, either
Hopefully Amanda’s workers’ compensation claim will go smoothly, and the insurer will pay everything Amanda is due. Either way, just like Amanda is entitled to file a claim, she is entitled to get legal advice from an attorney. Patty’s insurer likely has a law firm working to minimize its payouts. Amanda’s decision to seek legal advice is not a personal insult to Patty but a cautious and diligent move to protect her interests.
If you have been hurt on the job or have developed an occupational disease, do not hesitate to exercise your legal rights. Like Amanda, by filing a workers’ compensation claim you simply will be following protocol. It’s not personal.