If you have been injured at work in North Carolina, you may be questioning when the appropriate time is to write a claim to request workers’ compensation from your employer. Waiting too long or overlooking important steps during the process of applying could compromise your efforts to get the support you need.

Immediately following your accident that has left you injured, you should contact your supervisor and/or employer’s human resources department and disclose what has happened. The people you speak with should be able to provide you with the information you need to file a claim, tell you how you will receive updates, how to claim the services you are eligible for and what your employer will do to help you return to work as quickly as possible. If you need medical attention, the person who handles workers’ compensation for your employer will often tell you where to go to get it, so that worker’s compensation will be available to pay for it.

According to hni.com, your employer should also efficiently process your claim. Their neglect in being timely can cost them more money for your injury and decrease your motivation to return to work for them. Their willingness to show compassion and maintain timely communication with you is an effective measure of their desire to retain you as an employee and help you to achieve a full recovery.

In North Carolina, there are two separate requirements to pursue your claim—notice and filing.  Filing, which is not the subject of this post, is sending a document to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, usually a “Form 18,” which must be filed by the injured employee.  The documents that the employer files are often not sufficient, so the injured worker should always be careful to file.  That must be done within a period that is dictated by something like a “Statute of Limitations.”  If the filing is also sent to the employer, then it can serve as notice, as well, but only if it is done very quickly, on the time required for notice.

The notice requirement is separate, and failure to give timely notice, even if the claim is filed on time, can defeat a claim.  To make a very long story short, it is best to tell your employer about an injury, as quickly as possible.  The person told must be a supervisor or some other person authorized by the employer to be given notice—that is, not just a co-employee.  It is best for the report to be in writing.  A typical pattern is to tell a supervisor, who sends the injured worker to someone in human resources, where they fill out a written incident report.  Of course, if the injured worker requires immediate medical attention, the meeting with human resources may happen after a visit to the doctor.

Failure to give good notice can have two effects.  First, there is the technical requirement, failure of which can bar the claim.  More often, notice comes into play when there are disputes about whether there was an injury at work.  Detailed written notice adds credibility to the injured worker’s evidence, while lack of notice, when one would expect it, makes it look like the injury may not have happened the way the employee says it did.  Lack of writing allows a supervisor to testify that there was no report.

It is true that waiting too long to report your injury and file a claim may prevent you from being able to receive workers’ compensation at all. Some employers may not allow you to claim an injury if so much time has passed and the evidence you have has expired or cannot be verified by a valid source. But be aware that employer policy and the law are two different things.  If an employer tells you that it is too late to pursue your claim, you should not accept that at face value.  If employers and insurance companies were always right, there would be nothing for lawyers to do.  If you have any questions about filing or notice, you should contact a lawyer who is qualified to handle workers’ compensation cases. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.