Workers’ compensation is a crucial safety net that provides financial and medical support to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. It is designed to protect workers and ensure they receive the necessary care and compensation during their recovery.
There are certain things that individuals should avoid doing to ensure they do not jeopardize their benefits or face legal consequences. In this article, we will discuss what not to do while on workers’ compensation.
What Not to Do While on Workers’ Comp
When you are on workers’ compensation in North Carolina, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes that could potentially jeopardize your benefits or complicate your claim. Here are some mistakes to avoid:
- Failing to Report the Injury Promptly: Report your work-related injury or illness to your employer as soon as possible. North Carolina law has strict time limits for reporting injuries, and failing to do so promptly could result in your claim being denied.
- Not Seeking Immediate Medical Treatment: If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention. After you report the injury, ask your employer to direct you to their doctor for medical treatment. If they do not send you somewhere, document it in writing and keep a copy. When you get to the doctor, be sure to tell them that you are there for a work-related injury. Delaying treatment can make it more difficult to establish that your injury was work-related.
- Not Following Medical Advice: Follow your treating physician’s recommendations and treatment plans diligently. Failing to comply with medical advice can be used against you by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to argue that you are not doing everything possible to recover.
- Not Reporting Changes in Your Medical Condition: If your medical condition worsens, improves, or changes in any way, report it in writing to your treating physician and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier promptly. This ensures that your benefits are adjusted accordingly. Be sure to keep copies of all communications or notifications that you make to the insurance company and/or your employer.
- Returning to Work Too Soon: Do not rush back to work before you have received medical clearance. Returning too soon could exacerbate your injury and jeopardize your recovery.
- Not Reporting Earnings: If you return to work or engage in any employment or self-employment activities while on workers’ compensation, you must report your earnings to both your employer and the insurance carrier. Failure to do so can result in penalties and even criminal charges.
- Ignoring Vocational Rehabilitation Services: If you are offered vocational rehabilitation services, consider participating. These services can help you gain new skills and find suitable employment if you cannot return to your previous job.
- Misrepresenting Information: Be honest and truthful throughout the workers’ compensation process. Providing false information or misrepresenting your condition can lead to the denial of your claim and potential legal consequences.
- Not Keeping Records: Maintain detailed records of all medical appointments, treatments, prescriptions, and communication related to your workers’ compensation claim. These records can be valuable if there are disputes or issues with your claim.
- Not Having a Lawyer Present for a “Recorded Statement”: Many insurance carriers will want to take a recorded interview about your claim, usually over the phone. They will ask some questions that do not feel like a big deal (were you doing your regular job in the regular way?). The reality is that these questions are designed to trip you up and allow the carrier to deny you benefits. Do not go into these interviews without at least consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
- Not Seeking Legal Advice: If you encounter difficulties with your claim, your benefits are denied, or you believe your rights are being violated, consult with an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation law in North Carolina. They can provide guidance, protect your rights, and help you navigate the complex process. Attorney consultations for workers’ compensation cases are free in North Carolina.
Remember that the workers’ compensation system can be complicated, and mistakes can be costly. It’s crucial to be informed about your rights and responsibilities under North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws by seeking legal advice immediately from an experienced attorney.
Can You Work While on Workers Comp?
It is generally possible to work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, but there are specific rules and limitations that you should be aware of:
- Reporting Earnings: If you return to work or engage in any employment or self-employment activities while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you must report your earnings to both your employer and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Failure to do so can result in penalties and even criminal charges for fraud.
- Earning Limitations: There are limits on how much you can earn while on workers’ compensation without affecting your benefit payments. If your income exceeds these limits, it may impact the amount of workers’ compensation benefits you receive. The limits are based on a percentage of your pre-injury average weekly wage.
- Light Duty or Modified Work: If you return to work in a light-duty or modified capacity that accommodates your work-related injury, your workers’ compensation benefits may be reduced. However, the reduction is based on the difference between your pre-injury earnings and your current earnings in the modified job.
- Medical Clearance: You should only return to work if you have received medical clearance from your treating physician. Your doctor will assess your medical condition and determine whether you are physically capable of performing your job duties. The doctor should have an official job description to review before making a decision about a return to work. If a doctor returns you to work without reviewing a job description, you should immediately contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
- Job Security: North Carolina law provides some job protection for employees who are on workers’ compensation. If you return to work with restrictions and your employer has a suitable job available within those restrictions, your employer is generally required to offer you that job. If they don’t, you may have legal recourse.
Can You Be Fired While on Workers Comp?
In North Carolina, your employment status while on workers’ compensation can be a complex issue. Workers’ compensation is a system designed to provide benefits to employees who are injured or become ill on the job, and it generally protects employees from being fired solely because they are on workers’ compensation. However, there are certain circumstances where termination may still be legal:
- Legitimate Business Reasons: Employers can terminate employees on workers’ compensation if they have legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for doing so. This might include layoffs, company-wide downsizing, or other reasons unrelated to the employee’s workers’ compensation claim.
- Violation of Company Policies: If an employee on workers’ compensation violates company policies or engages in misconduct, the employer may have grounds for termination. However, the employer should ensure that the termination is consistent with their usual policies and procedures and that it is not a pretext for retaliating against the employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- Expiration of Job Protection: Some states, including North Carolina, have a limited job protection period during which an employee cannot be terminated while on workers’ compensation. In addition, and depending on the size of your employer’s business, there may be protections available under FMLA. However, this protection typically expires once the employee has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) or has returned to work with restrictions. FMLA protections usually last for 90 days but can be extended.
- Retaliation: It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim or for participating in workers’ compensation proceedings. If you believe you were terminated in retaliation for your workers’ compensation claim, you may have legal recourse.
Can You Quit Your Job While on Workers Comp?
You have the right to resign from your job while on workers’ compensation, just as you would under normal circumstances. However, if you choose to quit your job, it can impact your workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances, it may be interpreted as a decision to voluntarily remove yourself from the workforce, potentially affecting your eligibility for certain benefits.
Before making any decisions about quitting your job while on workers’ compensation, it’s important to consult with an experienced workers compensation attorney. They can provide guidance based on your specific situation and help you understand the potential consequences.
Can You Go on Vacation While on Workers Comp?
Going on vacation while on workers’ compensation is generally allowed, but it requires careful consideration:
- Medical Treatment: If you have ongoing medical treatment or rehabilitation appointments, you should ensure your vacation plans do not interfere with your medical care or make sure that your physicians are aware so that they can help with scheduling.
- Stay in Compliance: While on vacation, you must remain compliant with any medical or treatment recommendations from your healthcare provider. Failure to do so could be detrimental to your recovery and may affect your workers’ compensation benefits. If you are in physical therapy, ask for “home exercises” and come back with a diary to show that you continued to put in the work to get better.
- Communication: It’s a good practice to inform your employer and the workers’ compensation insurer about your vacation plans, especially if you’ll be away for an extended period. This transparency can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure you continue to receive necessary benefits.
What Not to Say to Workers’ Comp Doctor
When you see a workers’ compensation doctor, it’s important to communicate effectively. Avoid saying anything that might be misconstrued or used against you:
- Avoid speculating about the cause of your injury: Stick to the facts and provide a clear account of the incident without making assumptions or accusations about your employer. Tell every medical provider that you had a work-related injury so that they can document it in their records.
- Don’t minimize your symptoms: Some individuals may instinctively downplay their pain or discomfort. It’s crucial to accurately describe your symptoms so the doctor can provide appropriate treatment.
- Avoid Self-Diagnosing: Although you should focus on the current injury or illness rather than providing unnecessary details about unrelated health issues, you should let the professionals make decisions about your health. If you are experiencing new pains or discomfort, tell the doctor. Never assume what you are feeling is not related to the original work injury. Tell the doctor and let them decide. In addition, aggravations or accelerations of pre-existing conditions can also be related to your work injury. Increases in medication because of stress or inactivity could potentially be covered in North Carolina.
- Don’t suggest the doctor should find a specific diagnosis or treatment: Leave the medical decisions to the professionals. Your role is to describe your symptoms and cooperate with the doctor’s examination and recommendations.
Don’t wait to contact a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation is a vital resource for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. To ensure you receive the support you deserve, it’s essential to avoid common pitfalls. Remember not to delay reporting injuries, seek prompt medical attention, and contact an experienced lawyer.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at Wilson, Reives, Silverman & Doran in Sanford, North Carolin, are here to provide you with trusted, experienced, effective legal counsel. We’ll focus on your compensation case, allowing you to focus on recovery and moving forward in your life.
We offer a free consultation in which we help you make the best legal and financial decisions. To set up your free consultation, please contact us here or call us at (919) 928-5839.