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Understanding workers' compensation

While many North Carolina workers understand that workers' compensation coverage carried by an employer is in place to address on-the-job incidents, they may not be sure of how to take advantage of these benefits if something goes wrong. It is important to have an understanding of the steps for going through proper channels to obtain benefits. This begins with a report of an injury to one's supervisor right away. Benefits are not obligatory until the incident has been reported and a claim has been made. After reporting an injury, a worker should ask to see a physician and ask for a workers' compensation claim form, which should be completed and returned promptly.

Many workers don't realize that failing to promptly report an issue could lead to a delay in obtaining benefits. Meanwhile, some choose to continue working in spite of an injury, at times resulting in a worse condition when treatment is finally sought. Medical treatment may be governed by state guidelines, making it important to verify whether a company doctor must be used for treatment or whether a personal physician is acceptable. If an individual is temporarily disabled, an employer is not permitted to discriminate through lay-offs or firing.

Some industrial injuries may not be easily recognized. Examples include lung problems, hearing loss, back pain, eye injuries and heart attacks. Workplace conditions such as loud noise, high stress, lifting of heavy objects or air filled with chemicals or other irritants may contribute to a condition that is covered by workers' compensation.

In evaluating a health condition that may be an overlooked work-related injury, it may be helpful to discuss the situation with a lawyer who is experienced in workers' compensation cases. This may provide guidance for documenting conditions that have led to the injury or health issue, and this may ensure that proper protocol is followed in reporting the injury.

Source: Findlaw, "Workers' Compensation: Questions and Answers", September 04, 2014

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