The North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act has strict guidelines regarding the reporting of work injuries. When a claim is denied, more often than not one of the reasons cited by the insurance company for the denial is the failure of the employee to timely report the injury. By understanding and complying with the reporting requirements, an employee can avoid the long legal process of proving that the injury entitles him to compensation from his employer.
The Workers' Compensation Act (G.S. Section 97-22) states that "every injured employee...shall immediately on the occurrence of an accident, or as soon thereafter as practicable, give...to the employer a written notice of the accident..." While the Act calls for written notice, if the employee immediately reports the injury verbally to his supervisor, he has satisfied the reporting requirements.
The purpose of this notice requirement is to allow the employer to provide immediate medical treatment and to investigate the facts surrounding the injury. When the employee fails to immediately report the injury verbally or in writing, the employer and/or insurance company often suspect that the injury occurred outside of work. Therefore, it is very important that the employee report the injury to his supervisor immediately, regardless of how minor it may seem at the time.
*REPORT ANY INJURY TO A SUPERVISOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
If the employee fails to give notice of his injury immediately, he is not entitled to medical treatment or compensation through his employer until he does give notice to the employer. If, however, he does not give written notice of his injury within 30 days of the accident, his claim can be barred altogether, unless he is able to show that he had a reasonable excuse for failing to give notice, and that the employer was not prejudiced in its efforts to investigate the claim or direct the medical treatment by the employee's failure to report the injury.
It is often difficult to prove a reasonable excuse for failing to report an injury. To avoid these pitfalls, it is always best for the injured worker to go directly to the supervisor and make a specific report of injury, even if immediate medical attention is not required.
In North Carolina, in addition to reporting the injury to the employer, the employee also needs to report the injury to the Industrial Commission, on a Form 18. The employer will file its own report of injury on a Form 19, but the employer will not file a Form 18 for the employee. That form must be filed by the employee. Failure to file the Form 18 with the Industrial Commission within two years of the date of injury can result in outright denial of a workers' compensation claim. A Form 18 may be obtained from the Industrial Commission, or by calling our office at 1-800-662-1234.