Yearly Archives: 2015

What’s so important about a Form 18?

Workers' Compensation

A Form 18 is the form you use to formally open a file at the Industrial Commission. Just because your employer or the adjuster is sending you to a doctor doesn’t mean they’ve accepted the claim. And it doesn’t mean you have a claim on file with the Industrial Commission. More often than you’d think an injured worker reports his claim to his employer, gets some medical treatment, and returns to work. After a while the injury is acting up and bothering him but when he tries to go back to the doctor his adjuster denies the claim saying that a Form 18 was not timely filed with the Industrial Commission. The fact that everyone “knew” about the claim doesn’t always make a difference. The Industrial Commission needs that Form 18. This is the only irrefutable way to have a claim established.

My employer told me to file this claim on my health insurance. What’s wrong with that?

Workers' Compensation

Here’s a great “lawyer answer”… it depends. What we worry about is when an employer tries to avoid telling their workers’ compensation carrier about a claim. It’s sort of like getting into a fender bender in a parking lot. You may be tempted to pay the other guy $500 to get his car fixed and keep everyone’s insurance company out of it. While that works with dents on fenders it’s not so clear that it works with internal injuries on workers.

If it gets you medical treatment more quickly and efficiently than waiting around for an adjuster we’re all in favor of putting the bill on health insurance. But if your boss isn’t reporting the claim to the adjuster this could be a big problem. We’ve seen it happen dozens of times: when the doctor takes you out of work you’ve got no income coming in. You chase down a workers’ compensation adjuster who in turn chases down your employer and asks why this wasn’t immediately turned in for handling. At that point your boss can admit he tried to handle it in house. Or he can blame you for everything.

Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of injured workers get the short end of a stick just because they tried to help the company out. You really need to think this through carefully. Our rule of thumb is that it is usually fine if it speeds up treatment and it’s your idea. We’re less thrilled by it when the employer is telling you to do it right off the bat.

I’m not sure my employer has workers’ compensation insurance. How do I find out?

Workers' Compensation

Call us. We can help track this down. Every employer is required to advise the Industrial Commission of this although many do not. Smaller companies are prone to skipping this and certain business types like construction, home health agencies, and small trucking companies seem to neglect this as well. By law they are all required to keep that information posted where all employees can see it regularly. Any employer who has three or more employees regularly working is required to carry workers compensation insurance.

If you’re employer is making it difficult to find out who their carrier is you may well have a problem on your hands. It certainly suggests that they aren’t keen on complying with North Carolina law. And that makes your situation all the more precarious.

Uh oh. My employer is uninsured. Am I in trouble?

Workers' Compensation

It’s all a bit more complicated when your employer is uninsured, that’s true. And a lot of attorneys refuse to handle those claims. We take a different approach and have a long track record of pursuing these claims. It’s not easy but it can pay off in the end.

By law any company with three or more employees has to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Sometimes there is a legitimate confusion over this – if the owner workers regularly in the business he or she is an employee for this number in many cases. Sometimes uneducated insurance agents tell employers they don’t need workers’ compensation insurance if they aren’t three full-time employees. Other times these agents suggest that the company designate many people as “independent contractors” in order to avoid requiring workers’ compensation insurance or to limit the number of employees on the coverage (premiums are set as a percentage of payroll. Fewer employees or lower payroll means lower insurance premiums.)

This is particularly true in fields like construction and truck driving where employers are prone to labeling everyone an “independent contractor” to avoid carrying workers’ compensation insurance.

My boss just said I’m an independent contractor. Can I still get workers’ comp?

Workers' Compensation

Absolutely. There are several things which go into determining who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. But the one thing the court says we can ignore is what your boss says about it. Employers in certain business fields are notorious for calling employees independent contractors. And many employees go along with it to avoid having taxes withheld. It really comes down to an issue of control. The more control your boss has over you and how, when, and where you do your work the more likely it is that you are a legally an employee, even if you have a contract saying you an independent contractor.

Certain industries are more likely than not to have this come up. Sales representatives, construction workers, and truck drivers seem to encounter this more than most other people. Occasionally we see health care facilities claim that employees working PRN are independent contractors but that’s so laughable that it doesn’t come up often.