Question: "I’m afraid my employer will fire me if I file a workers’ compensation claim, particularly if I hire an attorney to represent me, what should I do?"
This is a great question and a common concern. Employers are either self-insured or have workers’ compensation insurance to ensure benefits are available to employees who are hurt on the job and have compensable claims. An injured worker should not sacrifice their health and financial well-being over fears or intimidation. There are legal protections in place for injured workers who file workers’ compensation claims. As for retaining an attorney, if you’ve been hurt at work, you should consult a Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist to find out whether or not you need an attorney and if you do need one, the benefits to having an attorney versus pursing the claim yourself, are significant and numerous.
Retaliation / Termination
Under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), your employer cannot retaliate against you or fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim and/or hiring an attorney to assist you with your claim. That does not mean an injured worker cannot be fired while they have an open workers’ compensation claim. It means if an injured worker is fired while a workers’ compensation claim is open, the employer must provide reasons for the termination that are unrelated to the workers’ compensation injury / claim. This clarification is important because sadly, In reality, the minute someone gets hurt on the job, they become a target with employers either trying to create conditions that lead the injured worker to quit or with employers looking for any reason they can state, other than the injury itself, to terminate the injured worker. This raises our first important reason to reach out to an attorney to help with a workers’ compensation claim. An experienced attorney can help you navigate theses employment issues that arise in most cases and can provide direction if an injured worker is terminated, as to the impact on the workers’ compensation case and whether or not there are grounds to challenge the termination under REDA.
Other Benefits To Having An Attorney
North Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws are complicated and can be confusing. At Roane Law, we’ve gotten numerous calls from injured workers who tried handling their own claims and ended up completely overwhelmed. There are numerous, potential mistakes an unrepresented injured worker can make that can damage their claims. While an experienced attorney can resolve some of those issues after-the-fact, there are some mistakes that cannot be fixed. A Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist will help you navigate this complicated system, answer questions you have about your claim and ensure you are getting all the benefits that are available to you.
An attorney also helps to restore the balance of power, in a system that often functions against the injured worker. As soon as a person is hurt at work, most employers and all insurance companies immediately begin looking for ways to deny the claim or limit the benefits paid out. It is not the responsibility of the employer or the insurance company to explain to the injured worker what compensation is available to him/her. While it is true that some employers do try and help employees who are injured at work, make no mistake that no matter what is said, the same is not true of workers’ compensation insurance companies. They are profit making machines and will most certainly protect their own interests. This is important because typically, the insurance company “calls the shots” in workers’ compensation claims. The injured worker should have an experienced attorney fighting to protect his/her interests.
Another benefit to having an attorney is that numerous studies have shown that people who are represented, receive substantially more compensation than those who don’t have attorneys. A 2004 study done by the Insurance Research Council showed that injured people who are represented receive up to 3 ½ times more compensation than injured people who pursue claims themselves.