Following Rehab Rules is Vital in NC Workers’ Compensation Claims
An important goal of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation system is to return workers to employment where possible after an on-the-job injury. Until that time, injured workers often undergo a series of treatments, which can involve more than one medical provider, along with physical or occupational therapists who work together to help workers to heal properly.
This process typically requires coordination and supervision, a responsibility which often falls to Nurse Case Managers which the North Carolina Industrial Commission (IC) has defined as “rehabilitation professionals” (RPs). Our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys believe that RPs should have a positive effect on recovery; however, we have seen instances where these Nurse Case Managers do not follow the Rules of the Industrial Commission, and this has an adverse effect on our clients. Just as important, however, failing to work with RPs as required, when these RPs are following the Rules, can have an adverse effect on workers’ compensation claims.
The Role of the RP
RPs do not replace doctors or therapists. Rather, they are nurses who are specially trained to coordinate all aspects of medical and therapeutic treatment by performing many roles, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Providing workers with the rules to follow and obtaining authorization to obtain medical records related to workplace injuries
- Planning for and managing medical treatment and evaluating results
- Discussing treatment choices with patients without making ultimate decisions
- Either meeting with patients and doctors after exams or attending exams if desired by patients
- Assisting patients with the return-to-work process and working with employers, workers, and doctors to help ensure that any they follow all work restrictions and vocational rehabilitation methods
- Document the entire process
Not all nurses are qualified as RPs. Besides having at least one special certification, they must also have specific work experience with the North Carolina Department of Health and Services and specific experience in workers’ compensation. To remain qualified, they must attend a refresher course every five years.
Staying with the prescribed program generally benefits workers by helping them to recover from their injuries as quickly and fully as possible. However, it is also possible that workers’ compensation benefits can be put at risk because of misunderstandings or other concerns.
Before attempting to intervene on their own, injured workers should take advantage of a free initial consultation with an experienced attorney to learn whether legal action is the appropriate way to approach these issues. Call us at 800-948-0577 or use our convenient online contact form to learn more about all available legal options.