North Dakota’s workers’ compensation system covers medical treatment and pays benefits to employees who are injured at work. In most cases, workers’ comp is an employee’s only method of getting compensation from his or her employer. (To learn about exceptions to this rule, see Workplace Injury: When You Can Sue Outside of Workers’ Compensation.) This article explains the workers’ comp process in North Dakota and how to start a claim if you were injured at work.
North Dakota law requires all private employers to have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Nearly all employees are covered by workers’ comp, except for newspaper delivery employees, licensed real estate agents, farm workers, domestic workers, and a few other groups.
Unlike in other states, employers in North Dakota are insured through the state, rather than private insurance companies. North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) is the state agency that insures employers, reviews claims, and pays workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ compensation covers injuries that are caused by work or that are made worse because of work. For example, if you work at a computer all day and develop carpal tunnel, your injury will likely be covered by workers’ comp. Similarly, if you aggravate an old back injury while carrying heavy boxes for work, you will likely be covered. (For more information, see Workers’ Compensation: Is Your Injury or Illness Work-Related?)
The first step to making a workers’ comp claim is to report your injury to your employer. You have seven days to give notice, but it is best to notify your employer as soon as possible. North Dakota Workforce Safety Insurance (WSI) recommends giving notice to your employer within 24 hours for the most effective processing of your claim.
You should also get medical treatment right away. If you need emergency treatment, you should go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care. For all other treatment, you will need to check with your employer first. In North Dakota, employers may choose a designated medical provider (DMP) to treat work injuries. Employees must treat with the DMP for 30 days, unless they gave notice of their preferred doctor in writing before the injury occurred.
Once you give notice of your injury, your employer should work with you to file a First Report of Injury form with WSI. This is the official start to your workers’ compensation claim. You must make sure that the form is filed within one year of your injury. If your employer refuses to cooperate, you can complete your portion of the form online.
WSI will evaluate your claim, usually by talking to you, your employer, and your doctors. WSI will send you a Notice of Decision in the mail. If your claim is accepted, you will receive medical coverage and wage loss benefits almost immediately.
Workers’ compensation should pay for all necessary medical treatment related to your work injury. This includes the cost of doctors’ visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, and medical equipment. You can also receive disability benefits if you need time off work or if your injury causes permanent impairment.
If WSI denies your claim, you can ask WSI to reconsider its decision. You must submit your written request within 30 days of receiving the Notice of Decision; otherwise, the decision becomes final. If WSI declines to change its decision, you may request a hearing before a workers’ comp judge. (For common grounds for a denial, see Denied Workers’ Compensation Claims.)
Many workers can handle the initial workers’ comp claim process on their own. If WSI readily accepts your claim and pays your benefits, you may not need to hire a lawyer. However, if WSI denies your claim or disputes the amount of benefits you are entitled to, you should consider hiring a lawyer. This is especially true if you need to attend a workers’ comp hearing, which follow complex procedural rules. For more information, see Should I Hire a Workers’ Comp Attorney or Can I Handle My Own Case?