In 2021, New Hampshire recorded 21 fatal work-related injuries out of the 5,190 total logged nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This makes the Granite State a rock-solid contender for one of the safest states to work in, right next to its neighbors Vermont (with 10 total cases of fatal work-related injuries) and Maine (with 19 recorded cases). Despite being one of the safer states to work in, though, these 21 fatal work-related injuries actually mark an uptick in workplace fatalities compared to 2020 numbers, where only 14 fatal work-related injuries were logged.
In spite of its low fatal injury rate relative to other states, New Hampshire still has a robust set of laws that provide workers with a safety net should they become injured or disabled due to a workplace accident or hazard. This safety net comes in the form of workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp is a blanket term for the benefits provided to workers for the injuries, disabilities, or illnesses they incur that are directly related to their work.
This article will take a deeper dive into the specifics of New Hampshire’s workers’ compensation laws. It will start with a basic overview of the White Mountain State’s workers’ comp requirements that employers are legally required to comply with. It will also discuss the process of filing or appealing a claim. Finally, the article will cover legal resources found in the state that can provide assistance to injured workers.
New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements
As long as they have employees, whether full-time or part-time, New Hampshire employers are required to insure their employees with workers’ compensation coverage. Nonprofit organizations are not exempt from this rule.
Who’s Responsible for Getting Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
New Hampshire laws state that employers are primarily responsible for acquiring workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. This responsibility starts even before they hire anyone. They are also required to comply with the state’s workers’ comp laws by posting the Notice of Compliance form (WCP-1) in a conspicuous location available to all employees.
In addition to the employers’ primary responsibility, agents and insurance carriers have a secondary responsibility regarding acquiring workers’ compensation coverage. Agents are required by law to facilitate the insurance application process. This is done by providing carriers with accurate information from applicant-employers and assisting in the processing of paperwork. If the initial application falls through, agents are also required to inform applicant-employers about alternative coverage options.
For insurance carriers, their responsibility lies mostly in supplying the proper paperwork and processing it in a timely manner. They are mandated by law to provide access to all the necessary application forms and supply the National Council on Compensation Insurance with information pertaining to new or existing coverage policies.
Where Do You Get Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
For employers in the private sector, workers’ compensation coverage should be acquired from one of these three sources:
Licensed insurance companies approved by the labor commissioner.
Insurance companies authorized to offer other kinds of coverage, such as personal liability and homeowners’ policies, provided that the insurance policy only covers domestic employees.
The employer’s or company’s personal finances, provided that proof of capability to cover workers’ comp claims is submitted to the labor commissioner.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
Employers who fail to comply with New Hampshire’s workers’ compensation insurance requirements may be held liable for civil penalties in the form of fines. These vary from case to case, with initial penalties reaching up to $2,500. Additional penalties may be levied at up to $100 per employee per day of noncompliance.
Employees may also go directly to the labor commissioner for their compensation claims if the employer doesn’t have workers’ comp coverage. Any awards given to satisfy the compensation claims of said employees are considered liens on the employers’ property. In this case, the commissioner has the authority to instruct local county sheriffs to seize the employer’s assets or property to satisfy the lien (levy execution) as soon as possible but no later than eight years after judgment.
New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Benefits
According to New Hampshire statutes, the following are possible benefits that can be provided for in a workers’ compensation claim:
Weekly indemnity in the form of a percentage of their wages while they are injured.
Temporary partial disability benefits for workers who can return to work but are earning less than before their injury. These benefits help offset the difference while they recover.
Death benefits for surviving dependents of a worker who passed due to a work-related incident.
Payment of medical bills, including expenses from remedial care.
Permanent impairment award for when the worker sustains permanent bodily loss of a compensable body part, calculated similarly to weekly indemnities.
Temporary alternative duties while the injured worker is recovering.
Reinstatement, provided the worker sustained a compensable injury and does not fall under one of the classifications of workers not entitled to reinstatement:
Construction workers assigned to a project that was completed during their recovery, unless another project was ongoing.
Temporary workers, except those employed by temporary agencies.
Workers who were prescribed permanent restrictions by their physician and are not released to return to their former positions.
Workers unable to return to work within 18 months of their injury
Cost of living adjustments, provided the worker is receiving total disability benefits three years after their injury, has been denied Social Security benefits, and is earning less than 60% of the current state average wages.
Vocational rehabilitation for workers who cannot return to the previous positions they held and had training and experience for.
How to File a Workers’ Comp Claim in New Hampshire
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in New Hampshire is a collaborative effort between the injured employee and their employer. The employee has the responsibility of informing their employer of their work-related injury or illness as soon as they can. Meanwhile, the employer is responsible for processing their claim with their insurance carrier within the legally prescribed period.
When Is the Deadline for Workers’ Compensation Claims in New Hampshire?
As a general rule, workers have two years from the date of discovery to report their injury to their employer for the purposes of filing a workers’ compensation claim. If their injuries or disabilities were sustained gradually or their connection to the worker’s job was not clear at the time, then the deadline changes. The time frame is still two years, but the period starts when the worker discovers that their injury or disability was connected to their work, or when, by reasonable diligence, they should have discovered the connection.
If the injuries or disabilities were sustained gradually or their connection to the worker’s employment was initially not clear, then the deadline for reporting is reckoned from when the worker discovered the injury or disability and its relation to the worker’s employment or, by reasonable diligence, should have discovered the same.
Workers’ compensation claims, on the other hand, must be brought by the employer within three years of the injury or illness sustained. This provision is subject to the same altered reckoning period as above.
A Step-By-Step Guide on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in New Hampshire
Now that we’ve tackled some of the important details about New Hampshire workers’ compensation in general let’s move on to the actual process. The following section is a rough approximation of the timeline and events involved in filing a workers’ compensation claim in New Hampshire.
1. Notify Your Employer about Your Injury and Seek Medical Attention
You should tell your employer right away that you have suffered an injury or illness and that the injury or illness is work-related. Following this, you should seek medical attention. If your employer’s insurance carrier has a network of preferred healthcare providers, then you should get treated by one of these medical professionals. Otherwise, you can choose your own doctor or go to the emergency room nearest you.
There are a few things you should keep in mind while you work through this step in the claims process:
Workers’ compensation coverage generally covers most kinds of workers. Hence, you should still attempt to start the claims process by notifying your employer and seeking medical attention, even if you are a temporary or part-time worker. If you feel uneasy doing so, you can inquire with your employer if their coverage includes your position.
You have a right to a second opinion for your work-related injury or illness.
Your healthcare provider should forward the medical bills to your employer, not to you.
It is important that you inform your healthcare provider that the injury or illness you suffered is connected to your work or was caused by a workplace incident.
Double-check your doctor’s report to make sure that it states that the treated injury or illness was work-related.
2. Fill Out a Notice of Accidental Injury or Occupational Disease Form
The actual formal start to the claims process begins with you filling out an 8aWCA form, or a Notice of Accidental Injury or Occupational Disease form, and then submitting it to your employer. New Hampshire laws require you to fill out and execute the mentioned form in duplicate, one for your employer and one for you to keep. Both copies should be signed by you and your employer. It is generally advised that you keep your personal copy in your records for possible issues down the line concerning the details in the form.
This form can be submitted to your employer personally or by mail to their last known personal address or place of business.
Another useful thing to do is to provide your employer or their insurance agency with information regarding how long you are expected to be out of work. A doctor’s slip is particularly handy to prove this information. This will help them calculate the benefits you may receive.
While New Hampshire laws provide a two-year statute of limitations on reporting work-related injuries for compensation, the state’s Department of Labor still advises you to notify your employer right away to get your workers’ comp claim started as soon as possible.
3. Wait for a Response from Your Employer’s Insurance Carrier
Once you have submitted the 8aWCA form to your employer, it is their responsibility to continue the claims process. They are tasked with filing and submitting form 8WC — Employer's First Report of Occupational Injury or Disease Form — to the labor commissioner and the nearest claims office of their insurance carrier. They must do so within five days of receiving your notice, or they may be held liable for a fine of $2,500.
If you are unable to work after three calendar days following the injury, the employer must also file a supplemental report and wage schedule to assist the insurance company in determining the proper amount of compensation.
Either way, insurance carriers generally carry out investigations and decide upon workers’ compensation claims within 21 days of receiving form 8WC. During this time, you may be asked to sign a release of information form. With this, the insurance carrier can access the necessary medical records related to your work-related injury or illness.
4. Have Your Doctor Fill Out the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form
Once you have received compensation from your employer’s insurance carrier and are ready to return to work, have your healthcare provider fill out form 75 WCA-1, or the NH Workers' Compensation Medical Form. Just like the 8aWCA form in the first step, you should give a copy to your employer and keep a duplicate for yourself.
This form will tell your employer if you are ready to return to work, what limitations you are under due to your injury or illness, and the special accommodations your employer should have upon your return. The New Hampshire Department of Labor mandates employers to abide by the instructions found in the form, which may include but are not limited to:
Assigning a recovering employee alternative or modified work responsibilities that avoid repetitive or strenuous activities requiring the affected limbs.
Adjusting a recovering employee’s work hours.
Providing a recovering or recovered but partially disabled employee with transitional work responsibilities before they assume their new position.
What Should One Do If a Workers’ Compensation Claim in New Hampshire Has Been Denied?
If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having your workers’ compensation claim denied by the insurance carrier, don’t worry; you can still appeal the insurance company’s decision by contacting the New Hampshire Department of Labor to request a hearing. This appeal must be made within 18 months of the denial of your claim. It should be made in writing and contain the following details:
The name of the company you work for.
The date of your injury.
A medical report allowing you to return to work or a doctor’s report indicating that you have a disability and are unable to work.
Hearings are held in conference rooms in New Hampshire’s Department of Labor’s offices in Concord. You will be required to submit medical records or other pieces of evidence you want to use in the hearing at least five days before said hearing. These hearings don’t have strict requirements with regards to legal representation, so you aren’t required to seek legal counsel. It is still advisable that you do, though, since having an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation claims can prove advantageous for you when dealing with the insurance company.
After the hearing, the hearing officer will generally issue a decision within 30 days.
Legal Resources for Injured Workers in New Hampshire
Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group
Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group is a nonprofit organization with members and committees nationwide all focusing on one goal: representing and advocating for a just and fair workers’ compensation system. One of the primary services it offers is its member-attorney database. The public can access this to search for legal counsel in their area who has experience dealing with workers’ comp cases.
In addition to serving injured workers, the organization also works to improve the general state of workers’ compensation cases. It does so by providing educational resources to its member attorneys so that they are better equipped to represent injured workers during their compensation claims. The organization also works with state and federal government agencies to improve existing workers’ compensation programs.
Kind Souls Foundation
The Kind Souls Foundation is a nonprofit that provides injured workers and their families with emotional support. Various helpful resources are made available through no-cost phone calls, texts, or video conferences. There is no limit to the number of times a client can contact the organization’s volunteers for emotional support. Communication with the organization’s volunteers is always confidential and can be made anonymously upon request.
While the organization does not provide legal advice, it can provide New Hampshirites with resources regarding food, transportation, or housing issues while they are experiencing financial hardships due to a workplace accident.
New Hampshire Bar Association Modest Means Program
The NHBA Lawyer Referral Services Modest Means Program matches qualified applicants with legal counsel willing to charge reduced fees for their services. The program’s intake staff matches applicants with legal counsel in their area who are experienced in the specific issues they are facing, such as workers’ compensation claims and employment law. Applicants are not legally required to retain the services of referred legal counsel, nor is legal counsel legally obliged to take an applicant’s case.
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