If you were injured at work in North Carolina, you have a right to worker compensation benefits. Unfortunately, getting these benefits is sometimes difficult. If your employer is making this process harder than it needs to be or denying you your benefits altogether, you may need to seek out legal assistance. One of the biggest questions in workers comp cases is how long will benefits last and what types of benefits are available? The length of time that workers comp benefits will last will vary greatly depending on the type of injury and the severity of that injury. To better understand how long you might receive benefits, you can speak with a workers comp lawyer.
In the state of North Carolina, there is a 500-week limit on benefits. This is a pretty wide window. Each claim will have its own timeline, though, which makes it difficult to pinpoint how long your benefits might last. The length of benefits is based on many factors.
A worker’s comp lawyer can help you navigate the legal aspects of this very important matter. Going it alone could mean losing money and the important benefits that you deserve. This guide will help you to better understand how worker’s compensation benefits work in North Carolina and how worker’s comp laws apply to your situation.
What Is Worker’s Compensation in North Carolina?
In the state of North Carolina, workers are protected under the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act. This law is intended to provide payments and compensation to workers when they are injured at work.
Employers are required to have workers compensation coverage in effect through an insurance policy or they must be authorized by the state as a self-insured employer. This means that they have obligated themselves to provide compensation for injured employees that adhere to the workers comp laws.
It is understood that the employee cannot sue their employer for work-related accidents unless it is proven that the accident and subsequent injury were directly caused by negligence on the part of the employer.
In like manner, the employer cannot by law deny an employee their workers compensation benefits, regardless of the cause of the accident.
What Qualifies For Workers Comp Benefits?
A work-related injury can be compensated under North Carolina law for a few different reasons.
Accidents- An accident would be an unforeseen sudden event that resulted in your injury. For instance, if you were doing your job and something fell on you, that would be considered an accident because that is out of the ordinary scope of job tasks.
Employment Injuries- An employment injury is an injury that was not caused by an accident but rather was caused by the job itself. For instance, if you are required to repeat certain tasks over and over and that repetitive task resulted in a stress fracture, this would be considered an employment injury.
Will Any Type of Injury Be Covered?
Unfortunately, not every type of injury at work will be covered under workers comp. Most injuries that are the result of an accident will be covered. However, employment injuries that are a result of regular work tasks are sometimes difficult to prove. One reason is that you may have received your injury not so much because of your work tasks but because you were not in good health or strong enough to be doing the task in the first place. This can make proving worker comp eligibility tricky.
One type of grey area is back injuries. A back injury may result as a part of performing your duties, but if your back was already weak, it is difficult to prove that it was necessarily the job that caused the problems. This is the type of situation in which it is very helpful to have an attorney on your side. A knowledgeable workers comp attorney will be able to investigate these types of cases, gather the necessary information to build a strong case, and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Remember, most accident injuries, though, are easy to prove and almost always qualify for workers compensation benefits.
What If I Got Sick Because Of Work?
Occupational disease or illness is the legal term used to describe sickness that directly results from your work environment. For instance, coal miners would often develop lung cancer because of their exposure to coal dust.
Occupational disease can also be a tricky area as well. The state of North Carolina, however, has created a comprehensive list of illnesses that qualify under the Workers Compensation Act. You can review this list yourself, or review the list with an attorney. A North Carolina workers comp attorney will be well trained in how to determine if your illness qualifies.
The most difficult part of this type of workers comp claim is that you will need to be able to prove that it was your workplace and only your workplace that caused your sickness. There must be no other factors that could have caused the sickness. Using the example from above, a coal miner who also smoked would have a hard time proving that the workplace caused lung cancer. If there are any other lifestyle factors that could have possibly contributed to your illness, it can be difficult to qualify for workers comp.
Where Does The Money Come From?
Under North Carolina law, all employers are required to hold a workers comp insurance policy. This insurance policy will pay for qualified expenses in the event that you are injured at work.
Employers can also opt to become authorized as a self-insured employer. This means that they must prove that they will pay for expenses if they do not opt to carry the policy.
It is a very good idea to ask about workers comp benefits before being hired. This is an important type of employment benefit. You should be wary of any employers that do not provide this coverage or who will not answer direct questions about workers comp coverage.
What If My Employer Did Not Have Coverage?
If you are injured while at work, and then discover that your employer does not have workers comp coverage, there are a few steps you can take.
First, you will want to talk to your employer. Be sure you have all the facts. If you discover that they definitely do not have any type of workers comp coverage either through the state or through another type of insurance policy, then you will want to consider reporting them. You can report an employer that is not in compliance with workers comp laws to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. This institution is in charge of investigating companies that are not in proper compliance with necessary employment laws.
Why Would I Need Workers Compensation Benefits?
Workers comp benefits are put in place to protect workers from financial hardship if they are injured while working. If you are injured, you will have expenses. These expenses can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
While you are out of work, you will not have an income coming in. This can create a financially vulnerable situation for you and your family. Workers comp benefits are there to pay for medical expenses and to provide an income while you recover.
Which Steps Should I Take After A Work Injury
Seek medical treatment- Your health should be your top priority. You should not keep going to work injured. This can only make your injuries worse and your recovery time longer. You will also risk more complicated injuries.
Discuss workers comp with employer- You will want to talk with your employer as soon as possible about your workers comp benefits. This is the time when you will find out what benefits are available, and how to apply for them. If your employer does not have workers comp or they are being difficult about helping you apply for these benefits, you should consider speaking with an attorney.
Talk with an attorney- A workers comp lawyer knows all of the details of North Carolina workers comp laws. They will be able to advise you on what you should do about your employer if they are being difficult.
Is My Job In Danger?
Many people worry that if they try to file for workers comp benefits it could endanger their job somehow. Your workers comp benefits are your right under North Carolina law. Claiming that right should not in any way endanger your job. However, in some cases, employers are not concerned with the law and doing right by their employees.
If you feel that your job is in danger, or if you are being harassed in any way, you will want to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
When you speak with a workers comp lawyer, everything you share will be strictly confidential.
Are There Different Types of Disability Ratings?
There are a few different types of compensation that are available under workers compensation. Let’s take a look at these benefits.
Temporary Partial Disability- A temporary partial disability is a term used to describe a condition in which an employee is injured, will not be able to work for some time, but should be able to start working normally again in the future. This is also sometimes referred to as partial incapacity.
In this case, a person would need benefits to cover medical expenses and income for a period of time.
Permanent Disability- Permanent disability is a much more serious type of disability rating. If an employee sustains an injury or trauma that will prevent them from working normally again, they may receive a permanent disability rating. This means that life will change for that person permanently and forever. Adequate compensation must be in place to protect this worker from financial vulnerability.
There can be a lot of tricky terminology that is used concerning this type of disability because it can result in a large amount of compensation being paid over the course of a person’s life. In order to get the compensation you need in this situation, it is usually necessary to talk with a workers comp attorney.
How Can I Protect My Rights?
The only way to really protect your workers comp rights is to be proactive. This means do not wait for your employer to act for you. Do not wait for your employer to do the right thing if they seem like they are not going to do the right thing. You must take action on your own behalf.
After seeking medical treatment, you will need to file a timely claim with your employer and the Industrial Commission. A timely claim means that you do not waste any time procrastinating. You get the documents you need and file your claim as soon as possible. Waiting too long can endanger your chances of getting a fair workers comp benefit.
If your doctor has informed you that you will be able to return to work after recovery, you should focus on your health and healing. It is important that you do return to work if you can. Workers comp benefits are not intended to be a substitute for working.
During your recovery, you should keep careful records of your medical treatments, and any expenses that have resulted from your injury. These records could be very important in the future if you need to pursue legal action against your employer. In most cases, legal action is not required, but if it is required, you need your records. You should even keep track of all doctor visits and any traveling you have to do to get treatment.
One reason you may want to consider having a workers comp lawyer help you is so that you can better focus on your recovery and health.
Why Would I Need A Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer is a big step. Most people feel intimidated by even the thought of hiring a lawyer and dealing with legal matters. This is not a good reason to get cheated, though. Those who do not use the assistance of a workers comp lawyer often lose out a lot. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you should highly consider a workers comp lawyer for your claim.
Less stress- You will already be feeling the stress of your injury, lost income, and recovery. Adding to that, the stress of all of the legal details of a workers comp claim can be too much for some people. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to take some of this burden off.
Confidence- One of the biggest stressors of filing a workers comp claim is the fear that you might forget some important detail and that it will derail your entire claim. A lawyer knows all the details and is trained to include everything you need for your claim. You can feel confident that your claim is being done right.
Legal knowledge- Unless you are a lawyer specializing in employment law, chances are you are not aware of all of the laws and legalities that go into workers comp cases. Not knowing could cost you a great deal in the long run. Your lawyer is aware of every legal detail of your claim. They know what is fair and what is cheating.
The Importance Of Disclosure
You should be aware that it is vital for a worker to disclose to their attorney and their employer any and all prior accidents or injuries. It is also important that they disclose medical treatments and surgery as well. This is important because sometimes insurance companies and businesses will look for ways to deny your workers comp claim. If you do not disclose this type of information concerning past injuries and medical treatment, they could use it to discredit your claim. Your lawyer, however, will know how to handle this information so that it does not harm your chances.
Your lawyer will sit down with you and conduct an Authorization and Release of Medical Information. This will help them examine all medical information they need to build a strong case for you.
You should know, however, that you are not required to provide this to your employer or the insurance company. If there is information that needs to be shared with the insurance company or your employer, your attorney will advise on this.
Bottom Line on Workers Comp
Although it is hard to determine how long workers comp benefits can last, there is a 500-week limit on benefits. Your length of benefits, however, will be dependent on the type of injury, the severity of the injury and the disability rating that your injury creates for you.
There are many steps involved in properly filing a workers comp claim so that you can receive the maximum amount of benefits. In order to be sure your claim is filed properly, it is best to work with a workers comp lawyer. This is especially a good idea if your employer is being difficult or if you feel that you are not being treated fairly.
Attempting to fight the system on your own can be a waste of time and money. Not to mention the amount of stress this could add to your life. You are already stressed out because of your injury. Don’t try to take on the workers comp problem by yourself.
Workers comp lawyers are trained to help employees like you who have been injured and need assistance. You can schedule a consultation and discuss the details of your claim with a professional. They can provide you with advice, knowledge, and support during this very difficult time.