Let a Top Raleigh Workers Comp Lawyer Help You Recover Your Benefits
Have you been injured at work in North Carolina? Get answers to your questions about workers’ compensation and find out how a Raleigh workers comp lawyer at Martin & Jones can help.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers who have been injured on the job are entitled to medical and disability benefits to cover their expenses while they recover. They are covered through a form of insurance known as workers’ compensation insurance. North Carolina law requires employers with three or more employees to provide coverage for them.
How Does a Worker Receive Benefits of Compensation?
Workers are compensated for injuries through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer. Typically, an injured employee will be evaluated by a medical professional provided by the insurer.
The medical professional will determine whether the worker is temporarily or permanently disabled. A medical treatment plan will be developed to help the employee get back to work as quickly as possible. While the worker is recovering, he or she may receive disability pay to help cover expenses.
Workers and Injuries Covered By Workers Compensation
Workers’ compensation covers all employees in North Carolina, with the exception of railroad workers and federal workers. This includes temporary, seasonal, part-time, full-time and independent contractors. Even undocumented workers must be covered by workers’ compensation.
While many workers’ compensation claims are linked to an event, such as a fall on a construction site, there does not need to be a specific accident for an individual to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Many workers who perform repetitive tasks that lead to injuries over time may still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Must all employers in North Carolina carry workers’ compensation insurance?
All employers who regularly employ three or more workers must carry workers’ compensation insurance in North Carolina. Some companies self-insure their businesses for workers’ compensation, so you may have to deal directly with the employer rather than an insurance company.
Can a Raleigh Workers Comp Lawyer Help Me with an Occupational Disease Claim?
Deteriorating health conditions which arise slowly and over a period of time can be grounds for workers’ compensation under certain conditions:
- the employee was placed at an increased risk of contracting the occupational disease compared to the general public not equally exposed, and
- the hazards of employment significantly contributed to the occupational disease.
For example, textile workers exposed to cotton dust can contract a condition known as “brown lung,” or byssinosis. Other workers have been exposed to a hazardous mineral known as asbestos, which can lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other cancers. These diseases strike workers who were exposed to asbestos many years ago in factories, shipbuilding sites, construction, insulation, brake production and transportation.
Some workers have been exposed over long periods of time to chemicals in the workplace. This can lead to cancer or a myriad of other ailments.
Workers who have jobs in factories and in offices where they continually use their hands in a repetitive manner can get a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Process for Reporting a Workplace Injury in North Carolina
After an injury, workers are required to report the injury to their employer. The employer may have medical staff available on site for an employee to see, but this is not always the case. For all employees, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Notify the medical staff that the injury was work-related.
After being treated by medical staff, employees must provide notice of the injury in writing to their employer. The notice must be given within 30 days of the accident or becoming aware of the injury. The notice should include the date, time and a short description of the injury.
In North Carolina, injured workers have the option of providing this written notice by providing the employer a copy of Form 18. Form 18 is required by the North Carolina Industrial Commission to file a workers’ comp claim. Injured workers who fail to give timely notice to their employer and to file a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission risk losing the right to recover. Both steps are critical to preserving your claim.
Does my employer have to provide me with light duty if my doctor says that I cannot return to my normal job?
Your employer does not have to provide light-duty work merely because you have been hurt on the job. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires that your employer make reasonable accommodation for you to perform work, but this is the extent of its obligation.
Receiving Your Benefits
Compensation is paid at two-thirds (66-2/3 percent) of the injured worker’s average weekly wage. The employee’s gross wages, including overtime and payments in lieu of wages, are calculated for the 52-week period preceding the accident to determine an average of the weekly wages. If the period of employment prior to the accident is less than 52 weeks, then whatever time period the employee worked is used.
However, if the time period is so short that using the gross pay period for that time would be unfair to either the employee or the employer, the parties can use the wages of a similar or comparable employee. If no similar or comparable employee is available, then a calculation can be devised which would be fair to the employer and the employee.
How long will I have to wait before my weekly benefits start?
You must have missed at least seven days before the entitlement to weekly benefit checks begins. This does not have to be seven consecutive days. The entitlement to receive medical treatment, however, is not contingent upon missing any time from work. You may receive medical treatment immediately after being injured.
How do my medical bills get paid?
Medical bills are paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company. These bills must be forwarded to the insurance company by the doctor’s office. The insurance company then sends the bills to the Industrial Commission to make sure they are reasonable charges. When the Industrial Commission clears the bills, the insurance company pays the doctor’s office.
If the insurance company refuses to pay medical charges, the injured worker can file a request with the Industrial Commission for a hearing to order that the medical bills be paid.
What if My Workplace Accident is Partly or Completely My Fault?
Workers’ compensation in North Carolina is a fault-free system. This means that the relative contributions of the employee or the employer in causing the accident are not examined in determining whether the worker is entitled to compensation.
However, if the injury is caused by the employee’s willful disobedience of a safety rule, then the compensation the employee is entitled to receive can be reduced by ten percent. On the other hand, failure of the employer to obey a safety rule can result in a ten percent increase in workers’ compensation benefits to the employee.
In addition to the workers’ compensation claim, you also may file a claim against the person who caused the injury. This is a civil action where you must be able to show that the “third party” was negligent and that you did not contribute to the accident.
It is very important to pursue a third-party claim, because there may be additional recoveries beyond what the Workers’ Compensation Act allows. A good example of a third-party claim is when a delivery driver is injured in an automobile accident and the person causing the accident is not the employer or a co-employee. The injured worker can file both a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party negligence claim against the driver who caused the accident.
Another third-party claim can occur when a defective machine or product causes a worker to be injured. The injured worker can then file both a workers’ compensation claim and a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the machine or defective product.
Choose a Raleigh Workers Comp Lawyer from Martin and Jones
In a serious injury claim, hire an attorney with extensive workers’ compensation experience. There is no charge for an initial consultation, and the law firm should give you an honest determination of whether representation will be helpful to you.