Spruce Pine Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Workers in virtually any field are at risk of being injured on the job, from teachers to healthcare workers to construction workers and more.
Because workplace injuries happen and workers who are injured on the job often face substantial costs in the form of medical bills and lost wages, workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory in the state of North Carolina for most employers. This type of compensation is designed to provide no-fault benefits to workers who are hurt on the job.
While workers’ compensation is meant to be a no-fault system that provides injured workers with the coverage that they need whenever they are injured at work, the claims process isn’t always simple. Injured workers are often unsure about:
- What benefits they are entitled to
- How to file a claim
- What their rights are if they are retaliated against, their claim is rejected, or they don’t agree with a settlement offer
At The Elmore and Smith Law Firm, PC, our Spruce Pine workers’ compensation lawyers can help you understand your rights and your options if you are hurt at work.
If you have questions about workers’ compensation benefits, please call our office for a free consultation.
North Carolina Workplace Injury Statistics and Common Workplace Injuries
There are tens of thousands of workplace injuries reported in North Carolina on an annual basis. In a single year alone, there were more than 71,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported among private industry employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dozens of fatal injuries are reported each year on average in North Carolina.
A large percentage of fatal workplace accidents in the state are transportation-related. Slips, trips, and falls are also a leading cause of injury and death. Violence, injuries caused by other persons or animals, and contact with objects and equipment are also leading causes of workplace injuries in our state. Construction is the most dangerous industry year over year.
Who’s Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?
All employers who regularly employ three or more employees are required under the law to carry workers’ compensation coverage. The vast majority of employees are covered in our state.
There are some exceptions to this requirement, as explained by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Specifically, the following are some types of workers generally not covered under workers’ compensation:
- Employees of certain railroads
- Casual employees
- Domestic servants
- Federal government employees
- Certain farm laborers
- Certain sellers of agricultural products
If you’re not sure your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance under law in North Carolina, call the Industrial Commission or consult with an attorney.
How to File a Workers’ Comp Claim in NC
If you are injured while working and think that you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you must act quickly. If you fail to act within the required amount of time, you may sacrifice your right to benefits.
Here’s an overview of how to file a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina:
- Seek medical care. If you are injured at work and your injuries require emergency medical care, you do not need prior approval from your employer, and you can get emergency care wherever necessary. All non-emergency care must be sought from an approved provider, unless you want to pay for the care out of pocket. You have the right to see any doctor you like, but workers’ compensation will not pay if you do not see an approved provider. Be sure to tell the treating doctor that your injury is work-related. By doing this, your doctor will know to bill the treatment as a workers’ compensation claim.
- Notify your employer of the injury. Besides getting proper medical attention, the most important thing that you need to do in the immediate aftermath of your workplace accident is to give your employer notice of the accident and injury. You must provide written notice to your employer within 30 days from the date of your incident. If you fail to do so, you may be barred from recovery.
- File a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. After you provide written notice to your employer, your employer is then obligated to file a First Report of Injury form with the NC Industrial Commission. However, if your employer does not file a First Report of Injury form on your behalf, the burden is on you to ensure that your claim is filed and proceeds. You must file a Form 18 Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim of Employee, Representative, or Dependent within two years of the date of your accident.
- Follow your doctor’s orders. It’s important that you get back to good health as soon as possible, allowing you to improve your quality of life and get back to work, if possible. You should follow your doctor’s orders so you can get better. Keep in mind that failing to follow your doctor’s orders may have consequences that extend beyond not healing to your full potential. You may also face challenges to your claim if the workers’ compensation insurance provider believes that you have failed to listen to your doctor.
- Follow up. If you do the four things listed above, your wage-replacement and healthcare benefits should be provided promptly. If they are not, you have the right to follow up with the insurance carrier directly or request a hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Remember that you are entitled to benefits when you suffer a work-related injury. If you have not received them, follow up!
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What Do Workers’ Comp Benefits Cover in NC?
Workers’ compensation is designed to provide injured workers with the full medical coverage benefits that they need, as well as compensation for a portion of lost wages. Benefits provided under workers’ compensation include:
- Medical benefits: You are entitled to compensation for 100% of your necessary and reasonable medical expenses related to your covered workplace injury or occupational illness.
- Temporary disability benefits: Workers who must miss more than seven days of work are entitled to temporary disability benefits to compensate them for their lost wages. If you miss more than 21 days of work, the first seven days of missed work will be compensated, too. This benefit rate is paid at ⅔ of your average weekly wage before the incident, up to the maximum benefit amount
- Permanent disability benefits: In some cases, workers suffer a permanent injury that prevents them from ever again performing the same work that they did before the injury, or perhaps performing any work at all. You may continue to receive weekly payments at the rate of ⅔ of your wage before the injury for 500 weeks, with certain exceptions.If you are permanently partially disabled, you may receive the benefits for a set amount of time depending on the type of injury you have suffered. For example, the loss of a first finger (index finger) is compensated at a rate of ⅔ of the injured worker’s average weekly wage for 45 weeks. The schedule of injuries and rate and period of compensation can be found in Article 1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Medical benefits are the only benefit type that all workers injured on the job and who require medical care for the injury will receive. The other benefits are available on a case-by-case basis.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Benefits?
How long it takes to receive workers’ compensation benefits can vary. Some things that could affect the amount of time that passes from the date of your injury to the date that you receive benefits include:
- When you provide your employer notice
- When you seek medical care
- When your employer notifies the Industrial Commission of your injuries
- How severe your injuries are and how long it takes for you to reach maximum medical improvement (it may take weeks or months to know whether you have suffered a temporary or permanent disability)
- Whether your claim or your settlement is disputed
In addition, even when a claim is processed as quickly as possible, there is a seven-day waiting period before you can start receiving wage-replacement benefits.
When You Deserve More Than Workers’ Compensation
Sometimes, an injury is so serious that just recovering workers’ compensation benefits is not enough to truly compensate the worker for the harm that they have suffered. If someone other than the employer or a co-worker did something wrong to cause the accident, a worker may be able to bring a third-party liability claim in addition to a workers’ compensation claim.
A lawsuit filed against your employer over a workplace injury is prohibited, as employers are immune from liability in the workers’ compensation system. However, an injured employee may bring a claim against a third party whose negligence led to their accident and injuries. This third party could be a contractor, a driver, the owner of the property where the injury occurred, the manufacturer of equipment that caused the injury, or many others, for example.
While a worker who is filing a workers’ compensation claim will not need to prove fault or be barred from recovery based on their fault, in a third-party liability claim, the injured worker must be able to prove that the third party owed them a duty of care, breached the duty of care owed to them, and that the breach was the proximate cause of their injuries.
Because of this requirement, third-party claims tend to be more complicated. However, a successful claim of this type can yield compensation for medical expenses, 100% of lost wages and future lost wages (not just ⅔ of lost wages), and even compensation for pain, suffering, and other noneconomic losses that are not paid by workers’ compensation.
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Deadlines for Workplace Injury Claims in North Carolina
It’s important that you act within the deadlines and statutes of limitations that pertain to filing a workers’ compensation claim or a third-party liability claim. The important deadlines to know are:
- 30 days from the date of injury to provide notice to your employer
- Two years from the date of injury to file a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission
- Three years from the date of injury to bring a personal injury claim against a third party
Keep in mind that if your initial claim is denied and you want to appeal the claim, you must do this within a certain amount of time, too. It is best to speak with a qualified attorney to review the various deadlines regarding your workers’ compensation claim.
Tips for Protecting Your Rights After an Injury at Work
Some advice for protecting your rights after your injury at work include:
- Seek medical care immediately.
- Notify your employer of your accident as soon as possible.
- Don’t talk about your accident with others and don’t publish on social media.
- Follow your doctor’s orders.
- Cooperate with the workers’ compensation insurance provider.
- Hire a lawyer.
How Our Spruce Pine Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help You
We know how traumatizing being injured at work can be. When you are hurt on the job, you just want to recover the benefits you’re entitled to.
If you encounter complications as you navigate the workers’ compensation process, our experienced lawyers can help. We are well-versed in workers’ compensation law, we are passionate about our work and our clients, we have years of experience, and we work on a contingency fee basis.
To schedule a free consultation with our team after being injured at work, call our Spruce Pine workers’ compensation lawyers directly to request more information.