My Rights if I Suffer a Workplace Accident in North Carolina
Most North Carolina employees may realize they’re protected by workers’ compensation laws, but workplace accident claims are complex. More often than not, people aren’t completely aware of their rights when they sustain an injury at work in North Carolina. And many people don’t realize their employers have insurance to cover these claims.
North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Rights
In North Carolina, your employer must provide compensation for necessary medical treatment and wage replacement for the time you cannot work.
Workers’ Comp Medical Benefits
If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance can cover your treatment costs necessary to:
- Heal your injury
- Relieve your pain
- And help you get back to work
Unlike personal injury cases, you cannot claim benefits for pain and suffering in a workers’ comp claim. You can only receive compensation for your medical expenses, time out of work, and compensation for permanent disability.
When you receive workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina, you don’t have to pay a deductible or co-pay. Plus, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to miss work in order to receive medical compensation.
Although your employer’s insurance company does have the right to direct your medical treatment, you have a choice in the matter. North Carolina law gives you the right to request second opinions from the doctor or hospital of your choosing.
Workers’ Comp Disability Benefits
When you are hurt on the job, your employer must compensate you for the time you cannot work, paying you a rate equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Wage replacement — or disability benefits — can be temporary or permanent, partial or total.
Let’s look at each situation:
Temporary Disability Coverage
Workers with temporary injuries may qualify for disability benefits during their injury healing period (up to 500 weeks). However, these benefits are subject to a seven-day waiting period. Once you miss a calendar week of work, the benefits can begin. And once you miss 21 days of work, you are entitled to back pay for the prior 7-day waiting period.
If your injury prevents you from doing any work — that is, if your doctor says you cannot work for 7 or more days — you’ll qualify for Temporary Total Disability. These 7 days do not need to fall consecutively. In such cases, your employer must pay you two-thirds of your regular weekly wage before the accident.
The same principle applies to a partial disability. If your injury permits you to complete at least “some” work, you’ll receive Temporary Partial Disability coverage. Your employer’s insurance company will pay you according to the actual amount of work you do plus two-thirds of the difference in your wages before and after the injury.
Permanent Disability Coverage
Although most workplace injuries heal with time and medical treatment, some injuries may be permanent.
Once an employee reaches the point of Maximum Medical Improvement — recovering as much as physically possible — they have a choice to make. Either they can continue to claim disability benefits for the rest of their 500-week limit (if still disabled), or they can accept compensation according to a doctor-prescribed Permanent Partial Disability rating, often called an impairment rating.
In determining the percent loss of function of the employee’s injured body part, a doctor assigns an impairment rating that is then plugged into an equation to calculate a sum to which the employee is entitled:
DISABILITY RATING BENEFIT = Impairment Rating Percentage X Compensation Rate X Number of Weeks Assigned to the Particular Injured Body Part (according to NC law)
In some cases, accepting the disability rating benefit may not be the best idea. For instance, if an injured worker would receive greater compensation from ongoing or future disability payments, taking the rating compensation may not be the most cost-effective decision.
In the rare case that an employee is injured so badly that they can never return to work, they may qualify for Permanent Total Disability, benefits to compensate the injured worker for future lost wages.
NOTE: In North Carolina, workers’ compensation claims include workplace fatalities. If an employee dies because of an accident at work, they may be entitled to alternative compensation, such as financial coverage for funeral expenses.
Still have questions about your workers’ compensation rights? The Mulligan Attorneys team is here to help! Call us at 910-763-1100 or send us a message.