Medical treatment and lost wages are the primary benefits available from a workers’ compensation claim in the Tar Heel State
In 2018, 2.6 of every 100 people — about 93,000 — were injured at work in North Carolina, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes all employment-related injuries, which could be in any industry from hog farming to beverage manufacturing to sound and movie recording.
There were also 178 fatal work-related injuries in North Carolina in 2018. Nearly half (84 workers) were transportation fatalities. The other areas with higher numbers of fatalities include workplace violence, slip and falls contact with objects or equipment, and exposure to harmful substances or environments. Four people perished in fires or explosions.
For those who were injured, nearly 26,000 were hurt badly enough that they had to take time off from work, and 24,000 had to have job transfers or restrictions as a result of their injuries.
Those injuries are why it’s important to know what benefits you’re entitled to after a work injury.
What are workers’ compensation benefits?
Workers’ compensation provides benefits for lost wages and medical treatment for a work-related injury.
You cannot recover damages for pain and suffering in a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation helps both the employer and the injured employee. If you suffer a work-related injury, you don’t need to prove fault or negligence. You only have to show that the injury happened while you were performing duties related to your job. This helps you to receive benefits faster and more easily than if you had to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Except in rare circumstances of gross negligence, you may not file a lawsuit against your employer for a work-related injury. This protects the employer from time-consuming and expensive litigation.
What injuries are covered under North Carolina workers’ compensation?
Any work-related injury from a catastrophic accident, as well as any injury or illness that developed over time because of work conditions or environment, is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
You don’t need to be in a dangerous job to be injured at work. Many injuries happen because an employee tripped over a phone cord or frayed carpet, slipped on a wet floor on a rainy day, or even dropped a box or item on their foot. These are just a few examples — there are countless ways to get hurt on the job, and many are circumstances unrelated to “typical” hazardous jobs.
- You were injured.
- The injury happened while you were at work or performing a work-related task.
- Your injury cost money, either for medical treatment or lost wages.
A work injury can fall into one of the following categories:
- Traumatic injuries are caused by a specific incident or accident. This could include broken bones, car accidents, or trip-and-falls, for instance.
- Stress injuries are related to body positioning and movement, and they develop gradually. This might include back or neck injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, or other repetitive strain.
- Occupational injuries are caused when you’re exposed to a toxin or condition in the workplace that results in illness. Examples include asbestos-related illness, chemical burns, poisoning, hearing loss, and industrial asthma.
NC workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages
Temporary disability benefits
If your injuries require you to take more than 7 days off from work, you can receive temporary total disability benefits. You can receive benefits from the first 7 days if you miss more than 21 days of work in total.
Temporary disability benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum that changes each year. The North Carolina Industrial Commision lists what the maximum is for the current year.
If you’re able to work but not at the same job or salary level as prior to the injury, you can receive temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits, which are two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and post-injury wages. You can receive temporary partial benefit payments for up to 500 weeks.
Here’s an example of someone whose regular wage before their injury was $700 per week:
|Normal (pre-injury) wages per week||$700|
|Reduced wages after injury||$400|
|Difference between original salary and reduced wages||$300|
|⅔ of the difference between original wage and reduced wage
(temporary partial benefits)
|Total earnings plus benefits ($400 + $200)||$600|
Permanent total disability benefits
Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are provided after you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is when your doctor determines that you’ve recovered as much as possible and no additional recovery is expected.
You can qualify for PTD benefits if your injury is serious enough that you’re permanently unable to work. This might include:
- Severe burns
- Paralysis of both arms or legs
- Loss of limbs (either both eyes, arms, feet, or legs, or a combination of any 2)
- Severe brain injury
If that happens, you would receive your weekly benefits at the rate established for your temporary disability for the remainder of your lifetime.
Permanent partial disability benefits
A permanent partial disability (PPD) is when you’re left with reduced physical functioning from the injury. There are 2 ways to receive benefits in this instance:
- If you lost the use of your eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, feet, or back, you can recover benefits for two-thirds of your average weekly wages for a number of weeks that the state determines. For instance, North Carolina has established that total loss of a hand would provide payments for 200 weeks. If you lost 20% of the use of your hand, you’d receive payments for 40 weeks.
- If your permanent impairment led to decreased wages, you could choose to receive your benefits at the temporary partial disability rate, which is two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and your current wages.
- Serious disfigurement to face or head or permanent disability to any organ (external or internal) — up to $20,000.
- Serious disfigurement to another body part — up to $10,000.
NC workers’ compensation benefits for medical and other expenses
Workers’ compensation also covers all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to a work-related injury. This includes hospital and doctor visits, surgery, prescription medication, physical or occupational therapy, and any other costs related to your treatment.
In addition to your medical treatment, you can also receive benefits that cover these expenses:
- Mileage reimbursement to and from medical treatment appointments.
- Vocational rehabilitation costs for placement services, career counseling, or training to find new employment.
The dependents of a person who died from a work-related injury can receive death benefits. They can also receive funeral and burial compensation up to $10,000.
Survivor benefits are two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks.
Who is eligible to receive death benefits?
The deceased worker’s spouse and minor child are considered “wholly dependent” as a matter of law.
That includes a spouse who lives with the deceased worker or is dependent on the person for support at the time of death, or lives apart for justifiable cause or by reason of desertion. A “child” can include a stepchild or acknowledged illegitimate child who was dependent upon the worker at the time of their death.
Any other person who claims benefits must prove actual, total dependency at the time of the worker’s death in order to be considered wholly dependent.
If there are no whole or partial dependents, the benefit is distributed to the next of kin in a lump sum. If there are no dependents and no next of kin, then only the burial benefit is paid.
When to consult a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer near you
If you’ve been injured at work or are eligible to receive death benefits for a loved one who suffered a work-related fatality, you’ll want to know how to recover the full benefits you need to preserve your financial well-being.
A workers’ compensation claim can be a tricky process to navigate, and you want to be sure you’re being treated fairly. The Enjuris lawyer directory can help you find a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer who can guide you through filing a claim, negotiating benefits, and handling an appeal if it becomes necessary.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.