It is normal to have several questions about workers’ comp following an on-the-job injury. The best way to get honest answers that are relevant to your situation is through a free and confidential consultation with one of the Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyers at White & Stradley, PLLC. The below FAQ is, however, a good place to start.
We encourage you to look through the information supplied here as you see fit and to call our office at 919-863-9397 to schedule a consultation when you are ready to speak one-on-one with an attorney who can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. White & Stradley, PLLC is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. We represent injured workers living in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and throughout the state.
- What Should I do if I’m Hurt on the Job in North Carolina?
- Who is Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits in North Carolina?
- What are the Requirements of North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act?
- What is Proximate Cause?
- What is an Occupational Disease?
- Am I Eligible for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Caused My Accident?
- What Benefits are Available Under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation System?
- What Types of Disability are Recognized by the North Carolina Industrial Commission?
- Can I be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in North Carolina?
- How do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in North Carolina?
- What is a Licensed Adjuster?
- What Should I do if My North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim is Denied?
- Can I Sue to Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits in North Carolina?
- Should I Accept a Cash Settlement for My Injury?
- Do I Need an Attorney to File for Workers’ Compensation Benefits in North Carolina?
- How do I Contact White & Stradley, PLLC?
What should I do if I’m hurt on the job?
One of the aspects of Workers’ Compensation law is that it requires injured Workers to follow a very strict set of steps in order to file a claim and collect benefits. If one part of the process is missed or a deadline is not met, you may be denied benefits. This makes it very important that you:
- Get immediate medical help if it’s an emergency situation.
- Report the injury to your employer. You must tell your supervisor right away. If your injury or illness developed gradually (e.g. carpal tunnel, hearing loss, mesothelioma), you need to report it to your boss as soon as you learn that it was caused by your job. Reporting promptly helps to prevent problems and delays in receiving the benefits you are entitled to.
- Get medical help if it’s not an emergency.
- Report the injury to your union representative.
- Fill out a claim form and give it to your employer. Your employer is required to give you a claim form within ONE working day after learning about your injury or illness. This is the form that you will use to request workers’ compensation benefits.
Who is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?
In North Carolina, nearly all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. You are most likely covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act if:
- Your employer regularly employs at least three people or more
- You work for the state, county, or city; or
- Your employer has purchased workers' compensation insurance
If your employer does not carry workers’ comp, you may be eligible for a personal injury lawsuit. Our attorneys can help you determine if this is the case in your situation.
What are the requirements of North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act?
To qualify for benefits under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act, your injury must meet the following requirements:
- Injuries must be accidental. For injuries to body parts other than the back, an accident means that there must be a fall, slip or another type of unexpected event that interrupts the normal work routine.
- Injury must happen while on the job. However, even if you slip and fall at a restaurant while you are on a business trip, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
- If your job puts you at a higher risk than the general public for contracting a disease or being exposed to a dangerous hazard, this may qualify as an occupational disease. Diseases or conditions that surface over a period of time can also qualify you for workers’ compensation. For example, Workers who were exposed to asbestos in factories years ago may now suffer from mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer.
What is proximate cause?
If you have an old injury that seemed to have healed, but you returned to work only to be injured again, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation in North Carolina. Proximate cause is the initial act (or injury) which sets a series of events in motion (the exacerbation) and often qualifies a person for benefits when an injury causes additional troubles.
What is an occupational disease?
An occupational disease is an illness you acquired due to your job or work conditions, and it may be covered under workers’ compensation just like an injury from an on-the-job accident would be, even if you do not start having symptoms until years after you have left the job.
An occupational disease is set apart from other types of disease by the level of risk created by your job. When your job puts you at a higher risk than the general public for contracting a certain disease or being exposed to a certain hazard, your condition may be classified as an occupational disease.
Diseases and other health problems that are commonly associated with occupational exposure include:
- Lead poisoning
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Hearing loss
- Back strain and injuries
- Birth defects and developmental abnormalities
Some occupational diseases do not show symptoms right away. In fact, they can take years or decades to surface. For instance, diseases caused by asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, typically do not produce symptoms until 20 years or more after exposure.
Can I collect benefits if I caused my accident?
North Carolina has established a no-fault system regarding workers’ compensation law. As a result, in most situations, you will be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits even if you are at fault for the accident.
However, your claim may be denied if:
- Your work-related injuries are intentionally self-inflicted
- You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident
- The accident was the result of your reckless behavior
Violation of a safety rule will generally not cause your claim to be denied, but it may reduce the benefits you receive. Similarly, a violation of safety rules by your employer may increase your recovery.
What Benefits are Available Under Workers’ Compensation?
In North Carolina, workers’ compensation will cover:
- All related medical and rehabilitation costs
- Salary continuation of two-thirds your average weekly wage until you are deemed suitable to return to work
- Travel expenses for trips to and from medical and therapeutic services
- Vocational rehabilitation
Not all on-the-job injuries will result in travel expenses or vocational rehabilitation, but these benefits are covered under North Carolina workers’ comp law for cases where they are necessary. During your free consultation at our Raleigh office, we can help you determine which benefits you may be entitled to.
If you are a dependent of someone who has died in a work-related accident, you also may qualify for benefits. Workers' compensation provides death benefits to the spouse, or spouse and children of workers killed in a job-related accident if the cause of the employee's death was related to an injury or exposure at work.
What types of disability are recognized by the North Carolina Industrial Commission?
There are four types of disability recognized by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. These are:
- Temporary total disability. If you are not able to earn wages as a result of an on-the-job injury, you may be entitled to temporary total disability, but you have to be out of work for at least seven days to qualify. After that time, you will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage. If you are unable to work for more than 21 days, you will get compensation for the first seven days as well.
- Temporary partial disability. This benefit applies if after your injury you return to a job where you do not earn as much as you did previously. With this benefit, you will receive two-thirds of the difference for up to 300 weeks from your date of injury. Workers’ compensation benefits subtracted from Section A will be subtracted from the 300 weeks.
- Permanent partial disability. If you were hurt while working and your thumb, index finger, third finger, arm, foot, leg, eye, hearing, or back is impaired, you may be entitled to a settlement based on the percentage of disability to that body part under a formula outlined by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Total and permanent disability. If you are totally and permanently disabled, you are entitled to benefits for your lifetime.
Our North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers will work with you to help you determine which type of claim is appropriate in your case.
Can I get fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
The North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) was established to protect injured workers from discrimination and retaliation. This act combines elements of several different federal laws, including The Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Despite the existence of these laws and regulations, some employers still terminate employees by asserting that their termination was not in direct response to the employee’s workers’ compensation claim. This is a gray area that must be fought by an experienced attorney. Employers will attempt to bring forward all kinds of evidence to “prove” that retaliation was not a motive in their firing decision.
If you believe your employer has fired you in violation of your rights under REDA, you must file a complaint within 180 days of your termination. Having White & Stradley, PLLC experienced workers’ compensation attorneys on your side will significantly improve your chances of pursuing a successful case. We will fight to ensure that your rights are protected, and that your case has the best outcome possible.
How do I file a workers’ compensation claim?
If you have been injured on the job and wish to file a workers’ compensation claim in the state of North Carolina, you must provide your employer with a written notification of the injury or occupational disease within 30 days of the incident. You must also file a notice of the claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years of the accident. This step is crucial if you wish to receive benefits for your injury.
The easiest and most reliable way to notify your employer and the North Carolina Industrial Commission of your injury is by filling out a Form 18 Notice of Accident. It is important to note that properly filling out this form is essential for the success of your claim. This is just one of the many reasons it is best to have an experienced workers’ comp attorney on your side as soon as possible after your accident. For more than two decades, the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyers at White & Stradley, PLLC have dedicated themselves to protecting the rights of injured workers and their families.
You must get a copy of your statement or recording to your employer within 45 days of requesting it, and you should request it immediately after you give your report to your employer. You need to make sure that the report of what you said and what happened is accurate. Do not sign anything that is not accurate.
Once your workers' compensation claim has been properly filed, your employer's insurance company will either accept it and start dispensing your benefits, or deny your claim.
What is a licensed adjuster?
An adjuster is an employee of the insurance carrier who investigates workers’ compensation claims. Your employer’s insurance adjuster will create a record of the circumstances and events surrounding your workplace injury by asking a range of questions, some of which will be unrelated to your injury such as questions about prior work history, general health, education level, or family history. Your answers may impact your ability to seek compensation.
Depending on the situation, an adjuster may come to your house. An adjuster can get to know you much better through a face-to-face meeting and can also see your home surroundings, hobbies, and finances. A visit gives them a closer look into your life and what your needs and limitations may be.
It is important that you cooperate with the adjuster, but may be best if you have legal representation when speaking to him to protect yourself against unnecessary complications.
What can I do if my workers’ comp claim is denied?
If your claim is denied, you may file a Form 33 Request for a Hearing. At this point, the success of your claim will likely necessitate an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney represent you at your hearing.
The North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at White & Stradley, PLLC have been helping injured workers receive the benefits they deserve since 1986. Our lawyers specialize in North Carolina workers’ compensation law, and we have a great deal of experience handling these complex claims.
We will walk you through every step of the filing process to make sure that all of your paperwork is filled out correctly and filed by the proper deadlines. If your claim is denied, we will handle every aspect of your appeal and advocate on your behalf to help you receive the benefits you deserve.
Can I sue for workers’ compensation benefits?
You cannot sue your employer and collect workers' compensation, but that does not necessarily mean that you do not have a lawsuit against a third party in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
There are many circumstances which could give rise to a third-party lawsuit. For instance, this can happen if you were injured by a defective product, such as in an equipment malfunction. If you were injured in an auto accident while on the job, you would be covered by workmen’s compensation, but another driver may also be held responsible for your accident. If a disgruntled customer becomes violent and injures you, you may also be able to sue.
The advantage to the worker is a much greater chance of receiving compensation for on-the-job injuries. The disadvantage is that you will almost definitely receive less in workmen’s compensation benefits than you would if you were to sue your employer and win.
Our North Carolina workers’ comp attorneys will review your claim free of charge to help you determine the most effective way to get the full compensation you are due.
Can I accept a cash settlement in lieu of workers’ compensation?
We know the decision of whether to accept a cash settlement for a workplace injury is difficult one. You may find it hard to predict what amount of compensation is fair. Workplace injuries can be quite serious, causing partial or total disability. It can be difficult to understand the extent of your injury following an accident.
Accepting a cash settlement means waiving your right to take further legal action. You waive your right to a trial and the ability to reopen a case because the claim is considered resolved. You cannot request compensation for medical treatment above and beyond the terms of your settlement.
Consider how being able to receive continued medical treatment will influence recovery. In some cases, the injured party reaches maximum medical improvement and the income benefits stop. No longer receiving compensation for medical treatment creates a heavy and unnecessary financial burden.
Insurance adjusters may offer you a cash settlement. Even if the amount sounds desirable, you must consider how time in costly medical treatment can diminish your award. We are experienced in predicting the long-term goals of your recovery. We will take the time to research what is best for you. Instead of jumping at a cash settlement, speak with the North Carolina workers' compensation experts at White & Stradley, PLLC and allow the law to work for you.
Do I need a workers’ compensation attorney?
If you are injured while on the job, you should never assume that your employer or its insurance company cares whether you are compensated fairly. Even if you have a very good relationship with your employer, you must keep in mind that employers have the advantage of having attorneys who know the workers' compensation system well and will work against you.
You may wish to hire a workers’ comp lawyer if:
- You have filed a workers’ compensation claim with your employer and that claim is denied. If you are denied benefits, you have the right to a hearing before a workers’ compensation judge. Carefully review the document and watch for deadlines for filing an appeal. If you miss this deadline, you can lose your right to compensation.
- You have been approached about settling your workers’ compensation claim. You may want to consult with an attorney to ensure you’re getting what you’re entitled to.
- The amount of benefits you are receiving is incorrect.
- Your benefits are not being paid at all or are not being paid on time.
- Your employer’s doctor or rehabilitation professional said you are physically able to return to work before you feel you are able. This situation can result in further injuries that may lead to permanent damage.
- There is no job for you to return to.
- You were told that you can return to work but must perform a job that was created to accommodate your injury.
Please keep in mind that the more claims are paid by insurance companies, the less money they make. This can lead to insurance companies trying their hardest to downplay your injury, deny you proper medical care, and have you return to work before you are physically able to return.
How can we help you?
In a perfect world, North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law would be simple and easily understood by everyone. Employers would respect your right to compensation and help you navigate the system, and insurers wouldn’t try to convince you to sign your rights away.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world. Workers’ comp claims are often difficult to understand by the very people they’re designed to help. And recovering from a serious injury makes the process even more complicated.
Our attorneys can help with your North Carolina workers’ comp claim by:
- Evaluating your case at a free, no-obligation initial consultation
- Helping you fill out all of the paperwork necessary as part of a claim
- Looking over proposed insurance settlements and evaluating their worth and value
- Appealing a previous claims denial
- Making sure none of the compensation benefits to which you are entitled are left behind
- Advising you on whether or not you have a personal injury claim against a third party
White & Stradley, PLLC will worry about the paperwork and the legal wrangling while you focus your attention on your family and recovering from your injury. Let our attorneys serve as your champions in this fight.
If you’re a North Carolina resident considering a workers’ compensation claim, our attorneys can prove vital. Please call our Raleigh office at 919-863-9397 to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We serve Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and all surrounding areas of North Carolina.