If you have been injured on the job or are experiencing a work-related illness, you may have some questions about your workers’ compensation rights and benefits.
Our legal experts have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about workers’ comp benefits. Follow along to gain insight into what to expect and how to successfully make it through the workers’ compensation process in North Carolina.
Q: What Are the Most Common Causes of Workplace Injuries?
A: The most common workplace injury causes vary by industry, but the National Safety Council reports the following as having the overall highest frequency in recent years:
- Being exposed to hazardous substances or environments — this can include but is not limited to, exposure to contagious diseases like Covid-19, exposure to extreme heat or cold, electricity or radiation exposure, and even experiencing a traumatic event.
- Overexerting your body — repetitive motion injuries, strains, sprains, and tears are all examples of injuries caused by overexertion.
- Slipping, tripping, falling, or jumping — while slips, trips, falls, and jumps may all seem the same, each one actually differs slightly. Slipping on a wet floor or tripping over an object on the ground may not lead to a complete fall, but you can still be hurt in the process of catching yourself. A fall in which you do hit the ground or an intentional jump from a high-up place can also both have serious consequences.
Q: If an Employee Is Injured Due to Their Own Negligence, Are They Still Eligible for Workers’ Comp Benefits?
A: In most cases, an employee who is injured due to their own negligence can still receive workers’ comp benefits. North Carolina workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that an employee is entitled to benefits regardless of who is at fault for the injury.
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, such as if the employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the injury or if they were injured in a physical fight that they initiated. In these cases, it is unlikely for the injured person to be eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
Q: Are There Any Time Limits for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim?
A: Yes, there are time limits for filing a workers’ comp claim in North Carolina.
Injured workers are encouraged to report a workplace injury as soon as possible to their employer, even if it is just a verbal notification, but a written notice must be given to the employer within thirty days of the accident. The sooner this notice is provided, the better.
After providing written notice, an injured employee has two years from the date of the injury to file a Form 18 and submit it to the Industrial Commission. It is important to note that failure to give written notice to an employer within thirty days or failure to file a Form 18 may result in the loss of workers’ compensation benefits.
To find out more about the North Carolina workers’ comp claims process and the required forms, visit the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s page for injured workers.
Q: How Long Does the Workers’ Comp Process Typically Take?
A: The length of time it takes to process a workers’ comp claim can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
In general, the process can take several months to a year or more. Factors that can affect the timeline include the severity of the injury, the complexity of the case, and the responsiveness of the employer and insurance company. The most important factor in ensuring you get the most out of your benefits in a timely manner is whether or not you have a strong legal ally working alongside you on your claim.
Q: What Can I Receive Compensation for in a Workers’ Comp Claim?
A: The benefits awarded in a workers’ comp claim can include medical expenses reimbursement for treatment related to the injury, wage replacement for lost income due to the injury, and vocational rehabilitation to help the injured worker obtain new job skills, retrain for a different occupation, or find new employment.
Medical benefits can cover various expenses, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, surgery, prescription medication, and medical equipment necessary for treating the injury.
In some cases, an injured worker may also be entitled to a lump-sum settlement that provides a one-time payment to the worker instead of ongoing benefits. This may be offered if the worker has sustained a permanent injury or is unable to return to work due to the injury.
Keep in mind that workers’ compensation benefits will vary based on the specific circumstances of the injury.
Q: Why Is My Case Worth More or Less Than My Neighbors?
A: The value of a workers’ compensation claim depends on many factors: whether you had surgery, the type of surgery you had, and whether you were released to return to work with or without restrictions, just to name a few. The value of each of these elements depends on what your average weekly wage is.
For example, if your average weekly wage is higher than someone else’s who may have had the same type of injury and outcome, your settlement may likely be higher than theirs. If it is less, your settlement may likely be lower, even if you both injured the same body part and had the same surgery.
Getting an attorney early on in the workers’ compensation process helps to ensure you are being paid at the correct rate and that your recovery is maximized when it comes time to resolve your claim.
Q: How Do I Know If an Offer Is a “Good” Offer?
A: The best way to ensure the offer that is being made to settle your claim is the best offer possible is to hire an attorney early on.
However, if you have handled the claim on your own and got an offer from an adjuster, you should still contact us to see if we can step in and negotiate a higher offer on your behalf. If we feel the offer is fair, we will tell you so! If we feel we can do better, we will work with you and the insurance company to make sure you are being compensated appropriately.
Remember: if you sign a document accepting a settlement, you will likely be bound to that amount, so call and let us help you before it’s too late.
Q: Can an Injured Employee Receive Both Workers’ Comp and Social Security Disability Benefits at the Same Time?
A: An injured employee can receive both workers’ comp and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. In this case, the SSA will likely reduce the employee’s disability benefits in accordance with the amount of workers’ comp they will be receiving.
It’s worth noting that the requirements for workers’ comp differ from those for SSDI. Just because you are approved for one does not mean you will be approved for another. If you are unsure about what benefits are available to you, schedule a free consultation with our office and have your questions answered by the experts.
Q: Can an Employer Retaliate Against an Employee for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim?
A: No, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim.
Retaliation can include actions such as termination, demotion, or reducing the employee’s hours or pay. If an employee experiences retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim, they should contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney immediately.
Q: What Should I Do If My Workers’ Comp Claim Is Denied?
A: If your workers’ comp claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision! Start by seeking the assistance of a workers’ comp attorney with experience handling denied claims. If your claim was originally denied, you’ll want someone trained in NC workers’ comp law to help you understand what needs to be addressed and assist you in receiving a more favorable outcome.
Our attorneys will be able to guide you through the appeals process and help you build a strong case for recovering benefits. Appeals must be filed within a certain time frame, so act quickly.
Don’t see the answer to questions about your workers’ comp here? Contact Lewis & Keller’s Winston-Salem work injury advocates for a free consultation to learn more!