If you get hurt on the job in Charlotte or elsewhere in North Carolina, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer can explain your right to workers’ compensation benefits and help you to overcome any obstacles that you encounter as you pursue benefits that you deserve. As you begin the process, here are 10 facts that you should know about how the workers’ comp system works in our state:
- Most employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. With few exceptions, any business in North Carolina that regularly employs three or more workers must have workers’ comp insurance. Coverage extends to all employees – including full-time, part-time and seasonal workers as well as minors and undocumented workers – but not to independent contractors.
- If you suffer a job injury, you must report it to your employer. If you get hurt at work, you should report it to your employer right away. You can report it orally, but you should try to give written notice – and keep a copy of it, too. If you fail to report the injury within 30 days after it occurs, you could lose your right to benefits.
- You must also complete a Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim of Employee form. Your employer should give this form to you. It is commonly called Form 18. The employer should complete a different form, Form 19, and send both forms to its workers’ compensation insurer and the N.C. Industrial Commission.
- If your employer refuses or neglects to report your injury, you can do it yourself. Unfortunately, some employers fail to file injury claims with the Industrial Commission. If this happens in your case, you have the right file Form 18 with the Industrial Commission yourself (or with the help of your attorney). You must file it within two years after the date of your injury, or else you could lose your right to pursue a claim.
- Workers’ compensation should cover your medical treatment. Medical benefits should pay all treatment costs for your work injury and cover some of the costs of your travel if you have to drive 20 miles or more, round trip, to your doctor appointments. However, you must go to the doctor that your employer (or its insurer) chooses or get written authorization from the employer/insurer to change doctors.
- Workers’ comp can also cover chiropractic care. Many workers who suffer back injuries prefer to see a chiropractor rather than a doctor. If your employer/insurer permits you to do this, then you are entitled to up to 20 covered visits to a chiropractor. If necessary, the employer/insurer can approve additional visits for chiropractic care.
- If you cannot work due to your injury, you may receive total disability benefits. If your work injury prevents you from working at all, you may be eligible to receive total disability benefits. These benefits will cover 66 and 2/3 percent of your average weekly wage (or up to a maximum amount that changes annually).
- If you can return to work in a light-duty role, you may qualify for partial disability benefits. If you can return to work only in a light-duty, lesser-paying role, you may qualify for benefits that will cover 66 and 2/3 percent of the difference between what you earn now and your average weekly wage before your injury (again, subject to the cap).
- You can appeal a denied claim. If your employer or its insurer denies your claim for workers’ comp benefits, you can appeal the decision. You (or your lawyer) must file Form 33 (Request that Claim Be Assigned for Hearing) with the Industrial Commission. Often, a worker and employer/insurer can settle the dispute through mediation and without the need for a hearing. If you need to appeal a denied claim, it will be crucial to have a lawyer on your side who is knowledgeable in workers’ compensation law and who is also an experienced negotiator.
- You cannot sue your employer for a work injury. Typically, workers’ compensation benefits are your exclusive remedy against your employer. However, if a non-employer “third party” caused your injury – for instance, a negligent driver hit you, or you suffered harmed due to a defective product – you could bring a lawsuit against that party. The lawsuit may lead to damages that exceed what workers’ comp provides.
Our Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Can Help You
If you face any type of dispute with your employer or its insurance company about your workers’ compensation benefits, you should not wait to get legal help. Get in touch with Warren & Kallianos as soon as possible. We will bring more than 54 years of combined legal experience to your case and a record of achieving positive results for injured workers and their families in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina. Contact us today and get started with a free consultation.