If you suffer a compensable accident at work or an occupational disease, the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act determines what benefits you are entitled to receive. An injured worker is entitled to receive, at no cost to him or her, the medical treatment for any item which is reasonably calculated to provide relief, lessen the period of disability or effect a cure for the injured worker. The workers’ compensation carrier is entitled to pick the medical providers, with some exceptions.
In addition, the injured worker is entitled to receive a weekly indemnity check while he or she is either completely written out of work for the injury, or is restricted to work that the employer cannot accommodate. This money is referred to as a temporary total disability payment. The amount of this check may be calculated using different methods, depending on factors such as the employee’s length of employment prior to the injury. The goal is to most nearly approximate the amount the injured employee would be earning if not for the injury. The weekly check may continue for up to 500 weeks under the law, with some possibility of extending it beyond that in certain cases.
Alternatively, if the worker can do part-time work, he or she would be entitled to a partial check while not able to earn the amount earned prior to the date of injury. This is known as a temporary partial disability payment and is essentially two-thirds of the difference between the pre-injury average weekly wage and the post-injury average weekly wage.
The medical treatment continues until the authorized treating doctor determines the worker has reached “maximum medical improvement.” This is a point at which the injured worker is not expected to improve medically from the injury or disease. The worker may not, however, be back to what he or she was able to make before the injury. At this time, the doctor will determine what, if any, permanent partial disability rating to assign to the injured body part. This rating is a presumed disability based on damage to the body part. The doctor will also determine what, if any, permanent work restrictions the injured worker has due to the injury.
Sometimes the insurance carrier will pay for a worker to receive vocational rehabilitation services. This can include assistance in finding other employment, or further training and education to learn new skills for employment.
Under the Act, injured workers are not able to recover for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other damages which may be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit.
If you have been hurt at work and have questions, the best thing to do is to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Initial consultations are free, and you may be able to get a lot of your questions answered. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson have decades of experience and are committed to protecting your rights and to helping you get the benefits to which you may be entitled for your injury.
Anna Hamrick is Workers’ Compensation attorney and a partner at the law firm of Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. To learn more about Anna and her area of practice please click here: www.grimesandteich.com/anna-hamrick.html