Certain risks come with any job, whether sitting in an office chair every day or climbing on buildings as part of a construction crew. Accepting these risks is part of accepting the responsibilities that come with that particular job. However, when you are injured because of the neglect of someone else, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Under North Carolina law, any business that employs three or more workers must carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover any injury at the workplace. Companies that fail to carry this insurance may be subjected to criminal charges. Because of this, it is important to understand your rights and what you may be entitled to if you are injured on the job.
Qualifying for a workers’ compensation claim may seem straightforward. Unfortunately, it may not be as simple as sustaining an injury while at work. When accepting the job, there are certain risks that are accepted as a part of that as well. In Monroe, North Carolina, workers’ compensation may only be filed if the injury does not occur as a result of the regular risks of the job. To put it more plainly, the accident must occur outside of the expected risks of the position. This can include a slip and fall, machine error, etc.
There are many routines that are a part of any job. Workers’ compensation is designed to protect employees from injuries caused by accident or neglect; therefore, injuries resulting from routines within the scope of the job are not covered.
For example, if you work in a warehouse and part of the job requires lifting heavy boxes and you twist your ankle while performing this duty, the injury is likely not to be covered by workers’ compensation because you are performing the routine duties of your job and the risk of twisting your ankle is a part of that duty.
If, however, your employer brings in a new piece of equipment to assist you in lifting the boxes and the equipment fails, causing you an injury, you are more likely to successfully file a workers’ compensation claim because the injury, while part of the routine of your job, was caused by the failure of the equipment.
You may have many concerns about what may happen if you are injured on the job regarding how you will continue to earn a paycheck or pay for your medical expenses. Through a properly filed workers’ compensation claim, you may be entitled to reimbursement of past, present, and even future medical expenses and any lost wages as a result of the injury. It is important to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
Common types of benefits include:
Some benefits can be awarded in partiality. For example, there are some benefits, such as back injuries or injuries like carpal tunnel, that may be aggravated at work but are not solely the result of work. This is often part of the claim process and can be a frustrating part of obtaining the compensation you feel you are entitled to.
Other benefits may include vocational benefits such as job replacement services should your injury require a change in career. Additionally, if the injury results in death, funeral expenses and wage replacement benefits may be provided to the surviving family.
If you seek a workers’ compensation claim, you will not be entitled to also seek a personal injury suit against your employer. That means you may not additionally file a lawsuit to seek additional damages. This does not apply, however, if you can prove that there was significant negligence on behalf of your employer in preventing injury or accidents.
There is a misconception that workers’ compensation claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits. They are not. One major misconception between the two is that workers’ compensation claims cannot seek compensation for other consequences of injury, such as pain and suffering. These types of claims would need to be brought against any potential third parties if it is to be a part of any personal injury litigation.
If you file a workers’ compensation claim and still wish to file a personal injury lawsuit, it must be filed against a third party whose negligence is proven to be a contributing factor to the injury that you received. For example, if your job requires the use of a specific tool or piece of machinery and it fails, causing your injury, you can file for workers’ compensation with your employer, but you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tool or machinery.
As in any claim, there are mitigating circumstances that can determine a complete, partial, or denial of workers’ compensation benefits. These include:
In order to file a workers’ compensation claim, there are several important steps that you should take.
It is not common, but there are instances where claims are denied. Most often, claims are not filed on time or are inappropriately completed. A workers’ compensation claim could also be denied for:
All workplace injuries or illnesses (worker’s compensation does cover some diseases) must be reported within 30 days of the accident to the employer. Additionally, within two years, the claim must be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission in order to legally establish the claim of an injury.
Once the forms are filed, the process moves generally quickly compared to other legal procedures. Within two weeks, a response will be received regarding the decision about the claim. If the claim is denied, you will be provided with an appeal date. It is vital to meet this deadline. At this point, if you have not already done so, contact a workers’ compensation attorney to help you with your appeal.
In general, a notice to appeal will be filed within 14 days of receiving the denial. There will then be a mediation process that should be attended by both you and your lawyer. A mediator will make recommendations based on the claim before the process moves to a formal procedure with a judge. Evidence is crucial in this step as all documentation, including notification to your employer, medical records, any witness statements, etc., need to be in order, so the chances of a fair outcome are maximized throughout the proceedings.
When you seek the assistance of an attorney to help with your workers’ compensation claim, there are several benefits that they will provide. However, none of the benefits will begin until you sign an authorization form that allows your attorney to begin collecting vital information about your case.
Once your attorney has received your authorization, they will notify the employer’s insurance company and the Industrial Commission that they have been retained for services and will be representing you through the process. Your lawyer will ask for any statements or paperwork that you may have provided to these entities prior to obtaining their services. They will seek this from both you and them.
The lawyer may then seek statements from any potential witnesses. They will also speak with your employer, obtain any medical records, and, if necessary, may enlist the help of an investigator.
Hiring an attorney does not guarantee any results. Additionally, it is imperative that you communicate any information about the current claim or previous claims that you may have been a part of. Insurance companies keep a nationwide database of persons who have filed workers’ compensation claims in the past. Even if you have previously filed a claim, that does not make you ineligible for a new claim, but it is information that your attorney must know.
If you have been injured on the job, you may be entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim. No matter the advice you have received from others, it is important to have your injury evaluated by medical professionals and a personal injury lawyer. Each workplace injury is unique, and so are the mitigating factors surrounding it.
Our expert attorneys at The Bollinger Law Firm, PC are ready to go to work for you. We will review the details of your injury, help you prepare and file the necessary paperwork, and stand up for your rights with your employer and their insurance company. If you have questions about your potential workers’ compensation claim, contact our offices today.