Things Everyone Should Know About Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina
The Bollinger Law Firm has represented injured workers in North Carolina for several years. During those years, we have found that injured workers often do not know their rights, obligations or benefits under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. This page is meant to provide answers to several frequently asked questions.
These questions and answers are general in nature and should not be used as specific legal advice for your case. However, these questions and answers do outline common problems and legal issues that arise in workers’ compensation cases.
If you have been injured at work, you may call our office for a free legal consultation with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers. We will be happy to discuss the specific facts and issues of your case with you.
Are all on-the-job injuries covered by workers’ compensation?
No. Injuries are covered only if they arise in the course and scope of your employment and in a compensable fashion. You must have suffered an injury by accident, by specific traumatic incident or by an occupational disease process. Each of these terms is extensively defined in the law.
Basically, an accident means that something unusual had to happen, such as a trip, slip or fall, which causes you to be hurt. However, any unusual circumstance may constitute an accident. A specific traumatic incident has to be related to the work assigned, and only applies if you injure your back or develop a hernia.
An occupational disease occurs when you contract one of approximately 20 listed occupational diseases, such as blisters, anthrax, tenosynovitis, asbestosis, various types of poisoning, hearing loss and other conditions. In addition, if you have a disease that is characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed, then you may have an occupational disease.
How long do I have to file a claim after I’m injured?
You have two years to file the claim with the Industrial Commission, under most circumstances. You are required to report the accident to your employer in writing within 30 days. If you have an occupational disease, file as soon as the doctor tells you about it. When we represent an injured employee, we file the claim with the Industrial Commission so that you do not have to worry about the two-year limit.
When should I hire a lawyer?
You should hire a lawyer if one or more of these issues are present in your case:
a) Your case has been denied
b) Your case has been accepted, but you are out of work and are not receiving your weekly checks to cover your wage loss
c) The insurance company has understated your average weekly wage and therefore your compensation rate
d) You are having trouble getting the medical treatment that you believe you need
e) The case has been neither accepted nor denied, but quite a bit of time has passed since you were hurt, and you are not able to get a response from the employer or insurance company on your own
f) You have been released by your treating doctor, but you feel you need additional medical treatment
g) You have been injured at work and subsequently fired by your employer
h) You have returned to work at a lesser paying job, and your employer or insurance company does not want to make up the difference in wages
i) You have been released by your doctor and rated for disability, but you believe you are entitled to a greater disability rating
j) You have been offered a settlement by the insurance company, but you don’t have any idea whether it is a fair settlement or not
k) You simply want the guidance of an experienced professional to help you through the maze of workers’ compensation.
How much will it cost for me to hire a lawyer?
Most experienced workers’ compensation lawyers charge a 25 percent contingent-fee on the benefits obtained for you through the Industrial Commission procedures. This means that if we get your weekly checks started for you, we would be entitled to request a fee of one-fourth of the weekly check amounts. Or, if we settle your case for $10,000.00 we would be entitled to request a fee of one fourth of that amount, or $2,500.00. The expenses of pursuing your case are in addition to the 25 percent fee. Legal fees must be approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, so lawyers tend to charge about the same amounts all across the state. If you are going to pay the same amount for an experienced lawyer as you will for an inexperienced lawyer, you should choose a more experienced workers’ compensation attorney with whom you are comfortable.
How do I go about hiring a lawyer?
First you should look for an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. At The Bollinger Law Firm, PC, we handle at least 100 workers’ compensation cases a year, representing only the injured employees. Bob Bollinger is a Board-Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law. Mr. Bollinger’s workers’ compensation trial experience can be reviewed on the Industrial Commission website, where the decisions in more than 90 cases he has tried are posted.
Choose An Attorney Who Will Be On Your Side
There are a number of fine workers’ compensation lawyers in North Carolina, and you should tell any lawyer that you are thinking about hiring based on how much experience he or she has with North Carolina workers’ compensation cases. Beyond that, you should try to hire a lawyer who has time to talk with you about your case initially and with whom you are comfortable discussing medical issues, your income and your hopes for the future.
Just call us at 704-879-1800. We proudly offer free consultations where you can determine if our firm is right for you.