Remote work expanded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw a decline as lockdown restrictions eased. However, the boom in remote-accessibility technology, like Slack and Zoom, has led many businesses to continue providing remote positions. Forbes reports that as many as 25% of jobs in North America could be remote by the end of 2022.
The increased presence of work-from-home positions inherently complicates workers’ compensation claims. In the past, these claims typically stemmed from injuries sustained on jobsites, like in a restaurant or construction zone. Now, many workers are clocking in from their home offices with less supervision. The nature of remote workers’ compensation claims could make linking your injuries to your employment difficult.
In This Article
When Does Workers’ Compensation Apply?
Generally, if your injury occurred while you were working, you’ll be eligible for workers’ compensation. These are the specific qualifiers for workers’ compensation claims in North and South Carolina:
North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Coverage
North Carolina law (G.S. §97-3) states that employers are responsible for having workers’ compensation insurance to cover those who are injured or killed while on the job. According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, this law applies to most businesses with three or more employees.
Injuries sustained while working at home aren’t exempt from this statute. Therefore, if your employer meets this qualification, they could be responsible for compensating you for on-the-job injuries.
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Coverage
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws (S.C. Ann §42-1) are similar to those of North Carolina. Businesses with four or more employees must provide workers’ compensation in South Carolina. If your employer meets this definition and you sustained your injuries during the course of employment in South Carolina, you could qualify for workers’ compensation.
Both South Carolina and North Carolina’s workers’ compensation statutes extend coverage to those working from home. The challenge with these cases is that you must provide sufficient evidence proving your injuries occurred while you were working.
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Remote Work and Repetitive Motion Injuries
Remote workers don’t typically face the same risks as employees in professions that require manual labor. For example, construction workers can easily be injured while working with heavy machinery or handheld tools like jackhammers or saws. When you’re at home working on your laptop, it’s unlikely that using heavy machinery is part of your job description.
However, remote workers are exposed to the risk of repetitive motion injuries, such as:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome frequently strikes those who spend long hours using their computers. According to Mayo Clinic, it occurs when the median nerve (which runs from the forearm, through the wrist, and into the hand) gets compressed. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in the affected hand and/or arm.
- Back injury: According to the Journal of Craniovertebral Junction & Spine, lower back pain occurs in more than 80% of people who use their computers for more than four hours a day.
Work-from-home employees can suffer from a range of other injuries, as well. The type of injuries you can suffer while working remotely entirely depends on the course of your employment.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Workers’ compensation covers two primary losses in North and South Carolina:
- Medical treatment: Once your workers’ compensation claim has been approved, you can receive financial assistance for obtaining medical treatment. Typically, your employer will direct you to a doctor who works with their workers’ compensation plan. If you see a different doctor, you risk not having your medical treatment covered.
- Lost wages: Some work-from-home medical conditions, like a severe back injury, can prevent you from working. If this occurs, you may receive compensation for your lost wages. The maximum coverage for lost wages differs between North and South Carolina.
Other benefits, like disability, may apply to your case, too.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Pursue a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
No, you aren’t required by law to hire a lawyer to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. However, workers’ compensation claims involving remote work are complex. Claimants seeking compensation must prove that their injuries occurred within their scope of employment. If they fail to do so, their claim could be denied.
A workers’ compensation lawyer can provide you with the following services:
- Review your medical records to understand the extent of your injuries
- Work to prove a link between your injuries and your job
- Communicate with any relevant parties, including insurers and employers
- Provide clerical support – a lawyer can guide you through the documentation that workers’ compensation claims necessitate
- Explain your legal options to you
You don’t need to manage a remote workers’ compensation case claim alone. With the assistance of a lawyer, you’ll have support as you navigate common case roadblocks, like claim denials. In the case of a denial, your workers’ comp attorney can act as your representative during the appeals or mediation process.
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Start Working With a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
Remote workers’ compensation claims operate in an undoubtedly confusing area of law. Our team at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC is familiar with the intricacies of these cases. We can provide you with a free, no-obligation case review. During this initial meeting, we can review your work injuries and inform you if you have a case. Contact our office to get started today.