Workers’ compensation is a program that helps employees when they are injured at work. As an employee, you have a right to receive workers’ compensation if you were injured on the job or developed an illness due to your working conditions.
Employees may have other rights under workers’ compensation, provided their employer carries workers’ compensation insurance. According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NC DOI), any business with three or more employees is required to carry this type of insurance.
To learn more about your rights under workers’ compensation, read below.
There Are Four Types of Federal Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you are a federal worker or a dependent of a federal worker and you sustained a work-related injury or illness, you may be able to pursue workers’ compensation through the U.S. Department of Labor. According to their Office of Workers’ Compensation, there are four different compensation programs:
- Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program
- Federal Employees’ Compensation Program
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Program
- Federal Black Lung Program
If you fall under one of these federal worker categories, you may file a claim for workers’ compensation.
Non-Federal Workers Must Apply for Workers’ Compensation Through Their State
However, if you work for the state or local government or a private business, you must apply for workers’ compensation through the North Carolina Industrial Commission (IC).
In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must first prove you are disabled. If you are approved for workers’ compensation, you may receive benefits for your workplace injury or illness.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Cover Medical Expenses and Some Wages
Workers can apply for compensation through their employer to recover some of their damages. These benefits can vary based on the type of injury or illness the employee sustains and the length of their projected recovery.
Your benefits under workers’ compensation might include:
Wage Replacement Benefits
If you are injured while working, you might be able to receive wage replacement benefits if you cannot work. You have the right to be able to receive income while you are out of work under these circumstances. Everyone has bills they need to pay. Missing out on hours at work can severely impact your life if you do not receive any income.
That being said, your workers’ compensation benefits will not be equal to your full income. You may expect to receive up to 66 percent of your average weekly earnings. How long you will receive income benefits depends on how long it takes for you to reach “maximum medical improvement” (MMI), which is the medical standard that determines when a patient has healed enough from their injuries that they no longer need treatment.
After being injured at work, your medical costs can add up quickly. Depending on your injury, you might have a variety of medical bills to pay. If you were injured while working, you might be eligible for workers’ compensation to cover the cost of your medical treatment. Your medical treatment expenses might include costs for:
- Emergency room visits
- Diagnostic tests
- Doctor’s appointments
- Physical therapy
Your injury might also be an injury or illness that develops slowly over time. If your injury is work-related, you may be able to recover costs for your medical treatment – the damage does not have to happen suddenly or all at once. For example, if your job requires repeated movement that results in knee pain, you might be compensated for treatment as long as you can prove disability.
Vocational rehabilitation is a service that helps workers come back into the workplace after they have been injured. When you have to take time off work due to a workplace injury, it is your right to return to the same job you had before.
Vocational rehabilitation can help you have an easier transition back into the workplace. This might include reducing the amount of work temporarily or reducing your hours until you can return to work full-time. It might also involve refreshing your skills by giving additional courses or training if needed. Vocational rehabilitation may vary, depending on your injuries and job.
If your injury caused you to develop a temporary or permanent disability, G.S. § 97-29 entitles you to receive disability benefits through workers’ compensation. Disability benefits are based on whether you have total or partial disability and whether your disability is expected to be long-term.
If your injury qualifies as a disability, you may be able to receive:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Disability rates vary by which benefits program you qualify for. However, you may be able to receive benefits in gradual payments or via a lump-sum award. You can work with a workers’ compensation lawyer to petition for disability benefits, even if your claim has been denied.
Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me 828.286.3866
Not All Workers or Injuries May Be Covered by Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation does not cover certain people. These people include:
- Private contractors
- Business owners
- Domestic workers
- Employees of business with less than three employees
If you fall under one of these categories, that does not mean you will not be able to recover compensation. While employees are not allowed to file lawsuits against their employers, exempt workers may qualify to file personal injury lawsuits against clients and other liable parties. You can work with a personal injury lawyer to build your case.
Certain Injuries May Not Qualify for Workers’ Compensation
Specific injuries are not covered as well. For example, if you sustained injuries outside of the workplace while being off the clock, your injuries do not qualify for workers’ compensation.
Employers may also deny workers’ compensation benefits to employees who were intoxicated by alcohol or drugs at the time of injury. Additionally, injuries caused by employees fighting or engaging in horseplay may not be covered.
Your Rights Under Workers’ Compensation Protect You from Retaliation
You have rights under workers’ compensation. For instance, retaliation against an employee who files for workers’ compensation is illegal. An employer cannot retaliate against one of their employees due to a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation is a protected right. If an employee feels as though they are being retaliated against because of a workers’ compensation claim, they can take legal action against their employer. Retaliation might include:
- A pay cut
- Reduction or elimination of bonuses
- Lessened work hours
- Shift change
If you suspect retaliation occurred after filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should inform your lawyer so that they may help you take appropriate legal measures.
How a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help with Your Case
If you decide to work with a workers’ compensation lawyer, they can organize important materials for your case and submit a claim on your behalf. Their legal services may also involve:
- Gathering evidence that proves the severity of your injury or illness, such as medical records and imaging scans of the injury
- Getting testimony from a medical professional who can provide analysis on your injury, including how long your projected recovery might take
- Reviewing your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy
- Filling out paperwork for your claim and submitting information by appropriate deadlines
- Attending hearings on your behalf to petition for compensation
If your workers’ compensation claim was denied, your attorney can also help you file an appeal and guide you through the appeals process. Many claims get denied because of errors on the application or for having insufficient information. Your attorney can review your initial claim and make appropriate changes to help you pursue compensation.
Personal Injury Cases
In some cases, an employee may be entitled to compensation from other parties besides their employer. If this applies to your case, you may qualify to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. These options allow you to pursue compensation for other damages that you wouldn’t be able to recover with workers’ compensation, such as:
- Medical treatment costs outside of your employer’s insurer’s network
- Current and future income loss
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced earning potential
- Property damage if applicable
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of consortium
Workers may file a personal injury and workers’ compensation claim simultaneously – these claims will not affect each other.
How Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, Can Help
When a person gets injured, it can make a significant impact on their life. They might have medical bills to pay and lose hours at work. It can dig a financial hole. Workers’ compensation might be able to help you recover some of your losses. If you need workers’ compensation, our team at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, can walk you through the claims process.
If you applied for workers’ compensation but were denied, you may have the right to appeal that decision. Our team can work with you to file your appeal and fight for workers’ compensation on your behalf. You have the right to receive workers’ compensation if you were injured on the job—let our team help protect those rights. Call us today at (828) 286-3866 for a free consultation.