What Are the Workers' Compensation Laws in Charlotte, NC?525 North Tryon Street, Suite 1729
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What Are the Workers' Compensation Laws in Charlotte, NC?
Charlotte, North Carolina, is the 16th most populated city in the U.S. and is ranked as one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas. After New York City, Charlotte has the most extensive banking center in the country, with Bank of America headquartered there, as well as Wells Fargo's home base for the east coast division. Other notable employers are Duke Energy, Atrium Health, Novant Health, Amazon, Passport, Lending Tree, and Lowes.
Although workers' compensation laws in Charlotte, NC, are generally not among the best nor the worst in the country, it does provide compensation and medical coverage for injured workers. Workers' compensation was created with the intention of providing for workers injured on the job without having to prove negligence on behalf of the employer. In return, an employer can't deny benefits if the worker gets hurt because of fault on the worker's behalf. Read on to understand more about workers' compensation laws in Charlotte, NC, and what to do if you're having a dispute with your employer.
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Is Workers' Compensation the Exclusive Remedy in North Carolina?
Yes, mostly. However, the North Carolina Court of Appeals recently released two decisions that affect the state's exclusive remedy laws. There are a few exceptions to the exclusive remedy doctrine. One being workers might be able to sue employers who intentionally commit acts that could reasonably result in an employee being injured or killed on the job, and an employee was injured or killed by those actions. The other being a worker might be able to sue if their injury is ruled not compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act and there was some negligence on behalf of the employer.
The latter involved a man suffering a stroke at work, he went to an on-site company doctor who examined him and let him go without accurately diagnosing him. He later collapsed in the parking lot and was rushed to the hospital, but the failure to diagnose left him with permanent injuries. Since the injury was decided as non-compensable under workers' compensation rules, he was allowed to bring forth a civil claim for negligence. However, the two cases that brought about a carve-out of the exclusive remedy doctrine are quite complex and the actions by the employer were particularly egregious.
When Charlotte, NC, employees are injured on the job, their employer must pay for medical treatment to provide relief from pain, treat the injury, and minimize disability. The employee is not responsible for any fees and does not have to miss work to receive these benefits. However, not every injury is covered by the NC Workers' Compensation Act.
To qualify for workers' compensation benefits, the following must be true:
- There is an injury or illness
- The injury or illness happened by accident
- The injury or illness occurred at the workplace
- The NC Workers' Compensation Act covers the employer
Injuries - An injury could be anything from a slip and fall to the development of a debilitating disease from exposure to workplace toxins. An injury that took place elsewhere but work-related activities exacerbated it can also be covered, such as an old knee injury made worse by a workplace accident. Likewise, suppose a workplace injury causes further complications, such as a broken foot causing strain on the opposite leg. In that case, that injury could be covered in addition to the initial injury. If a worker develops an occupational illness, the job must be directly and substantially correlated with the development of the illness.
The injury or illness occurred by accident - North Carolina workers' compensation laws have some uncommon conditions concerning how an injury occurs and if the injury will be covered. A worker must have been injured by an "accident," not in the regular course of their work. You may be denied a claim if an injury happens through routine actions. However, there are notable exceptions. For example, if a worker is at greater risk of developing a condition than the general population, such as an office worker developing carpal tunnel, they would likely be covered. Another exception is a back injury. However, the injury must result from a "specific traumatic incident" that happened during the regular scope of the employee's work. Other injuries must be proven to have occurred accidentally.
The law concerning "accidental" injuries is overly burdensome for North Carolina employees. Most of us think we understand what an accident is. Still, the North Carolina Industrial Commission and North Carolina workers' compensation law define an accident as "an interruption of the normal job routine arising out of, and occurring in the course, of the employee's employment."
The problem with this is when an employee gets hurt at work, they will be contacted by the insurance company adjuster and questioned about how the accident came about and if there was anything unusual about that day. An employee might respond that it was a typical day like any other up until the injury occurred. This response could then be used to deny a claim because there was no "interruption" that caused the accident. This sounds nuts, we know. That's why workers must understand workers' compensation laws in Charlotte, NC, and contact Morgan and Morgan to learn more about their rights.
The injury occurred during work - To be eligible for an NC workers' comp claim, the injury must have happened during the course and scope of your employment. This means you would not be covered if you were injured on your way to or from work or while off the clock. However, there are some exceptions. Occupational diseases can be covered but again, there has to be a substantial correlation between your condition and place of employment, and you must have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease compared to the general population.
The NC Workers' Comp Act must cover the employer - Typically, you must be an employee to an employer with three or more employees to file a claim for workers' comp. However, contractors and subcontractors are covered regardless of how many employees are employed. Often, employers will misclassify employees as independent contractors to get out of paying workers' comp claims which we will address further on.
What are Disability Benefits for Injured NC Workers?
Some workplace injuries will require time to recover, during which you will be eligible for disability benefits. Under NC workers' compensation laws, the payments are based on your average weekly wage. The timespan you can collect these payments will be temporary or permanent, and partial or total.
Temporary Disability Benefits are paid while you recover for up to 500 weeks. If your injury is minor and you can return to work before seven days have passed, you will not receive a wage benefit. However, you're entitled to wages if a doctor writes you out of work for more than seven days. If you're off work for three or more weeks, you're also entitled to the first week's wages. Wage benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage prior to your injury. If you're able to return to work but at a diminished capacity, which impacts how much you earn, you may be entitled to two-thirds of the difference in pay for up to 500 weeks. This is called Temporary Partial Disability. An exception to this area of the law is teachers and law enforcement who may get their full salary for some time while they recover.
Permanent Disability Payments are paid to workers who have become permanently disabled through some injury to specific body parts under NC workers' compensation laws. This is true whether there is a wage loss or not. At some point during recovery, the worker will reach the stage of Maximum Medical Improvement, meaning they've recovered as much as they ever will be able to. Their doctor will then determine a percentage of permanent disability and the worker will be compensated accordingly. Suppose you've been permanently disabled from a workplace injury. In that case, it's critical to talk to us at Morgan and Morgan before accepting a rating payment because you may be entitled to more than what you're offered.
Should I Take a Charlotte, NC, Workers' Compensation Settlement?
This type of settlement is known as a "clincher" agreement. It should be carefully examined before settling because it permanently resolves your claim. Special care should be taken if you've been badly injured. You would likely be better off continuing partial payment for wages and receiving ongoing medical care coverage. If you're considering a settlement, be sure to understand what you're giving up and what kind of medical expenses you'll incur in the future. Taking a settlement with the expectation that you'll receive Social Security Disability, Medicare or Medicaid is a risky move, and there are numerous factors that could be detrimental to you. The workers' compensation lawyers at Morgan and Morgan can advise you on how to proceed.
Why Do Workers' Comp Claims Get Denied?
While many employers have their worker's best interest at heart, some employers are less scrupulous and will attempt to block your ability to receive workers' comp benefits to protect themselves. Workers' comp claims are most commonly denied because of an error or omission on the claim that can be easily fixed. Other reasons for claim denials are harder to overcome. Here are a few which may require the help of an attorney:
No witnesses to the injury - It's not uncommon for workplace injuries to occur while you're alone. However, reporting the injury quickly to a supervisor and other employees can add some validity to your claim. Likewise, keeping the story the same can help overcome the lack of witnesses.
Not reporting the injury immediately - The sooner you report the injury, the better off you will be. In fact, it's a requirement to report a workplace injury within one month. When a workplace injury isn't reported in a timely manner, it may raise suspicions about where the injury occurred, and your claim may be denied because of this.
Medical records show the presence of drugs or alcohol - While workers' comp is a no-fault system, you will likely have your claim denied if you were under the influence when the injury occurred.
The employer claims the injury didn't occur at work - To be eligible for workers' comp benefits, the injury must have happened at the workplace while working. An employer may say that the injury occurred elsewhere or you weren't doing work-related duties.
The employee has no record of medical treatment - To have a successful claim, you must have sought medical treatment for it. Without this proof, your claim will be denied. It's plausible that an insurance company would not believe you were seriously injured and didn't seek medical care. It's essential to go to a doctor after a workplace injury for the benefit of your health and to create documentation to support your claim.
You were falsely misclassified as an independent contractor - Some employers misclassify employees as independent contractors when they are legally employees. The mistake could be intentional or not. If you believe you’ve been misclassified, you are protected by North Carolina’s Employee Fair Classification Act, and the North Carolina Industrial Commission will decide whether you’re an independent contractor or not.
Contact Morgan and Morgan
The workers' compensation laws in Charlotte, NC, are complicated, and working through a dispute with your employer or their insurance company can be time-consuming and exhausting. You don't have to worry about getting legal help because the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act protects you, which makes it unlawful to fire, demote, or suspend an employee because they exercised their rights to file for worker's comp. The workers' comp lawyers at Morgan and Morgan will work to find solutions to your issues and get you the compensation you deserve under North Carolina law. Our fee is free if we don't win. Contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation.