If you get hurt on the job in North Carolina, you’re not just left out in the cold. Workers’ compensation laws make sure you get the medical care you need. These laws also entitle you to compensation for the wages you would have earned were you not injured and out of work.
Am I entitled to workers’ compensation?
If you’re working in North Carolina and your employer has more than three employees, then you’re entitled to workers’ compensation.
What benefits will I get?
Workers’ compensation will cover all of your medical costs. They have to foot the bill for any treatment you need until you reach your point of maximum medical improvement (MMI).
If you’re hurt too badly to work at all, you’re entitled to 2/3 of your pre-injury weekly salary. If you can work only in a limited fashion (for shorter hours or with abridged duties, for example), you’re entitled to 2/3 of the difference between your post-injury paycheck and your pre-injury paycheck. If you end up making less than 75% of your pre-injury wages, you’re also entitled to vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation is training to work around your injury and to enter a new line of work.
Finally, you’re entitled to compensation for any point of “maximum medical improvement”. Your doctor will determine the extent of your loss of function and you’ll be compensated on a prorated scale to make up for the wages that you would have earned if you had full use of the injured body part.
How much compensation will I receive?
Let’s break down an example to illustrate how the amount of workers’ compensation is calculated.
Joe is a construction worker for Builders, Inc. and earns an average of $750 per week. He was walking across a job site when he slipped on a patch of ice and fell. He broke his wrist and hit his head. For a month, Joe will be too hurt to work at all. For another 2 months after that, he won’t have enough functionality in his hand to do construction work and instead will do part-time clerical work for the company for $200 per week. Even when he can return to his old job as a construction worker, his doctors say he’ll have pain and limited motion in his wrist for the rest of his life.
So, how much compensation is Joe entitled to?
Builders, Inc. has more than 3 employees, so Joe qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. First, he won’t have to pay a cent for his medical care. The original trip to the emergency room, tests to determine the extent of his injuries, and all other immediate care is covered. Going forward, Builders, Inc. has to cover his follow-up visits. Joe needs physical therapy to regain the use of his wrist and Builders, Inc. has to cover that, too.
For the first month after his injury, Joe can’t work at all. That means he’s entitled to 2/3 of his pre-injury wages for that month. In Joe’s case, that’s $500 per week (2/3 of $750). For the next two months, Joe is working part-time and for lower wages than he was before the accident. He’s entitled to 2/3 of the different between his old wages and his new ones. The difference is $550 ($750 - $200), so he’ll get about $366. That means he’s earning $566 total per week for that two-month period - his $200 wages plus $366 in workers’ compensation.
After three months, Joe will be back at his old job earning $750 per week. However, he’s going to suffer from a permanent partial disability in his hand. How do we know how much that permanent damage is worth in workers’ compensation? The North Carolina Industrial dictates the guidelines for evaluating permanent disability. For moderate loss of motion in the wrist, Joe is entitled to 20% of the value of his hand. In North Carolina, a hand is considered to be worth 200 weeks’ worth of compensation. Since Joe lost 20% of the functionality in his hand, he’s entitled to 20% of 200 weeks’ worth of compensation, which is 40 weeks’ worth. At $750 per week, the damage to his hand merits compensation of $30,000.
The insurance carrier for Builders, Inc. will get a second opinion to ensure that the evaluation of Joe’s injuries and permanent disability is accurate.
The Bottom Line
If you get hurt at work, you have the right to compensation for your temporary medical care, your lost wages, and any permanent loss of function and wages. Contact our an experienced attorney at SeiferFlatow - we can help you to get the composition you're entitled to.