North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act
In 1929 the state legislature of North Carolina passed the Workers’ Compensation Act. The goal of this law is to benefit workers that were injured on the job, and expedite the legal process of injury claims. After the law was passed, it was no longer necessary for every injured employee to go to court to receive compensation for their injury. Any accidental injury is compensated under this law. The law has evolved since 1929, and in its current format, it is full of subsections and detail. If you have been injured in a work-related incident, the attorney you hire will know the ins and outs of this law, and how it applies to your case. However, the following are six quick facts you might want to know about the Act.
- Definitions: The definitions of “injury” and “medical compensation” are provided by the act, and are crucial to understanding the North Carolina laws of workers’ compensation. According to the law, “injury” is only that which arises out of an accident. Injury does not include disease, unless the disease can be clearly linked to the employment. Injury also includes damage to personal property such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, and any prostheses. But again, the damage to these objects must be able to be clearly attributed to a certain incident at the workplace. “Medical compensation” is worth examining because it is defined quite broadly and can thus be used to compensate a wide range of injuries. Medical compensation includes, but is not limited to, surgery, hospital stays, sick travel, rehabilitative services, rehabilitative professionals that provide personal aid, prescriptions, and nursing services.
- Conditions Under Which Compensation Won’t Be Provided or Extra Compensation Will Be Provided: Compensation will not be provided to an employee who is injured on the job if they are under the influence. Evidence that the employee used non-prescribed drugs or alcohol not provided by the employer will result in the failure of their claim. Being “under the influence” or “intoxicated” means that the employee consumed a significant amount of the substance such that they were unable to control their physical or mental faculties as they normally would. Furthermore, if there is evidence to support that the employee intended to injure themselves or others, the claim will be rejected. There are some situations in which extra compensation will be provided, or the amount of compensation will be reduced. If evidence supports that the employer was not only negligent, but actively chose to not follow certain laws or regulations, the compensation awarded to the victim will be increased by 10%. On the other hand, if there is evidence that the employee chose not to follow certain regulations meant to protect their own safety, the compensation awarded to them will be reduced by 10%.
- The Two Year Deadline: The act states that, unless special circumstances dictate otherwise, no claim may be made for workers’ compensation after two years since the accident have passed. Furthermore, the right to medical compensation ends two years after the employer has paid their final check to the employee. There are exceptions to this rule as well, however, as employees may file within those two years for additional compensation or the commission may decide for itself that further compensation is in order. To note: the commission is a group of people, appointed by the governor for six-year terms, who make the final decisions on all questions and disputes over compensation.
- Medical Information Access: Filing for injury compensation requires the forfeiting of substantial medical paperwork, and can thus be extremely invasive. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides for this, and details what medical information will be released to the involved parties. “Relevant Medical Information” includes only that which has to do with the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of the work-related injury, is reasonably related to that injury, or is related to an employee’s ability to return to work or their potential level of productivity. The documents that employers have access to include medical records, written medical communication, and oral communication between the employee and any treatment or medical entities. Again, however, the subject of those correspondences must be about the diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of the injury, or related information such as the amount of time the employee will be out of work, the work the employee will be able to do after the employment, and any permanent impairment that results from the injury. There is also a strict protocol for requesting these materials that all parties must follow in these circumstances.
- Loss of Earning Potential: If the work-related injury causes a permanent reduction in the earning potential of the employee, that is, due to a new disability they are unable to perform at the salary level of their previous job, the employer must partially compensate the employee for this loss.
- Lump Sums and Metered Payments: Typically, all compensation payments made to the employee are metered out, meaning they are paid over a period of time. Unless otherwise specified, the payouts from the employer should be made on a weekly basis. It is the employer’s responsibility to file the proper documentation that states payments are being made. Payments can also be made without the employer accepting liability for the event, but only for a certain period of time. Furthermore, the commission, upon reviewing the costs and benefits to the employee and the employer, can decide to end the metered structure of payments and enable the employer to pay a lump sum to the injured party.
These six quick facts are helpful for you to know as you consider filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, many more questions are bound to come your way when you enter the legal process. To answer these questions, and to get the money you deserve, contact the lawyers at Scudder Seguin, PLLC today. Our workers’ compensation team will analyze your case and do everything possible to get you the compensation you need. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at (919) 851-3311.