INJURED AT WORK? DON’T FACE THE INSURANCE COMPANY ALONE!
If you were injured at work, you may be able to eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. We are here to discuss your case and assist you through the process. From beginning to end, the worker’s compensation process can be tedious and may take many unexpected turns. We will fight for you to ensure that you receive the proper medical care and maximize the benefits you are entitled to receive. Call us today!
The worker’s compensation practice group of Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, specifically focuses its efforts on guiding injured workers through the claim process with the Industrial Commission. Attorney Joshua B. Farmer has been practicing workers’ compensation law in North Carolina and South Carolina for nine years. Joshua is a zealous advocate, in and out of the courtroom, helping clients obtain benefits, medical care, and settlements that they deserve. He has obtained settlements in injury cases totalling millions of dollars for all clients. A member of the North and South Carolina bars, Joshua is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, has received the Avvo Client’s Choice award, and has been Peer Rated for Highest Level of Professional Experience through Martindale-Hubbell. Attorney Gabrielle R. Valentine has years of experience representing injured workers and understands each client’s needs. Having received a certificate in employment studies during law school, Gabrielle is able to bring a unique perspective to the worker’s compensation practice. Staff member Alexis Santos is very dedicated to doing whatever she can to support and serve our clients who have been injured at work. We serve clients in Western North Carolina and in Upstate South Carolina. You can meet the members of our worker’s compensation practice group at one of our conveniently located offices in Rutherfordton, North Carolina; Shelby, North Carolina; Morganton, North Carolina; or Spartanburg, South Carolina.
NORTH CAROLINA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT
Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee of an employer with three or more employees is entitled to compensation for certain occupational diseases or injuries that occur by accident and that arise out of and in the course of the employee’s employment. If you have been injured on your job or contracted an occupational disease, contact us today to talk about your case and discuss whether the injury constitutes a compensable injury by accident or occupational disease.
WORKER’S COMPENSATION PROCESS
In order to initiate a worker’s compensation claim, it is important that you immediately put your employer on notice of the injury according to your employer’s policy. Once your employer has received notice of the injury, a Form 18 should be filed with the Industrial Commission to formally initiate the filing of a claim with the Industrial Commision. Your employer will then decide whether to accept or deny the claim. If the claim is accepted, your employer should begin paying medical benefits by paying for treatment that they authorize. If the claim is denied, you will be able to request a hearing with the Industrial Commission to determine whether you are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. If your claim is accepted, your employer will pay for your medical treatment until you reach maximum medical improvement, which is when your doctor determines that you have recovered from the injury as much as possible. At this point, your doctor will consider your condition, determine if you should have permanent work restrictions, and may assign a disability rating if you have not fully recovered. If you are still experiencing pain and complications from your injury, you may be able to request that your employer pay for you to get a second opinion as to further treatment or as to the disability rating that you received. Once you reach maximum medical improvement, the insurance company will most likely offer to settle the claim.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS
Benefits in a worker’s compensation case can generally be broken down into two categories: medical benefits and indemnity benefits, which are benefits to compensate you for lost time at work, a decrease in wages, or a loss in your earning capacity. Medical benefits include medical treatment and prescriptions that have been approved by the employer or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier or the Industrial Commission, reimbursement for mileage to and from authorized medical treatment, and in some cases, attendant care. The most important calculation for indemnity benefits is your compensation rate, which is based on your average weekly wage. If you worked for the employer for 52 weeks prior to the date of injury, your average weekly wage is calculated by adding your wages for the 52 weeks prior to the injury and dividing by 52 weeks. If you missed more than 7 consecutive days during the 52 weeks prior to your injury, the time missed will be deducted from the 52 weeks that your total wages are divided by. If you did not work for 52 weeks prior to the injury or if you are in a special class of employment, such as a firefighter, the Industrial Commission has special rules as to the calculation of your average weekly wage. Your compensation rate is two-thirds of your average weekly wage. If you are out of work due to restrictions imposed by your doctor, you are most likely entitled to temporary total disability benefits equal to your compensation rate on a weekly basis. However, if you are still working but for a lower pay rate than pre-injury, your indemnity benefit will be two-thirds of the difference between your decreased wage and your average weekly wage (discussed above).
TYPES OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SETTLEMENTS
If you have returned to work earning the same or greater wage than you did prior to the injury, the most appropriate settlement in your case will most likely be based on the disability rating assigned by your doctor; this is called a Form 26A settlement. For each body part, the Industrial Commission has designated a value equal to a specified number of weeks. The settlement value is computed by multiplying the number of weeks by your compensation rate and by the disability rating assigned by your doctor. However, even after the insurance company pays the amount described above, they will still be liable for two years from the date of your last medical treatment they covered, for future medical care. The insurance company may be willing to pay you more money to close the medical portion of the claim; this is called a clincher settlement. If you have not returned to work or if you are working in a position earning less than you did pre-injury, the employer can continue to pay you weekly benefits for up to five hundred weeks from the date of injury. In order to receive benefits past the five-hundred week period, you will have to request a hearing with the Industrial Commission. However, the insurance company may offer to pay you a lump sum for indemnity benefits to avoid having to pay you every week for the remainder of five hundred weeks from the date of injury. Important factors to consider are whether the doctor assigned permanent job restrictions and whether you will be able to find a job making the same amount of money you made prior to the injury. In cases involving serious injuries, it is important to have an advocate on your side to either informally negotiate with the insurance company or hold a mediation to make sure you do not settle for anything less than your case is worth!