Injuries at work can have serious consequences. However, workers’ compensation is mandated by North Carolina law to see that compensation is given when appropriate. Unfortunately, though, workers’ compensation can be a complicated process. That’s why one of the most effective ways to get the compensation you deserve is by working with a Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyer. Among those complex aspects of workers’ compensation is the injury ratings system.
Workers’ compensation injuries in North Carolina are divided into groups in a few different ways. One of these is temporary disability or permanent disability. Temporary injuries are those where a worker, even if entirely unable to work, is expected to be able to return to work in full capacity after a full recovery.
Permanent injuries, though, are those that are going to never properly heal or recover to the point where the worker is able to perform as they had prior to the injury. In other words, they are likely to have sustained permanent, lifelong damage from the injury. Sometimes, these injuries can also be considered catastrophic injuries.
Whether an injury is temporary or permanent affects the compensation that a worker will receive. Additionally, within permanent disability, there are different levels of compensation that a worker can receive based on their injury. Whether or not the injury is partial or complete and the body part that sustained the injury will have an impact on the compensation received.
These two elements combined determine the number of weeks for which a person permanently injured will receive workers’ compensation wage replacement. In most cases, wage replacement is roughly two-thirds of someone’s average weekly wages, subject to a maximum amount set by the state.
If a body part is permanently disabled, the state of North Carolina has created a number of weeks for which compensation should be paid for the complete loss of that body part. The length of time changes, depending on the body part, from as little as ten weeks for any toe other than a big toe to as high as 300 weeks for someone’s back.
Injury ratings come in when the loss of use is not complete but partial. Typically, the doctor overseeing your care will wait to see what kind of improvement healing, therapy, and recovery can bring to the injury. However, once it has reached a plateau where further improvement is considered unlikely, your doctor will determine that it has reached “maximum medical improvement.”
When an injury has reached that point, the doctor will give it a rating from 0-100, which corresponds with the level of impairment the body part has sustained. You will then receive compensation for the same percentage of weeks compared to a total loss of use of that body part. For instance, the total loss of use of a leg results in 200 weeks of compensation, so a 50% loss of use of the leg will result in 100 weeks of compensation.
A: In most cases, the initial assessment and rating that is given to a worker will be done by the workers’ comp insurance company’s approved doctor. However, the worker does have the right to seek a second opinion by a doctor of their choosing, paid for by the employer.
To exercise this right, though, they must show good cause and get approval from the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees the workers’ compensation process. Working with a lawyer can help you make a clear case for good cause.
A: Working with an on-the-job injury lawyer can be critical to ensuring that you get the workers’ compensation package that you deserve. Their knowledge of the regulations overseeing workers’ compensation can help you understand what kind of compensation you should be expecting in your situation.
Additionally, they can assist you in a number of different ways, including negotiations with the insurance company, helping you seek a second medical opinion, properly navigating the paperwork and bureaucracy necessary to get workers’ compensation, and representing you and making your case in any hearings and appeal processes.
A: Workers’ compensation decisions can, in many cases, be appealed. However, the appeal process can be especially complex and difficult. It’s important that you follow proper procedures with regard to forms and submit information to the proper departments. It’s also important that you keep proper documentation, as this will be critical to proving why you deserve a more comprehensive compensation package.
A: There is a seven-day waiting period before workers’ comp wage replacement begins in North Carolina. That is because the injured worker will only receive wage replacement for those first seven days if they are out more than 21 days. If a worker is out more than seven days but less than 22, they will be paid for however many days they are out, beginning on the eighth day.
Injuries at work can cause significant harm and damage to employees, so it’s important that they get proper compensation. Unfortunately, the workers’ compensation insurance companies responsible for paying that compensation aren’t often eager to pay out proper compensation. One of the most effective ways to make sure you are getting everything you’re owed is by having a workers’ compensation lawyer helping with your case.
At Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler, we can help you through the workers’ compensation process. We can give you an idea of the kind of compensation that you should expect to receive and represent you in pursuit of that compensation. In the case of injury ratings, we can help you attempt to allow your own doctor to rate your injury and not just rely on the insurance company’s doctor’s assessment. If you’ve got a workplace injury you’re ready to discuss, contact us today.