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Many people working in the Rutherfordton area of North Carolina face various hazards at work, and on-the-job injuries can happen in countless unpredictable ways. It is vital for everyone to know what to do to recover from an on-the-job injury in Rutherfordton and the value of hiring an experienced attorney to assist them with their recovery efforts.
Virtually every employer in the state must have workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance serves two important purposes: to shield employers in the state from civil liability for injured workers’ damages and to provide injured employees with the financial support they need to recover from their injuries. The state enforces some of the most robust workers’ compensation laws in the country, and the right attorney can help you take full advantage of them in your recovery efforts.
The attorneys of Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler have successfully helped many victims of on-the-job injuries recover in Rutherfordton, and we can leverage our experience for you. The average worker is likely to have many important legal questions about the workers’ compensation claim filing process and the issues they may face as they seek benefits for their injury. Our goal is to help each of our clients recover as fully as possible under North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws.
Some industries are inherently more dangerous than others, but everyone working in Rutherfordton faces a risk of injury at work. For example, a construction worker may face a greater risk of an on-the-job injury every day than an office worker, but it is still possible for the office worker to develop a medical condition from work or to suffer an unexpected injury from an unforeseen safety issue in their workplace. Some of the most commonly cited on-the-job injuries in the Rutherfordton area include:
These are only a few possible examples of how on-the-job injuries might happen in the Rutherfordton area. If you have sustained any type of injury while working, it is important to report the injury to your supervisor immediately. They are legally required to create an incident report and provide you with the materials needed to file your workers’ compensation claim. If your employer denies you access to the claim forms, interferes with the claim filing process in any way, or retaliates against you by terminating you from your position or any other adverse action, you need to consult a Rutherfordton on the job injury attorney as soon as possible.
Most employees in the state are covered by their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance policies, but there are some exemptions. Independent contractors, freelancers, and subcontractors are not covered by workers’ compensation, nor are domestic workers and employees of some sawmill and logging operations. Additionally, the state’s requirement for workers’ compensation insurance applies to employers with three or more employees and agricultural employers with 10 or more employees.
Once you confirm your eligibility status based on the nature of your employment, you must then determine whether the injury itself qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, as long as an injury or illness directly results from the performance of your job duties, it will qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. The exceptions to this would be injuries sustained from working under the influence of drugs or alcohol, horseplay in the workplace, or intentionally violating workplace safety regulations.
If you caused your own injury through an honest mistake or simple negligence, it would not necessarily disqualify you from workers’ compensation benefits. If someone else at your work caused your injury, or if you were injured by the actions of a third party, you could not only have grounds to file a workers’ compensation claim but also a personal injury claim against whoever caused your injury.
After reporting your injury to your supervisor, they will provide you with the materials needed to file your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. This will be similar to how you would file any other type of insurance claim, except for the fact that your employer plays a prominent role in the process. Before you can submit your claim to their insurance company, you will likely be required to visit a local workers’ compensation physician for a disability rating. This doctor will review your injury and assign a numerical indicator of the severity of the injury from 1 to 100.
After completing the medical review, you should be ready to submit your claim to the insurance carrier. The insurer may reach out to you and/or your employer for additional information or to ask questions about your claim. Once they complete the review process, they will either accept or deny your claim. If your claim is denied, you may have grounds to appeal, and your Rutherfordton on-the-job injury attorney can guide you through this process. They may also file a complaint with the North Carolina Industrial Commission for you.
If your claim is approved, the insurance carrier will provide you with a determination of benefits, explaining the compensation it will provide for your injury. Generally, an injured worker can expect medical expense coverage and disability benefits. Medical expense coverage is straightforward, and your medical benefits from the insurance carrier are likely to cover all medical treatment you need to reach maximum medical improvement from your injury. This includes future medical treatment costs if you need ongoing rehabilitative care.
Disability benefits awarded to an injured worker will vary based on the severity of their injury. Partial disability benefits are awarded when the worker is still able to work after their on-the-job injury but cannot earn the same level of income as they did previously. If you are only able to handle light duty or alternative work at a lower pay rate after your injury, partial disability benefits can make up the difference in your earning power. You will need to report your recovery updates and your weekly income to the insurance carrier to maintain your eligibility for partial disability benefits.
If you cannot work at all due to your injury, you will receive temporary total disability benefits. These will be paid each week at a rate of two-thirds of your average weekly income. The insurance company will assess your average weekly income based on the past year of your earnings with your employer. These payments can continue for up to 500 weeks or until you are able to return to your job. If you are still unable to work after 500 weeks, it is possible to qualify for an extension of your benefits. Permanent disability benefits are rarely awarded in the state, and if you have been permanently disabled by your on-the-job injury, your employer’s insurance carrier may offer a lump sum settlement. Your attorney can review the offer and help determine whether it is acceptable, given the details of your condition.
When your employer has appropriate workers’ compensation insurance coverage, you typically cannot file a civil suit against them in response to an on-the-job injury. However, you can file a suit against your employer if they do not have insurance if they directly and intentionally caused your injury, or if they compelled you to perform a task with a virtual certainty of causing an injury.
It is also possible for your on-the-job injury to have occurred due to the actions of a third party. If so, you can file a civil suit against them after you file your workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation benefits may cover your medical expenses and a portion of your missing income, but you can recover the rest of your lost income through your civil suit. A third-party personal injury claim may yield not only compensation for the rest of your lost income that workers’ compensation insurance won’t cover but also compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced.
Proving fault is not necessary for most workers’ compensation claims, and it is possible for you to still recover benefits even if you caused or partially caused your claimed damages. However, fault is a more serious issue in a personal injury case, and if you bear any measure of shared liability for the incident, it will prevent you from filing a personal injury claim. North Carolina upholds a contributory negligence law. This means that if a plaintiff in a personal injury case bears any measure of fault for causing their claimed damages, this would negate their ability to claim compensation from a defendant.
One of the most common ways an individual can have grounds for a third-party civil suit in response to an on-the-job injury is a vehicle accident. If you are driving for work and another driver causes a crash, you can file your workers’ compensation claim because driving was part of your job duties. However, you could then proceed with an auto insurance claim and a personal injury suit against the at-fault driver much the same way as you would after any other vehicle accident.
It is technically possible to file a workers’ compensation claim without hiring legal counsel, but you would face several significant risks in doing so. First, you could miss procedural deadlines that jeopardize your claim, or you could encounter resistance from your employer and/or their insurance carrier that you will not know how to address on your own. If you do succeed with filing your claim, you could receive a settlement offer that is unfair, but you may not know otherwise without an attorney advising you. It is also possible to overlook additional avenues of compensation that may be available to you and could enhance your overall recovery.
When you have an experienced Rutherfordton on-the-job injury attorney representing you, you are not only more likely to succeed with your workers’ compensation claim but also more likely to secure maximum compensation for your injury. The attorneys at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler have extensive experience confronting the largest workers’ compensation insurance carriers on behalf of our clients, and we know the tactics they sometimes use to minimize their liability to pay out claims. When you have been hurt on the job, we can guide you through all the legal proceedings ahead of you as you seek compensation for your medical expenses and inability to work.
Our team will help complete the claim filing process and address any problems you encounter with your employer or their insurance carrier. If you disagree with your workers’ compensation doctor’s assessment of your condition, we can help you arrange for a second opinion. Once you file your claim and receive a determination of benefits, we can make sure it provides the maximum compensation possible under your employer’s policy.
If you have grounds to file a third-party civil suit along with your workers’ compensation claim, we can assist you with this as well. Our goal is to help you recover as fully as possible through every available channel, including a personal injury claim if you have grounds to file one.
If you are concerned about the potential cost of legal representation, this is no cause for alarm if you choose Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler as your Rutherfordton on-the-job injury attorneys. We take these cases on a contingency fee basis, so our client only pays a fee if and when we win their case. Additionally, the contingency fee is a percentage of the settlement we secure for you. This billing policy removes the fear of paying more for your legal representation than you win in compensation for your on-the-job injury.
You have a limited time in which to file a workers’ compensation claim and must meet the state’s statute of limitations if you need to pursue a personal injury claim as well. The sooner you hire an attorney to assist you, the greater your chances of success will be with all the recovery efforts you pursue. Contact Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler today to make an appointment for a free consultation with an experienced Rutherfordton on-the-job injury attorney and learn how our team can empower your recovery efforts.
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