If you work in construction and you have been injured on the job, you may need to collect disability benefits so that you can pay your bills while you recover. If you will never be able to fully recover, you may need to collect disability benefits to replace the income you would have earned over the rest of your career.
Unfortunately, understanding your rights can be difficult and collecting the disability benefits to which you are entitled can be even harder. This article provides an overview of what you need to know.
Workers’ Compensation and Social Security: Two Different Types of Disability Benefits
The first thing to know is that there are two main types of disability benefits available to construction workers in North Carolina: workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI.
Workers’ compensation is mandatory insurance coverage employers are required to purchase to provide employees injured on the job with benefits on a short-term or long-term basis. Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, meanwhile, are available to workers who (a) have paid into the Social Security system through their employment and (b) have been diagnosed with a qualifying long-term total disability.
Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits for Construction Workers
Workers’ compensation disability benefits provide partial coverage for eligible construction workers’ lost wages when they get injured on the job. In most cases, workers’ compensation disability provides coverage for two-thirds of an injured worker’s lost wages. This is true whether they are unable to work entirely (total disability) or they can work in a limited capacity (partial disability).
In North Carolina, there are four different types of workers’ compensation disability benefits:
- Temporary partial disability
- Temporary total disability
- Permanent partial disability
- Permanent total disability
To qualify for workers’ compensation disability benefits in North Carolina, your job-related injury must prevent you from working or limit your ability to work for at least 7 days. As the North Carolina Industrial Commission explains, “No compensation is due for the first seven (7) days of lost time unless the disability exceeds 21 days … Payment for [the first seven] days will be made should the disability continue beyond 21 days.”
If you qualify for disability benefits through workers’ comp, you are entitled to continue receiving benefits until you are able to resume work. If you will not be able to return to work, benefits will continue until your eligibility expires.
You may also be entitled to a specific “scheduled” benefit payment based on the nature of your injury. In the case of a permanent total disability, you may qualify to receive workers’ compensation disability benefits for life.
SSDI for Construction Workers
Social Security Disability Insurance is very different from workers’ compensation. While injured construction workers can obtain workers’ compensation disability benefits for injuries that prevent them from working for more than a week, SSDI benefits are only available when an injury prevents someone from working for at least 1 year (unless the injury is expected to result in death). Additionally, while all types of job-related injuries are covered by an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a list of impairments that qualify for SSDI coverage.
Applying for Social Security disability insurance is also a much more complicated process than filing for workers’ compensation. With that said, if you qualify, applying for SSDI can be extremely important for your financial well-being if you are unable to work.
5 Factors for Determining Your Eligibility for Disability Benefits After a Construction Accident in North Carolina
So, do you qualify for workers’ compensation disability or SSDI benefits as an injured construction worker in North Carolina? Here are five key questions that will determine your eligibility after a construction accident:
- Are You an “Employee”? You must be classified as an “employee” to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits as a construction worker in North Carolina.
- Were You Injured Within the Scope of Your Employment? Workers’ compensation only provides coverage for job-related injuries while SSDI covers all qualifying medical conditions regardless of cause.
- Are You Unable to Work? To qualify for workers’ compensation or SSDI, you must be unable to work (or at least unable to work at your full capacity).
- Will You Be Able to Work in the Future? The long-term effects of your injury will determine which benefits you can receive under workers’ compensation and whether you qualify for SSDI.
- How Long Has It Been Since the Accident? To remain eligible for workers’ compensation disability benefits, you must report your injury to your employer within 30 days and file a claim within 2 years of the date of your injury. However, there is no deadline for filing an initial SSDI application.
It can be difficult to know what to do and where to turn after being injured on the job. Construction workers face significant risk of injuries related to their employment, so it is important to be aware of your legal rights and injuries in the aftermath of an accident.
At the Whitley Law Firm, our Raleigh construction accident injury attorneys will fully explore your options for filing a claim or claims. You may be entitled to disability benefits and additional compensation depending on the circumstances.
Please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 to speak to a North Carolina construction accident lawyer in Raleigh, New Bern, or Kinston. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.