Many employees in North Carolina can file workers’ compensation claims after suffering serious or catastrophic on-the-job injuries and illnesses. But what does this process entail? Here, the team at Whitley Law Firm has compiled six things you should know about workers’ compensation lawsuits.
While most cases don’t require litigation, it’s important to understand your options. If you ever have any questions about pursuing damages via a workers’ compensation claim or lawsuit, connect with our team at (919) 785-5000.
Lawsuits Are Rare in Workers’ Compensation Cases
Before workers’ compensation, workers who were severely injured on the job had to sue employers for compensation. These cases were difficult, sometimes unfair, and required the time and attention of many entities. They also required proving that another party’s fault led to the incident—which got complicated in fields that were inherently dangerous (like construction).
However, you may feel relieved to know that most workers’ compensation claims resolve through negotiated settlements. Unless there are serious issues regarding fault, liability, and your accident’s cause, you probably won’t have to file a lawsuit.
If you must file a lawsuit to recover damages, you have support from Whitley Law Firm. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping seriously injured workers recover damages. We can file your lawsuit within the appropriate deadline, cross-examine witnesses, and hold the responsible party financially accountable.
You Generally Can’t Sue Your Employer
With all this talk about lawsuits, you may have concerns about suing your employer. Well, here’s some news: you generally can’t sue your employer anyway. Yet, some exceptions may apply. You could file a lawsuit directly against your employer if:
- They were required to have workers’ compensation insurance but didn’t.
- Your employer or a co-worker deliberately caused your injuries.
- Egregious negligence led to your injuries. Imagine that your employer allowed employees to operate heavy machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol, resulting in your injury. If you were injured in a situation like this, you could initiate a lawsuit against your employer.
Our lawyers can assess your case’s details and explain whether a lawsuit could benefit your situation.
You Must File Your Workers’ Comp Lawsuit Within the Allotted Deadline
Deadlines can get complicated in workers’ compensation cases. For instance:
- You must notify your employer of the accident within 30 days.
- Your employer has two years from the accident’s date to file a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
- You typically have three years to file your personal injury lawsuit, per G.S. § 1-52.
Waiting to file can negatively affect your case. Witnesses’ memories may fade, and it can be impossible to gather certain evidence with the passage of time. You want to file your case as soon as reasonably possible. When you work with Whitley Law Firm, we can organize your case, review its details, and file your lawsuit on time.
Workers’ Compensation Is a No-Fault System
You don’t have to prove fault in a workers’ compensation case. That’s because it’s a no-fault system. You must only prove that you suffered a serious injury or illness while accomplishing your job-related duties. Still, you need evidence to support your case. Our lawyers can investigate the accident and your injuries, gathering information to bolster your claim.
Workers’ Compensation Doesn’t Offer Financial Recovery for Everything
If you’re injured on the job, workers’ compensation benefits can account for:
- Medical expenses, such as treatment, surgery, medical equipment, and adaptive modifications to your home or car
- Travel to and from doctors’ appointments
- Wages equaling two-thirds of your normal wages, with a cap on the weekly amount that is adjusted yearly
- Vocational rehab, which provides educational and job search assistance, should your injury require you to change jobs
- Death benefits, such as funeral costs and lost earnings
The insurance company may offer to settle your workers’ comp claim. Yet, it may offer as little money as possible. Our lawyers can assess any offers and determine whether one meets your needs.
You Could Recover the Full Cost of Your Damages Through a Workers’ Comp Lawsuit
A workers’ compensation claim does not account for the full scope of your injury-related losses. A personal injury lawsuit could. Recoverable damages through litigation could include:
- Past, present, and future medical expenses
- The full cost of your lost tips, bonuses, benefits, and income
- The cost of property damaged during the accident (if you were hurt in a collision, for instance)
- Pain and suffering experienced from the time of the injury and for the estimated time it may linger
- Anxiety and depression
- Wrongful death-related expenses, including the decedent’s funeral expenses, end-of-life care costs, and lost income
Uncovering your legal options can get difficult. What’s more, there are many benefits to workers’ compensation and third-party injury claims that you might not know about. Whitley Law Firm doesn’t want you to go through this process alone. Rather than navigate the legal system blindly, our team can take care of it.
Six Questions About Workers’ Compensation Lawsuits
If you’ve never filed a workers’ compensation claim before, you may have many questions about your options, next steps, and future. We’ve compiled some of the most asked questions we get from others in situations like yours. These inquiries include:
What Injuries Allow Me to Seek Workers’ Compensation?
If you suffered an injury or illness that prevents you from working in your normal capacity, you could seek workers’ compensation benefits. Qualifying injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord trauma, such as paralysis
- Internal bleeding
- The loss of one or more limb
- The loss of one or more sensory organ
- Third- or fourth-degree burns
The goal of workers’ compensation is to provide income replacement and other benefits during your recovery period. As such, you could seek benefits for conditions not listed here.
Could I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
While it’s possible to file a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit concurrently, whether you have that option depends on your situation. For instance, imagine you fell while working on a construction site. Nobody was negligent; construction sites are dangerous, and serious falls happen every day. In that instance, you could file a workers’ compensation claim because you suffered a job-related injury.
Now, let’s take the same situation, but this time, a subcontractor failed to install scaffolding properly. In this case:
- You could file a workers’ compensation claim because you suffered an on-the-job injury.
- You could file a personal injury lawsuit because another party’s negligence led to your accident.
Whitley Law Firm offers free case reviews to people who want to explore their options following a catastrophic on-the-job injury. During our conversation, we can explain your legal options and advise you accordingly.
How Long Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
In North Carolina, you could receive benefits for up to 500 weeks. That’s about four-and-a-half years. Yet, you could get benefits for life if you suffered a life-altering condition, such as paralysis. If you file a third-party negligence claim, and you’re successful, you could get compensated through scheduled payments or a lump sum. It really depends on your situation, along with the severity of your condition.
Who Is Excluded From Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina?
The North Carolina Industrial Commission notes that all businesses that employ three or more people must carry workers’ compensation insurance. The following parties are not generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits:
- Certain railroad workers
- “Casual” employees
- Domestic servants employed directly by the household
- Some agricultural workers
- Federal government employees
Even if you don’t qualify for workers’ compensation coverage, you still have options when seeking to hold another party financially accountable for your losses.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer Who Handles Workers’ Comp Lawsuits?
Every law firm handles payment differently. So, we can only speak to how our firm handles these matters. Whitley Law Firm operates on contingency, so our attorney’s fees are contingent on your case’s outcome. You pay nothing if your case doesn’t yield damages or benefits. This structure minimizes your financial worries during a stressful time.
How Soon Could a Lawyer Get Started on My Case?
When you partner with Whitley Law Firm, we break ground on your case immediately. This prevents any time-sensitive deadlines from expiring, and it grants us access to certain pieces of evidence. We know you want compensation as soon as possible. So, we aim to streamline your case, moving it through the court system and advocating for you at each step.
Begin a Free Case Review With Whitley Law Firm’s Workers’ Comp Team
Our law firm has served seriously injured people in North Carolina since 1974. We bring over 80 years of combined knowledge to each case, offering the Whitley Advantage. We protect our clients like we would our own family, and we never settle without fighting for every dime you deserve.
Our lawyers invite you to begin your free case consultation today. Call (919) 785-5000 to set a time convenient for you to meet with our workers’ comp attorneys. We care about you and your future. You can rest easy knowing you will pay no attorney’s fees unless we successfully recover damages.