There are many misconceptions about the workers’ compensation system in North Carolina. Chief among these is the mistaken belief that you have to sue your employer after a work injury to recover damages.
In reality, workers’ compensation claims are very different from personal injury lawsuits. One of the biggest differences is that you don’t have to sue (and, in most cases, cannot sue) if you are hurt on the job.
Another major difference is how long you have to bring a claim after a workplace accident. [En Español]
What Is the Time Limit for Workers’ Compensation Claims?
The statute of limitations for a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina is 2 years from the date of the work injury. If you develop a chronic work-related injury – such as carpal tunnel syndrome or another condition related to repetitive stress – or occupational disease, the 2-year statute of limitations generally begins when you start to experience symptoms.
By contrast, personal injury claims in North Carolina must be brought within 3 years. And, unlike with workers’ comp, you have to prove that negligence was a factor in the accident to recover damages.
When Do I Have to Report an Injury to My Employer?
In addition to the time limit to bring a claim, workers’ compensation claims are also subject to a reporting requirement. Workers have just 30 days to notify their employer of a work-related injury or illness.
A written report of the workplace accident must be submitted to your employer as soon as possible (ideally well before 30 days have elapsed). The report should include the date that the accident occurred, as well as a brief account of the injuries you have sustained.
Telling a supervisor or manager that you were hurt on the job does not satisfy the reporting requirement. However, you should inform someone in authority about the accident (or have a loved one, friend, trusted coworker, or medical provider do so in your stead) as soon as possible.
Seeking medical care for your injuries promptly and following the steps above preserves your right to workers’ compensation. It also creates a record of the accident.
What Happens After I Report a Workplace Injury?
After receiving notice that a worker was injured on the job, employers are required to notify their workers’ compensation insurance carrier as soon as possible. If a worker’s injuries keep them off the job or result in medical expenses in excess of $4,000, the employer is also required to report the injury to the North Carolina Industrial Commission (the government agency that administers workers’ compensation in the state).
In the latter scenario, you will be required to complete one of several different forms and submit it to the Industrial Commission within 2 years. The most common form an injured worker has to fill out is Form 18, or the Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim of Employee, Representative, or Dependent.
Form 18 requests the following information:
- Contact information for the employee and employer
- The time, date, and location of the workplace accident
- The nature of the workplace injury
- Your occupation at the time of the accident
- Your weekly wages and the hours and days you worked prior to the injury
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you complete the necessary forms and ensure that you get the full benefits you deserve.
How Long Do Workers’ Comp Benefits Last?
Workers compensation benefits principally consist of (a) payment for medical expenses related to an on-the-job injury and (b) disability benefits to replace lost wages. Your employer’s workers’ comp insurer will pay for necessary medical expenses related to the accident (provided you receive care from an approved physician).
Lost wage compensation is payable if an employee is unable to work for more than 7 days. Temporary total and partial disability benefits are paid for up to 500 weeks until you return to work.
Some workplace injuries are known as “scheduled injuries.” Workers who suffer these injuries are eligible for permanent partial disability benefits both while they recover and for a time afterward. If you suffer an injury that permanently prohibits you from working, you are eligible for lifetime permanent total disability benefits.
What If My Workers’ Compensation Claim Is Denied?
Sometimes workers’ comp insurers deny coverage of a legitimate claim. If this is the case, you have the right to appeal the decision.
You have just 14 days to appeal the denial of your workers’ compensation claim. Failure to file an appeal within this very brief window will likely prevent you from obtaining the benefits you deserve.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you with the appeals process. This includes representing you during mediation proceedings, as well as at the hearing before a deputy commissioner of the Industrial Commission.
Workers’ compensation claims are complicated. Employers and insurance companies have a significant advantage over injured workers, making it difficult for hard-working individuals and their families to get the benefits they deserve after an on-the-job accident or illness.
Qualified legal counsel is essential for the success of your claim. The Whitley Law Firm has extensive experience advocating on behalf of injured workers and their loved ones. We review your case for free and advise you of your options for recovering compensation.
Please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 for free today. Our workers’ compensation lawyers serve clients in Raleigh, Kinston, New Bern, and throughout North Carolina.