Workplace accidents do not only take place on construction sites or other hazardous locations. Even people in seemingly simple, sedentary jobs experience mishaps at work that leave them in pain and unable to return to their job for a period of time. Workers compensation insurance protects all of these employees by covering medical expenses and paying a partial salary while the employee recovers. Here is what everyone needs to know.
Who is legally required to carry workers compensation insurance?
Almost all employers in North Carolina are required to have this type of insurance if they have three or more employees. The employees can be seasonal, part time or full time to qualify. Some businesses, including contractors, trucking companies and any business handling radioactive materials, must be covered even if they have only one employee. There are exceptions for domestic workers, some farm laborers and anyone considered an independent contractor as well as other situations.
What if an employer does not have the coverage?
Anyone that discovers their employer is breaking the law by not providing coverage should report the business to the Industrial Commission. The state of North Carolina has increased penalties for non-insured employers caught violating the law. The business will face fines of $100 a day for each day they lacked coverage and may face additional fines as well.
It is particularly troubling when the lack of coverage is not discovered until after an accident occurs. Employees have the right to file a lawsuit against the employer to recover their medical expenses and lost wages in these instances.
How are claims filed?
The employer should file a Form 19 reporting the injury directly to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. If they fail or refuse to do this, the employee has the right to notify the commission directly by filing a claim using Form 18 or 18B. Employers are expected to file within 24 hours of the injury and employees have up to two years after the accident to submit their claim but should attempt to file the form within 30 days.
When should employees seek legal assistance?
Law firms like Oxner + Permar, LLC dedicate their efforts to guiding clients through the complex disability system. Legal help is needed whenever an employer is hesitant to file a claim, refutes the information given by the employee or a claim is filed and denied. Employees already receiving benefits should also contact a lawyer if they are offered a settlement. This is a common situation and it is not always beneficial to the employee.
When should a settlement offer be accepted?
A large settlement offer is tempting but accepting one means losing compensation payments and additional medical coverage for injuries relating to the accident. Most experts recommend people wait until they reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This is when people have reached the point where medical treatment is no longer able to provide any assistance to their condition. There is no way to determine how much additional treatment may be needed if people are still under medical care. It may even be impossible to determine if the disability is permanent. It is impossible to determine the fairness of a settlement without knowing if someone will need surgery or rehabilitation services in the future or when they will return to work.
What happens when the injury becomes a permanent disability?
Permanent disability is when the patient reaches their MMI and are still unable to work. This is when the benefits will change. Permanent disability will allow the employee to qualify for a limited amount of additional payments. The specific part of the badly injured will determine the length of time the payments are received. Total disability benefits are paid to those who are proven to be fully and permanently disabled due to the workplace injury. The amount of the payment will depend on the employee’s previous salary and the length of time they were employed before the injury.
Employees should never allow themselves to be pressured or threatened by their employer into not filing a claim after an injury. Even accidents that seem minor at first can develop into lifelong medical problems. Always consult with an attorney about the case to make certain all compensation is received.