Being injured at work can create major apprehension and disruption in the wrong situation. Not only does the victim worker have to recover from the injury, but they often have difficulties in maintaining an income due to the inability to work. The workers’ compensation program is designed specifically to address this issue for the injured employees of employers who participate in the system as required by law. However, this protection does not come without a trade-off. North Carolina law has established that the workers’ compensation system also includes exemption from a personal injury lawsuit for employers who are in complete compliance with employment laws and have not been negligent in maintaining a safe workplace or exposing employees to unacceptable dangers. Some workers’ comp injury claims can also include standing for a standard lawsuit when material evidence is available. [Employers’ Requirement to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance – Learn More at NC Industrial Commission Here]
How Workers’ Comp Works in North Carolina
When workers are injured on the job in North Carolina, their first duty is to report the injury to the employer and present any details regarding how it occurred. Employers then are required to conduct an internal company investigation and compile a report. There can be instances where this is done in a manner designed to benefit the employer. Additionally, when employees are injured in a remote location, details of how they are instructed to complete their tasks or the condition of necessary equipment could be evidence of negligence when it is inadequate or if working conditions are not reasonably acceptable. There is significant latitude within the concept of being “reasonable” according to legal doctrine, as it is the ultimate determining factor in many negligence lawsuits. Employers then decide on placing an injured worker on workers’ compensation benefits or deny acceptance of the claim as a workplace injury. Luckily, injured workers still have the option of retaining a workers’ comp lawyer or personal injury attorney based on the details of their injury claim who can file a case with the workers’ comp board outside of employer approval. [Link To: North Carolina Industrial Commission]
Workers’ Compensation Benefit Schedule
Injured workers who are placed on workers’ compensation benefits for approved injuries immediately after the fact have certain entitlements and requirements. They must be unable to work due to the injury for a period of seven continuous days to receive wage replacement benefits. This benefit is retroactive back to the day of injury. The income is classified as unearned income and is typically not subject to taxation. The benefits are paid until the injured employee claimant is able to return to work in some capacity, which is not always in the position they formerly held. Any difference between the pay rates is claimable, but it often requires an aggressive workers’ comp lawyer to obtain the differential benefits. Additionally, medical bills for treatment are covered as well. The problem is that not only does the company conduct an investigation into how the injury occurred, the respondent’s insurance provider also investigates and has the final say on paying benefits. Both the employer and the insurance provider must be in agreement that the injury is work-related. The real underlying problem with this situation is that injured workers cannot file standard personal injury claims for long-term pain and suffering with serious injuries that could result in permanent disability under the workers’ comp law in North Carolina. [Consider also – How does Medicare eligibility affect my workers’ compensation claim?]
When a Personal Injury Negligence Lawsuit Could Occur
Being properly compensated for a workplace injury often involves uncovering evidence of negligence on the part of the employer, and even “gross” negligence under certain circumstances. Gross negligence could even lead to punitive damage awards when all material factors are presented in court. These factors could also be used as leverage when a settlement is being brokered as well because many employers do not want any public knowledge of how they operate internally. A settlement closes the record and keeps information private, while a lawsuit makes what happened public information. Many employers want to avoid this at all costs, such as in a medical malpractice case. Personal injury cases can actually include medical malpractice claims as well, and all parties are concerned with liability when treating and validating workplace injuries.
Proving a Personal Injury Claim
This is the area of law where being compensated in whole requires the assistance of an aggressive and experienced personal injury lawyer. Legal counselors first must establish that there has been an injury to the plaintiff client and then connect the injury to the respondent party, which is typically the employer and their insurance provider. Evidence must include verifiable elements that the employer was in violation of OSHA rules and regulations or forcing employees to work in hazardous conditions at the time of the accident producing the injury. It should also be noted that North Carolina uses the contributory negligence law that denies injury compensation for victim plaintiffs who are even 1% at fault for their own injuries. However, workers’ compensation is designed as a “no fault” system when injuries are settled within the workers’ comp state system, so it will be up to the court to allow a case to move forward. Contributory negligence is a common defense to any insurance claim denial in a North Carolina personal injury lawsuit.
Contact Our Office for Consultation
Many serious workplace injury cases that are handled properly through the state workers’ compensation system still end up in court when evidence of negligence has been found by a personal injury attorney. Our firm can evaluate your case for potential whole damages when there is evidence of negligence on the part of the employer or bad faith on the part of their insurer.