If you have been injured at work, you are entitled to three things:
- Prompt and appropriate medical care. This means getting you quickly to the right doctor.
- Payment of lost wages for the time you miss from work. If the treating doctor restricts you completely or partially from work, you are entitled to be paid for lost income.
- Fair compensation for permanent problems you have after the doctor releases you from his care. If you are able to return to your job, are earning the same amount and your employer doesn't later fire or demote you, your case is straightforward. You may or may not need to retain a lawyer. If there is any other result, you have a legally complex case and in every such case you should strongly consider retaining an attorney.
Understanding North Carolina Workers' Compensation Law
Injuries that occur on the job are covered by the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. This Act is a body of law that is quite different from the law that governs off-the-job personal injuries, like car wrecks. For example, personal injury cases are tried before a jury of twelve people whereas workers' compensation cases are tried before a Deputy Commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. A Deputy Commissioner is the same thing as a judge, and he or she decides your case, not a jury.
It's important to point out that not every on-the-job injury that occurs at work is covered by the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. Most people believe that if they are on the clock doing their job and are injured, they are always covered. Though considered common sense, this is not the law in our state.
Unlike personal injury claims where fault is considered the key issue, fault is seldom the issue for workers' compensation claims. The Workers' Compensation Act has established a no-fault system where carelessness of the employee and negligence of the employer are almost never an issue. However, there is a series of somewhat strange, technical tests that must be passed to qualify for the protection and benefits of the Workers' Compensation Act.
Do You Need A Lawyer?
There are only two reasons why you should consider retaining an attorney to handle your workers' compensation claim:
- Your health. The workers' compensation insurance company is obligated to pay for your treatment. That also gives them the right, within limits, to select which doctors treat you. Most doctors will put your interests first. Some doctors are more interested in keeping the insurance company happy so that the insurance company will continue sending them patients and money. An attorney can advise you when this may be happening, and which doctors may do this. You have the right to file with the Industrial Commission a Motion for Change of Physician and to seek a second opinion.
- Your future. When you are healthy, your employer views you as a valuable company asset. When you are injured, your employer's insurance company—and perhaps your supervisors—view you as a liability. Because your recovery costs them money, their goal is to end your treatment and return you to work as soon as possible so they can stop paying doctors' bills and your weekly workers' compensation checks. Unfortunately for them, you may not want to take a dead end job "flipping burgers" on third shift. While they will not tell you so, you don't have to return to work that is not suitable to your injuries, education and background.
Although you can trust the insurance adjuster to produce the best possible result for the insurance company, you can trust your lawyer to do the same for you. Contact our law firm and see what we can do for you in your case. Call 828-848-8776 or toll free at 888-321-0494 to schedule a free initial consultation.