Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits
Several types of disability payments are among the benefits available through North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system for workers who have been hurt on the job or suffered an occupational illness. Collecting these benefits is supposed to be simple for disabled workers. In reality, these claims are often complicated and actively contested by employers and their insurance companies.
If your ability to work has been affected by of a workplace injury or an occupational illness, you are likely entitled to disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system. Actually collecting the payments is often more difficult than it should be. That’s where the North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Riddle & Brantley can help.
Our dedicated team of legal professionals includes two attorneys who are among a select few in North Carolina who have received board certification in the area of workers’ compensation law. Chris Brantley and Adam Smith have both met the rigorous demands of the North Carolina State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization for recognition as board-certified specialists in workers’ compensation law.
The North Carolina State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization recognizes lawyers who have demonstrated knowledge, experience, and achievement in workers’ compensation law. According to the board, in order to qualify, attorneys must:
- Demonstrate substantial involvement in workers’ compensation law, averaging 500 hours per year in the practice area over a five-year period.
- Undergo a strict peer-review process by other attorneys, judges and deputy commissioners of the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
- Pass a rigorous exam on workers’ compensation law.
- Participate in at least 36 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) on workers’ compensation in a three-year period.
Types of Disability Benefits Available Through Workers’ Compensation
If you suffer a workplace injury or occupational illness that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to partial wage-replacement benefits through workers’ compensation. Payment of partial lost wages is generally not available unless your qualifying condition requires you to miss at least seven workdays. You won’t receive payments for the first seven days of missed work unless your period of disability lasts beyond 21 days.
Workers’ comp disability payments are typically made on a weekly basis, and the payment equals up to two-thirds (66.6 percent) of your average weekly wage, up to a cap that is adjusted yearly. The maximum weekly compensation rate was set at $920 in 2015, and scheduled to increase to $944 in 2016.
North Carolina workers’ compensation disability benefits fall into four general categories, each with its own qualifications and specific payments:
- Temporary total disability – This is a type of wage-replacement benefit you may receive if your workplace accident prevents you from working for a certain period of time. These benefits are generally limited to 500 weeks of payments, though there may be exceptions in certain circumstances. You are typically entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to the cap.
- Temporary partial disability – These benefits are available when your workplace injury or occupational illness prevents you from performing your normal work duties, but you are still able to do some work. If you qualify, the amount of your payments will be based on the difference between what you are able to earn with your limitations and what you were earning before your injury or illness.
- Permanent partial disability – This type of disability benefit is paid when your workplace accident or occupational illness results in a permanent physical impairment. The amount of the payment depends on the impairment rating your doctor assigns to one or more of your body parts based on your condition.
- Total permanent disability – You are entitled to this type of benefit if you have completely and forever lost your wage-earning ability. Payments for this type of benefit are made indefinitely and are calculated based on the wages you earned during the 12 months prior to your disabling accident or illness. According to the Workers’ Compensation Act, these benefits may be available when a claimant has lost both arms, both feet, both legs, both eyes, or any two of these. They may also be available in cases of spinal injuries that result in severe paralysis, brain injuries that cause severe and permanent impairment, or second- or third-degree burns over at least a third of the body’s surface.
Receiving the Workers’ Comp Disability Benefits You Deserve
Reporting your accident or occupational illness and seeking medical treatment are the first steps in recovering workers’ compensation disability benefits. A determination will then be made about whether and when you can return to work and, if so, whether you require modifications to your work schedule and/or duties.
If you are unable to work while recovering, you may be entitled to temporary total disability benefits. If you are able to perform some work, but not at the same level as before your accident or illness, you may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits.
When your course of medical treatment is finished and your treating physician determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), your physician may also determine that you have a permanent impairment related to your workplace accident or occupational disease. If so, the doctor will provide a percentage rating of the impairment to the particular body parts affected. It is at this point that negotiations will begin regarding the amount of permanent disability benefits you deserve.
There is often a lot of money on the line in disability cases, particularly those involving total permanent disability or permanent partial disability. Your employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier will likely dispute your claim in an attempt to save money. That’s why it’s crucial that you work with an experienced and qualified Raleigh workers’ compensation attorney like those at Riddle & Brantley.
Our law firm is proud of our record of helping injured and ill workers recover the workers’ compensation disability benefits they deserve, in addition to the medical benefits provided through the system. Recent case results include an $829,000 recovery for a workers’ compensation case and $725,000 for a case involving an injured worker.
Please note that these results are intended to illustrate the type of matters handled by our firm, and not all the firm’s results are listed. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case. More information is available on our Case Results page.
Without a workers’ compensation attorney on your side, you are far less likely to recover the disability benefits you are due. With over 160 years of combined experience, the Jacksonville workers compensation attorneys at Riddle & Brantley have fought for and successfully obtained fair compensation for countless injured workers. Contact us today.
- N.C. State Bar Board of Legal Specialization – Summary of Certification Standards by Practice Area
- N.C. Industrial Commission – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- N.C. Industrial Commission – Maximum Weekly Compensation Rates
- N.C. Workers’ Compensation Act – §97-29. Rates and duration of compensation for total incapacity.
- N.C. Industrial Commission – Rating Guide