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How Much Will I Receive for a Back Injury at Work?

Riddle Brantley LLP   |  February 25, 2020   |  

You may be wondering:

“How much do I receive from workers’ compensation for a back injury?”

Our North Carolina work injury lawyers hear these types of questions from those seeking workers’ comp benefits often.

While there are no guarantees or “average” settlements when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits for back injuries (or any other type of injury), we can offer some general guidance.

How much does workers’ compensation provide for back injuries?

If you’re wondering how much compensation you’ll get for a back injury at work under the workers’ compensation system in North Carolina, the best answer is, it depends.

Under the North Carolina Workers’ Comp Act, an employee who hurts his or her back on the job is entitled to worker’s comp benefits if the injury is the result of a specific traumatic incident.

Importantly, the standard for back injury claims is different from most other worker’s compensation claims in North Carolina.

The amount of workers' compensation you receive for a back injury at work depends on many factors. - Riddle & BrantleyFor example, if you hurt your should at work, you would have to show that your injury was the result of an on the job “accident.” With back injuries, you do not have to prove that you suffered an “accident,” but you do still want to show that you suffered from a specific traumatic event.

This basically means that you want to be able to point to one specific point in time and trace your back injury to that event.

If you can say something like, “I was lifting a box of tools with my back Thursday morning at 9:33 am,” then you are far more likely to have a compensable back injury claim than if you say something like, “I spent all morning Thursday lifting boxes and by 10am I was feeling sore.”

Being able to point to a specific event and time can be important to proving that you were hurt on the job.

If you are only able to give a timeframe, such as in the second example, the worker’s comp adjuster may deny your claim.

Workers’ compensation claims — including those involving back injuries — can be complicated, time-consuming and stressful. An experienced North Carolina workers’ comp lawyer can help manage all aspects of your case.

There is no obligation and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive financial compensation.

Call 1-800-525-7111 today and let’s review your back injury or other work accident claim.

“I would recommend Riddle & Brantley to anyone who needs help with disability or workers’ comp.”

-B. Fields

“How much compensation will I get for a back injury at work?”

If your back injury claim is accepted as compensable, you are entitled to have reasonable medical care provided to you, and if you are out of work for an extended period of time, you are entitled to Temporary Total Indemnity, or “TTD”.

What is TTD in Workers’ Compensation Cases?

Basically, TTD pays you 66% of your normal wages while you are out of work.

TTD is not taxed, so the idea is that most people receive the same amount they would receive if they were working after taxes.

Of course, in many examples, TTD can be complicated. For example, many people earn commission, or get paid a per diem, or have some weeks when they get paid overtime or bonuses. In these cases especially it can be important to talk with a lawyer about the specifics of your situation and see if your TTD has been calculated correctly.

Once you are done recovering from your injuries (a point we refer to as having “reached Maximum Medical Improvement”) your doctor should assign you a PPD rating (“Permanent Partial Disability”).

What is a PPD Rating (Permanent Partial Disability)?

Basically, this means your doctor assigns a percentage to any permanent loss you have suffered. Under the PPD rating system, a 5% rating means that you have only recovered 95% from your pre-injury status.

If you've been injured on the job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. - Riddle & BrantleyYou are entitled to a second opinion rating from another physician, and doctors regularly disagree about PPD ratings. In many cases, a second opinion doctor will assign a higher PPD rating.

In this case, adjusters usually will agree to average two ratings rather than argue about which one is correct.

So if an injured worker received a 5% rating from one doctor, and a 10% rating from a second doctor, the adjuster will agree to accept that the patient has received a 7.5% rating.

A rating is worth money. Specifically, the North Carolina Worker’s Compensation Act under Section 97-31 sets out what a rating is worth to each body part. For example, a 10% rating to the back is worth 30 weeks of TTD.

As a result, your TTD rate is very important. A person whose job pays him more money gets more compensation for a 10% rating than a person whose job pays him less, even though both suffered the same injury and received the same rating.

For this reason as well, it is very important to make sure your TTD rate is calculated correctly.

Unlike in civil claims (for example, car accidents), workers’ compensation claims do not proceed before a jury, and no one is entitled to compensation for “pain and suffering.” The North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) is not like a judge or a jury and will never award you benefits based on how much you have suffered or how an injury has affected your life.

The Workers’ Comp Act simply sets forth a schedule of benefits, and you receive money based on your TTD rate and your disability rating.

Accepting PPD Rating Payments

It is important to note however that many people decide not to elect to receive the payment under their PPD rating. If you are still out of work, it is often a good idea to decline to accept your PPD rating payment, and instead choose to continue to receive TTD benefits. Of course, every situation is different and there is not always an easy answer to what you should choose to do.

Also, if you elect to continue to receive TTD benefits, you can also ask for other benefits under the Act, like reeducation or retraining.

It is also important to note that even if you accept your PPD rating, your claim for medical benefits can stay open. So for instance, if a year after you receive your PPD rating and payment your back starts flaring up again, you can ask to return to the doctor and get more medical care.

Of course, there are time limits on this ability, and the Industrial Commission also allows you to apply to extend their timeframes via a Form 18M. Again, this is a complex area of the law and is fact dependent, so be sure to talk with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about your specific situation.

There are no upfront costs or attorney fees unless we successfully obtain workers’ compensation benefits for you.

Call 1-800-525-7111 and let’s review your back injury or other workers’ comp claim. You may be entitled to significant benefits under the law.

“Clincher” Agreements

Finally, you do have the right to settle your claim, which we refer to as a “clincher agreement.”  When you clincher a claim, the insurance company buys out your claim.

Unlike PPD ratings, there is no form or schedule for clincher agreements. A claim is worth what the two sides agree it is worth. The insurance company is in some way buying a divorce. They don’t want to worry about you going back to the doctor a year or two down the road, or returning to work and reinjuring yourself, or about retraining you. They only want “cost certainty.”

When you hear about people settling their back injury or other workers’ compensation cases, they are probably talking about a clincher. Clinchers are usually valued much higher than a PPD rating, because you are giving up a lot more. You are giving up your right to future medical care payments, and sometimes you are even resigning your employment with your company.

Clinchers are complicated, and even the language of the agreement is important in case you later apply for Social Security disability, or suffer another injury to the same body part.

Whether you’ve suffered a back injury or some other type of workplace injury, it is wise to allow a work injury lawyer to negotiate a clincher amount for you, and to ensure that the language of the agreement protects you.

Suffered a back injury or other workplace injury?

If you’ve been injured on the job and suffered either a back injury or some other type of workplace injury, you may be entitled to benefits under workers’ compensation.

A North Carolina work injury lawyer can help. At Riddle & Brantley our team is led by two Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists who are recognized by the NC State Bar for their experience and expertise in handling these claims.

There are no upfront costs or attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive workers’ compensation benefits.

“Every time I’ve needed them, they were there for me.”

-Tyronnie T.

Justice Counts for injured North Carolina workers and we would love to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.

Call 1-800-525-7111 today and let’s discuss your case.