Workers who live in North Carolina are eligible for workers compensation benefits if they’re injured on the job. If you were involved in a workplace accident, it makes sense that your employer will be held responsible. Employment lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina are very familiar with the laws on workers compensation in North Carolina. They understand that there is a limit on how long you can receive workers comp benefits. They also understand that very few people ever get to the point where they exhaust these benefits.
Some of our clients are under the impression that they can collect workers comp benefits forever. Unfortunately, the law is designed to cap these benefits at a period of 500 weeks. This comes out to be approximately 9.6 years. It’s hard to imagine anybody collecting benefits for almost 10 years. And, while there are a few cases here and there that last this long, most cases settle long before that. The goal of workers comp is not to keep workers home on the couch. The goal is to get you the medical treatment you need so you can return to work.
Here, we’ll explain why there’s a cap on the length of time for which you can collect workers compensation in North Carolina. We’ll also talk about what your options are once this period runs out.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission Oversees Workers Compensation Claims
When it comes to workers compensation in North Carolina, there is one agency that oversees the entire process. This is the North Carolina Industrial Commission. They are the ones who review workers compensation claims. They also handle all the paperwork associated with a worker’s comp case.
For example, once your employer and their insurance company have a chance to review your claim, they submit their final decision to the Industrial Commission.
If you want to dispute your claim, you must file an appeal with the Industrial Commission. They have a panel who reviews your application, along with any other relevant information. Once they make their ruling, it is final. If they determine that you’re not eligible for workers compensation in North Carolina, you won’t receive benefits. They also set the rules regarding how long you can receive benefits for.
In 2011, they decided that 500 weeks would be the maximum period in which you can receive benefits under workers compensation in North Carolina. Once that period is up, you have two choices. You can go back to work, or your employment lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina can demand permanent benefits for a disability.
Why Is There a Limit on the Number of Weeks You Can Collect Benefits?
When we meet with our clients, they always want to know why they have to go through workers comp instead of suing their employer for damages. The truth is, the State doesn’t think it would be fair for businesses to pay to defend these types of cases. As long as they have workers compensation in North Carolina, they won’t have to pay out of pocket for workplace accidents.
It’s this same thinking that’s behind the 500-week limit on workers compensation in North Carolina. It doesn’t seem fair to force employers to pay you weekly benefits (even if it’s through their insurance) for 10 years. They certainly can’t be expected to save your position for this long. At some point, your injury lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina needs to determine whether your injuries are permanent. If they are, they need to make a demand for a resolution.
At some point before the 500 weeks are up, you’ll need to be examined to see if any body parts are permanently injured. For example, if you hurt your knee in your workplace accident, you may be able to prove that you suffered permanent damage. Since your knee is an important body part, your attorney will argue that you deserve significant damages.
Both sides will look at the schedule for workers compensation in North Carolina to see how much a knee injury is worth. You can either receive weekly benefits of that amount or you can settle for a lump sum.
Can Your Workers Compensation in North Carolina Be Terminated Before the 500 Weeks Expire?
Just because North Carolina allows people to collect workers comp benefits for 500 weeks, that doesn’t mean you’ll receive benefits for that long. Most cases are resolved long before the 500 weeks are exhausted.
Your employment lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina can explain how this works in great detail. Essentially, as soon as your doctor decides you’re ready to return to work, your workers compensation in North Carolina will terminate. To do this, they must determine that you’ve reached something called “maximum medical improvement,” or MMI.
MMI simply means that further treatment isn’t going to help you get any better. This can happen after 4 weeks, or it can happen after 400 weeks. It all depends on your injuries. Just know that it is extremely rare for you to stay on benefits for more than a few months. Most people return to work within a year or less. Unless your injuries were really serious, there’s no reason for you to stay out of work for longer than absolutely necessary.
Reach Out to an Experienced Employment Lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina
If you’re worried that your workers compensation in North Carolina is going to be terminated, you should call our office right away. You shouldn’t be forced to go back to work until you’re ready. Of course, being “ready” may mean something different to you than it does to the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
The best thing to do is to reach out to an employment lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina. They’ll be able to give you the best advice in such a situation. Instead of risking having your claim dismissed, you should talk to one of our lawyers right away. In fact, a lot of people choose to retain our services within days of their workplace accident. This way, they know their claim will be handled properly right from the start.
All you have to do is call and schedule your free, initial consultation. One of our seasoned injury lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina will sit down with you and explain how the law works.