Workplace injuries can be very devastating. The pain and suffering, the trauma from the incident, and the unending struggles with the employer to establish who is responsible, along with the constant trips to medical appointments and the mounting bills can feel overwhelming. If you or a loved one was injured in their job, you shouldn’t have to deal with it alone. Contact the Gastonia workers’ compensation lawyers at Waple & Houk Law to get the justice and compensation you deserve.
The North Carolina laws on workers’ compensation are quite specific, and our team is well experienced with NC workers’ comp law. Regardless of whether you got injured while doing your job or your case has ended up becoming complicated, or your employer denied your claim by your employer for any reason, our lawyers will work with you to ensure your case is successful.
Table of Contents
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
This is simply a system that encompasses laws outlining the rights an employee has when they are injured in the workplace. Employees are entitled to benefits:
• Medical care including treatment, prescriptions, and hospital stays
• Physical therapy and rehabilitation
• Temporary and/or total disability benefits if the physician recommend you going out of work for a given amount of time
• Vocational rehabilitation (sometimes)
• The required travel expenses
This system of workers’ compensation laws was enacted to replace the conventional personal injury litigation laws in an attempt to alleviate risk for both the employer and the employee. Outside of this system, employees who become sick or injured in their workplace have to file a claim and prove that their employer is responsible. This often results in delays, and the employee is likely to lose the case and be unable to recover compensation.
However, in exchange for the level of certainty it provides, the workers’ compensation system comes with a price for employers and workers. Workers are barred from suing their coworkers or employer for negligence, and they stand to recover significantly less compensation than they might in a lawsuit. For employers, the main drawback is the amount of premiums the state charges. The added payroll expense has to be paid no matter whether an accident happens in the workplace or not.
What Should I Do if I’m Hurt on the Job?
Here are some crucial steps to take after a workplace injury:
Report the Injury to Your Supervisor or Employer
Ensure that you report the incident to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible, ideally in writing. Informing your co-worker won’t suffice here. Plus, if you wait for over a month to report your injuries, you risk losing the opportunity to receive full benefits.
Get to a Doctor as Soon as You Can and Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions
Be sure to make an appointment with one of your employer’s approved doctors immediately after the accident. In case your appointment is set for evening hours or the weekend, visit the nearest hospital first. Either way, your employer will be responsible for your emergency treatment. Ensure that you follow all of the instructions given by the treating physician, along with the work restrictions given.
Start and Keep a Written Record of Your Injury and Symptoms
It’s wise for you to write detailed notes about the accident and store them safely. Ideally, you should start making notes immediately after the accident, making note of the names of the witnesses, the dates, and the times. These will go a long way in helping you keep your side of the story consistent.
Take Photographs of Your Injury, if Visible
No matter the kind of accident, take photos of the scene and any injuries sustained if you can. These will serve as a great source of evidence to support your case and make sure that you get the justice and compensation you deserve.
File a Workers’ Compensation Claim With the Help of an Attorney
If you believe that you have a workers’ compensation claim, ensure that you contact a lawyer who has experience in handling such claims as soon as you can. At Waple & Houk, we’ll do an initial consultation with you for free, and we can then help you establish whether you have a case.
What Are the Most Common Workplace Accident Injuries?
Anyone can be injured from their workplace. However, the following are the most common workplace injuries we encounter:
• Back / Neck Injuries
• Hearing Loss
• Joint Pain
• Slip and Fall
• Construction accidents
• Accidents while traveling for business
• Accidents while working with machinery or tools.
Some of these injuries might have the victim miss work for months or years, depending on their severity. However, some will only be minor and will have you go back to work in no time.
Why Should I Hire a Gastonia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Workers’ compensation law is intended to assist injured victims recover damages following an injury in their workplace. The system was designed to lessen the financial stress that such injuries could cause. Nonetheless, just because you’re covered under workers’ compensation doesn’t mean that it will be easy to get the money.
In many cases, companies and their insurers take advantage of the system to serve their best interests. When you file a claim, you will be required to follow some strict procedures and meet short deadlines. We have even seen cases where the employer and their insurance company conspire to put barriers between the victim and the compensation amount. Moreover, some simple mistakes might cost you valuable compensation.
This is why you should work with an experienced lawyer. While it’s rather straightforward to make certain claims, others will be quite difficult to follow through. The following are a few things that could go wrong with your claim include:
• An employer denying you coverage altogether
• An employer forcing you to go back to work before you’re fully recovered
• Disputes being raised over the exact cause of your injuries
• Disputes over whether you were within the requirements of your job during the accident
In case any of these has happened to your case, it’s best to work with a professional lawyer to help you navigate through the issue. Our team of professional lawyers will help make sure that you meet all of the deadlines in filing your claim. We will also help you gather evidence, communicate with witnesses, appeal any denied claims, and ensure you get the maximum compensation possible.
How Will It Cost to Hire a Gastonia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
When it comes to these kinds of cases, lawyers usually work on a contingency fee arrangement. Under this arrangement, you aren’t required to pay the lawyer anything unless they win your case, in which case their fees are taken from the settlement proceeds.
Our clients prefer working with the contingency fee, as we don’t charge them until we are victorious in your case. You only need to part with a small percentage of the settlement amount we win on your behalf. This way, you can be sure that the lawyer has the same incentive to win the case as you do.
Don’t forget that we can meet you at your desired location to discuss your case in length and the options available to you going forward. Our team can provide an initial consultation free of charge, and you won’t be obligated to work with us after the consultation.
It’s worth noting that there’s usually a cap on the maximum amount a lawyer can charge from a workers’ compensation case. The NC Industrial Commission won’t let lawyers or law firms charge more than 25% of the settlement amount in almost all cases. With this in mind, you can access virtually any lawyer you want to handle your case. You actually want to look for a lawyer with a vast experience and a great track record.
What to Do If My Workers’ Compensation Claim Was Denied?
If your employer and their insurer denied your workers’ compensation claim, you have the right to seek a cause for why it was denied, and then file an appeal if the reason isn’t satisfactory to you. So, having a claim denied isn’t the end of the road in a workers’ compensation claim.
You will receive a denial letter explaining to you about your workers’ compensation insurance coverage and its limits, when and how you can appeal the decision for denying the claim, and a deadline for filing the appeal.
To make an appeal, you will first need to request a hearing with the Industrial Commission immediately upon receiving the denial letter from your employer. This is typically achieved by filing an NCIC form 33. If you have legal representation, your case will be scheduled for a mediation session. And if your case fails to resolve in mediation, it will proceed to a hearing. The hearing takes place in front of the Deputy Commissioner for the Industrial Commission (NCIC).
Having a lawyer represent you in these formal hearings will give you the best chances of winning the case, as it will avoid you going in alone without the necessary documentation and knowledge to ensure you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you need and deserve.
What Responsibility Does the Employee Have in Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Any organization that regularly employs three or more people in North Carolina is required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. This is according to the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Otherwise, they qualify for self-insurance in providing worker’s compensation benefits to their employees.
Every employee in suitable firms in the state is covered under the Act for any form of workplace injuries, even if the injuries in question occur during the first day of working there. But to be eligible for these benefits, employees have to abide by certain responsibilities as outlined below:
• Adhere to all safety rules and other reasonable policies or procedures as outlined by the employer.
• Make sure any injuries or diseases from the workplace are reported immediately to the employer or the representative of the employer. This should ideally be within 30 days of the incident.
• Follow the medical treatment and rehabilitation procedures as instructed by the NCIC.
• Demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the accident or disease was not a direct result of own negligence or willful conduct (of employee).
• Inform the insurance company of the employer when you move to a new address or as soon as you’re able to return to full-time or part-time work.
• Attempt roles approved by the treating physician even if the pay is lower than your previous role.
• Let your employer know when you remarry (deceased workers).
• File a claim within a year in cases that involve the death of a loved one in work-related accidents.
• Ensure honesty when filing your claim. Otherwise, you might be found guilty of a misdemeanor for the dishonest statements when claiming benefits.
What Is the Employer’s Responsibility in the Workers’ Comp Process?
So long as the injury was suffered in the workplace, your employer will be held liable for all the medical costs. This includes the bills and other payments that you could encounter in the future because of your injuries. Ideally, you should receive compensation for lost income due to the amount of time you spend away from work. But when filing a claim, know that different issues could come up.
Besides the responsibility to provide you with coverage for workers’ compensation, your employer has the following responsibilities:
• Give employees notices of compliance with the workers’ compensation laws
• Fill out and submit injury and accident reports to the closest NCIC office and send a copy to the insurance company
• Provide medical attention when an injured worker is not able to choose a suitable physician or when an employee specifically asks the employer not to in writing
• Comply with requests from the NCIC and insurance companies seeking further information with regards to affected employees
• Write reports for every accident that results in personal injury or loss of time from duties beyond normal working hours
• Provide employees with emergency treatment for diseases or injuries that they sustain while at work
Can an Employee Be Fired for Claiming a Workers’ Comp Claim?
The short answer is no; employers are not legally allowed to fire employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, there are laws in place meant to protect employees from such behavior. Moreover, if you believe that you’ve been terminated wrongfully, it will be essential to work with experienced lawyers who can prove that your employer retaliated against you illegally.
Is There a Time Limit to File a Workers’ Comp Claim in Gastonia, NC?
The statute of limitation in North Carolina for workers’ compensation claims is two years from the date of injury. This, in other words, is the time within which you are allowed to file your workers’ compensation claim.
Can I Sue My Employer?
For most workplace injuries in North Carolina, you cannot sue your employer. The compensation offered by the employer’s insurance provider usually covers the benefits for your injuries. However, there are certain circumstances when you may qualify to sue your employer.
For instance, you may sue your employer if their egregious or intentional actions or inactions caused your injuries. You’ll require the help of a competent Gastonia workers’ compensation lawyer to prove your employer breached their duty of care, causing damages.
Can an Independent Contractor File a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Independent contractors don’t usually have coverage for workers’ compensation, making it easy for some businesses to dodge paying income benefits by categorizing their workers as independent contractors. Don’t forget that independent contractors are eligible for these benefits under certain situations.
What Is My North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim Worth?
To determine how much your claim is worth, the damages you suffered in the workplace injury will play a central role. The total worth of the case will be determined by:
• Your medical costs
• Rehabilitation costs
• Prescription medication and treatment
• The necessary travel expenses
• Lost wages from time spent away from work
• Income replacement benefits (usually two-thirds of the average weekly wage)
• Permanent Partial Disability (PDD)
Contact a Gastonia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
No one asks to be injured while at work. While many employers actually do the right thing and streamline their workers’ compensation process, others don’t. You should never have to work while you’re injured or when your medical condition is work-related. A lawyer can represent you and help you get the workers’ compensation benefits you need and deserve.
Get in touch with the team of workers’ compensation lawyers at Waple & Houk Law to schedule a free consultation. Our team will evaluate the intricacies of your case and help you navigate the entire claims process. We will also help you discover the different potential avenues for pursuing compensation depending on your circumstances. We’ll then work to get you the maximum amount of compensation possible for your case.
Call us at (704) 480-3899 today and schedule a free consultation with a Gastonia workers’ compensation lawyer.