The Workers’ Compensation Act is a no-fault legislative system designed to compensate employees who get injured on the job. Any employer with three or more employees is required to have insurance coverage or be self-insured to cover injured workers. As a general rule an accident must have occurred while employed which was the cause of disability and/or the need for medical treatment. Occupational disease claims are also covered by the Act. 100% of all reasonable and necessary medical care is paid for by the employer and disability compensation is 66 and 2/3 of the average weekly wage of the employee. Determining the correct average weekly wage is important because all compensation in the future is based on this determination. There is also a cap (or limit) on the amount of weekly benefits that can be obtained. The maximum amount varies from year to year.
This system has been in place in North Carolina since 1929 and periodically is changed by the legislature. Significant changes were made in 1994 and 2011. Lawyers who practice in this field need to keep up with current changes legislatively, as well as changes to the Industrial Commission Rules made by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the administrative body in Raleigh that administers the Act. There are six Full Commissioners who hear appeals from Deputy Commissioners, who take evidence and render decisions as to whether an employee has a compensable claim, and if so, the amount of disability benefits to be awarded. These hearings are conducted in the county in which the injury occurred. Appeals to the Full Commission are heard in Raleigh.
The Workers’ Compensation Act can be complex if the injury is serious and disability continues for a long period of time. Thousands of claims are processed each year without any attorney involvement. However, individuals may need to seek counsel to make sure that the Act is being applied according to the statute. Mr. Jernigan is board certified in this field and is the author of North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law and Practice. The lawyers in this firm do not charge a consultation fee to evaluate a claim and they would be more than willing to discuss your claim confidentially.
One of the most common mistakes made by employees is not notifying the employer of the injury. A Form 18 (Notice of Accident) should be filed with the Industrial Commission within 30 days of the accident. There is a two year statute of limitations which will completely bar the claim, absent fraud by the employer or other equitable arguments. The purpose of these notice requirements is to make sure the employer knows about the injury and can investigate and provide medical care.