Workplace injuries can result in permanent physical impairment rendering the worker incapable of performing their work-related tasks and leading to lost wages and medical treatment costs. To help workers cope with financial and personal hardships following a workplace injury, North Carolina has a compensation system obliging each employer with three or more employees to purchase mandatory insurance, ensuring injured workers receive the compensation they deserve.
Compensation benefits minimize the devastating health and social effects of work-related injuries, helping the workers get back on track with their lives once they are incapable of working (or working at the same job).
The purpose of mandatory compensation laws is to protect injured employees’ rights. However, going through a complex system can be confusing – that is why every injured worker should know the basics of permanent disability benefits in North Carolina.
This article will answer crucial questions about your rights in case of a workplace accident that puts you out of the workforce. Read on to learn more.
According to the North Carolina Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 93,000 workers sustained injuries in the TarHeel State in 2018 (2.6 of every 100 employees). Out of that number, 178 injured workers lost their lives. Typical fatal work-related injuries result from transportation accidents, falls, exposure to harmful environments or substances, fires or explosions, and workplace violence. 26,000 people injured at work (or suffering from occupational illness) had to take time off, change jobs, or stop working due to permanent physical impairment.
The Workers’ Compensation system in North Carolina requires employers to provide disability benefits to injured workers, covering necessary medical treatment, medical costs (for surgeries, drug prescriptions, physical therapy, and rehabilitation), employee wages, and funeral expenses.
There are four types of disability benefits in North Carolina:
As mentioned, there are two types of permanent disability benefits. Let us look at the eligibility requirements for each:
Not all workers who experienced workplace injury have the right to permanent partial disability benefits. There are two conditions the injured worker must fulfill to qualify for the PPD benefits:
First, the worker must reach the end of the healing period (This is so-called “Maximum Medical Improvement”). That is a condition in which the injured worker finished medical treatment but continues to suffer from impairment to one of the body parts.
The second condition is that the impaired body part is in the schedule provided in North Carolina General Statute 97-31. The list provided in Article 1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act categorizes compensation benefit amounts and healing periods for different types of disabilities. For example, the loss of a thumb entitles the injured worker to 66.66 % of the average weekly wages during 75 weeks.
Permanent partial disability affects the specific body parts or bodily functions but does not prevent the worker from performing other (suitable) jobs.
Workers who experience workplace injuries or occupational illnesses that leave them permanently incapable of working are entitled to disability payments for the rest of their lives (for cases before June 24, 2011).
After June 21, 2011, permanent total disability benefits are paid only to employees who suffered:
Calculating the amount of permanent disability benefits is subject to several factors, including the worker’s pre-injury wage, the severity of the impairment, and the date of injury. A detailed schedule is part of North Carolina General Statute 97-31.
The basis for benefits calculation in North Carolina is the Average Weekly Wage. Depending on the severity of the impairment benefits equal 66.66% of pre-injury wage for the period ranging from 10 to 300 weeks. For example, losing one of the toes (other than the great toe) entitles the workers to benefits of 66,66% of the basis during ten weeks. On the other hand, the total loss of the back function gives the injured worker the right to receive compensation for three hundred weeks.
Further requirements relate to the employment period, which is why the date of the injury is crucial. If the injured employee worked over one year, the average weekly wage equals the total money earned during the year divided by 52 weeks. Employment shorter than a year means the basis equals the total amount of money earned during the employment period divided by the number of weeks on the job. The third method applies when the employment period is too short, so dividing the total amount of wages would not be fair. In that case, the calculation basis is a similar workplace wage.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the average weekly wage in North Carolina is derived from gross (pre-tax) income, meaning it includes bonuses, overtime, non-wage allowances, etc.
Perry Morrison is a top-tier compensation attorney with over three decades of experience. He is rated AV which is the top rating given to less than ten percent of all attorneys.
Perry feels the pain and struggles injured workers experience after workplace accidents that render them incapable of work. He also knows the nuances of the compensation system in North Carolina and can help you get the permanent disability benefits you deserve.