Permanent Worker Disability

You fell and broke your hip at your workplace. After a number of weeks, during which your North Carolina employer’s workers’ compensation insurance covered your medical expenses and compensated your loss of income, you are now feeling better. The physician is soon to declare you at maximum medical improvement (MMI).

What happens now depends on whether you have returned to a full wage earning capacity or if you have lost your ability to work due to your injuries. Does this mean: “What happens now depends on the extent of my permanent injury or impairment”?

Actually, under the North Carolina workman’s compensation rules, the two expressions mean the same. Your permanent disability is defined by your incapacity to earn wages the way you did before you were injured. In other words, for the Workers’ Compensation Industrial Commission, your permanent disability is not a function of physical impairment but of earning capacity. If you can’t work you are 100 percent disabled, and if you can return to the same job (or at the same wage) as before your injury, you are not disabled.

Before jumping to conclusions, it is necessary to describe the compensation process further:

There are two kinds of disability situations after having reached MMI:

Permanent total disability: The worker, whose injuries are so severe that he or she has completely lost the capacity to work, will receive two thirds of the calculated average weekly wage (AWW) for the remainder of his or her life.

Permanent partial disability: If a worker or employee is considered partially disabled, he or she has to choose between two options:

Compensation for lost wages: The injured worker is entitled to receive two thirds of the difference between the AWW earned before the work accident and wages earned after returning to work. This is where injured workers face difficult decisions, because this benefit will last only for 300 weeks from the date of the injury.

Compensation for impairment: The physician will determine the “impairment rating” (IR) of the injured worker and the benefits he or she is entitled to by a formula combining the AWW, the injured part of the body and the impairment rating.

How do you choose between those two options?
If difficult for you to decide, there are so many other factors to consider. You are required to return to work but your employer offers you a job you find “unsuitable”, considerably below your normal expectations. You disagree with the physician’s impairment rating. You are not sure about the calculations you made to compare the two options, and you don’t know the fiscal implications. Most of all, you can’t predict what the future holds and fear you may have missed alternative scenarios.

The answer is, you should consult a lawyer, and choose the best lawyer there is. All workers’ comp lawyers charge the same fees, by law. This is why you should select the North East North Carolina lawyer who focuses exclusively on workers’ compensation and has the best track record in this field: contact Joe Miller Law in Elizabeth City, where attorney Joseph Miller, Esq has been representing injured North Carolina workers for over 20 years. Call us locally 757-455-8889 or toll-free 888-694-1671 or contact us online for a FREE, no commitment discussion of your case.

It is free and invaluable. Make sure you download attorney Joseph Miller’s  books: The Nine Biggest Myths About North Carolina Workplace Injuries  and  The North Carolina Workers Compensation Guide to Settlements, which books answer many of the questions you may have about workplace injuries, claims and settlements.