Termination of Benefit Issues in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Cases

According to the Business Management Duty (6/15/13), a worker fell when she tried to get out of her chair. She suffered constant headaches and was awarded North Carolina Workers’ Compensation benefits because her doctor testified the headaches were because of the fall. Her employer tried to terminate her benefits arguing that she was able to work. Her doctor testified that the headaches continued and that as long as she had the headaches she couldn’t be a “reliable employee.”

Termination of benefits

Employers can try to terminate your successful North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claim on the assertion that:

  1. The employee has returned to work for the employer or for another employer. This dispute usually hinges on verification that the employee is indeed working.
  2. The employee is able to work at his or her old job or a new job because the medical condition has improved. This dispute usually hinges on the medical testimony of the employer’s doctors and the injured worker’s doctors.
  3. The employee is not cooperating with the medical treatment plan.
  4. The employee is not cooperating with the vocational rehabilitation plan.

The employee (and the employer’s attorney) have the right to challenge the employer termination request. If an employer tries to terminate your workers’ compensation benefits, you should consult a lawyer and contest the employer’s petition—but you have an extremely limited time to act.

In North Carolina, this will come usually by way of a FORM 24. That is a motion to cut off your  compensation. When one of these comes your way, as I heard one lawyer put it, you should treat it like a NUCLEAR BOMB.

You have only 14 days to respond to this Motion. Do not wait. You will need legal help right away.

If the 14 days passes and you have not responded to the Defense Form 24, the Commission will grant it, and you may forever lose your right to compensation.

In Virginia, the motion is known as an Employer’s Application to Terminate Benefits. Unfortunately, unlike in North Carolina, in Virginia, as soon as such an Application is filed by an employer, if the Commission believes it was filed with ‘probable cause,’ the employer can cease paying benefits immediately, even though there has been no formal hearing as of yet.

This can place a tremendous burden on an employee who is already financially strapped from living on reduced benefit. Even if the employer’s claim is unfounded, months can pass before the hearing date, and in the meantime, the employee is left with zero income.

I personally believe this particular procedural provision to be unconstitutional, (horribly unfair at best) but we have not had the opportunity to challenge it on that basis as of yet.

Trial Return to Work

North Carolina law does allow an employee a “trial return to work” to see if he/she can perform their old job or a new job. During this trial period the employee receives a “partial incapacity” amount. If he/she can’t work, then the employee receives a “total incapacity” amount. If the employee can work, he/she receives the regular work pay.  The same can take place in Virginia as well, although if benefits are to be re-started, additional papers must be filed.

How Our Firm Can Help

If you’ve had the misfortune to suffer a workplace accident, you need good legal help on your side. When you need a great attorney for workplace accidents in Hampton Roads, Virginia or in Northeast North Carolina, make sure you contact us online, visit www.JoeMillerInjuryLaw.com or call Workers Compensation Attorney Joe Miller at 888-694-1671 to find out how he can help.