Types of Disability in North Carolina Workers Compensation Cases

Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2016 at 2:00 pm    

Injured workers are entitled to wage loss benefits based on the type of disability they have. Disability is a legal term of art that an experienced North Carolina workers compensation attorney can explain. Worker’s compensation disability determines how long the injured employee gets benefits and what the amount of those benefits are. The correct classification can mean more money and money for a longer period of time.

Workers who have lost limbs, lost an ear, or suffer from severe pain that won’t ever go away should be paid according to their disability – not because the employer or insurance company wants to rush them back to work or wants to save money. North Carolina attorney Joe Miller has been helping injured workers for over a quarter century. He has helped thousands of injured workers get strong recoveries. He has the experience and skills to work with medical doctors and to fight unreasonable classifications.

The four main types of North Carolina work injury disability

Disability in workers’ compensation is different than Social Security Disability and it is different than disability in an insurance contract. Disability, in North Carolina work injury cases, means the employee cannot do the work he/she did before the accident or illness. Workers who can work but with medical restrictions may be entitled to partial benefits, or even full benefits if their employer cannot accommodate them or if they can show that they cannot find work within their physical restrictions.

In order to obtain wage loss benefits, a worker, with the help of an experienced work injury lawyer such as Joe Miller, must show that he/she has one of the following types of disability:

  • Temporary total disability. Many workers are unable to work for a limited period time. When their injuries mend, they are ready to return to work. While they are getting medical attention, these workers are entitled to 2/3rds of their pre-injury wages. When they return to employment, they get their pre-injury salary. Temporary benefits can last for up to 500 weeks if the injury or illness occurred after June 24, 2011.
  • Permanent and total disability. Some workers can never return to work. Their injury or occupational illness is too severe. Workers who reach Maximum Medical Improvement and still cannot work at all may be entitled to additional work loss benefits for life, if, after 425 weeks of receiving temporary total disability, they can show to the Industrial Commission that they are unable to work in any capacity. Workers who have lost the use of both hands, both arms, both legs, both feet, have a severe brain injury , or some combination are generally presumed to be unable to work permanently. There are other presumptions the law offices of Joe Miller Esq. can explain.
  • Temporary partial disability. Here the worker has the ability to do some work, but not the same level of income as before the work injury or occupational illness. The worker gets 2/3rds of the difference between what he/she earned before the disability and what he/she can earn after the disability for up to 500 weeks if the injury or illness occurred after June 24, 2011.

For example, if the worker earned $1000 a week pre-injury and now earns $400 a week, the worker gets 2/3 of $600 ($1,000 minus 400) for a total of $400. Payments are made on a weekly basis until the worker can return to work at full capacity and thus earn his/her full wage.

  • Permanent partial impairment. This is money paid for injuries to specific, ratable body parts. It is calculated on the basis of a percentage of disability to a particular body part which percentage is assigned by the injured worker’s treating physician. These benefits fall under North Carolina General Statutes Section 97-31. This statute includes a schedule of injuries by type and awards the worker benefits according to the schedule. For example, a worker who loses the use of a thumb is entitled to 2/3rds of the average weekly wage for 75 weeks. Another example: If a worker is found to have a 10% disability to the back, that benefit would be 10% of the maximum benefit of 300 weeks for the back, or 30 weeks.

One major caveat: The worker cannot get both the fully weekly benefits for 500 weeks and the scheduled benefit. The worker must elect between the standard weekly disability benefit and the scheduled benefit. The most common cases where the percentage ratings come up are where the injured worker has returned to pre-injury employment. In such cases, the worker’s only additional benefits may be permanent partial impairment.

Employers will often try to encourage doctors to force workers back to work before they are ready. They will also contest the most serious classifications. They will argue that workers have a temporary disability and not a permanent disability. They will assert that a disability is only partial instead of full. They will argue that the injuries are pre-existing and not related to the accident. An experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer such as Joe Miller will work with your doctors and will make strong legal arguments to help convince the Industrial Commission that your classification matches your inability to work.

How disability affects medical benefits

The type of disability a worker has does not affect the payment of medical bills. All workers, regardless of the type of disability they have, are entitled to seek medical attention to help them get healthy – if they have suffered a workplace accident or illness. Workers can continue to get medical help until it is clear that continued medical help will not improve the workers’ condition – that the worker has reached maximum medical improvement.

If a doctor says an employee can work but with medical restrictions – then the employer and insurance company must pay for any medical expenses to meet those restrictions. Workers with partial disabilities may require medical devices such as prosthetics or medications in order to work.

Workers with a temporary or partial disability may require occupational therapy to learn how to adjust their body to old or new work demands. They employer must pay for this type of rehabilitation. Employers may also be obligated to pay for the travel expenses to see the doctors and to get the proper therapy.

Joe Miller thoroughly and aggressively argues for more than just wage loss benefits. He is a strong advocate for his clients and works to get all related medical bills for any type of disability.

For help with workers compensation disability claims, consult North Carolina work injury lawyer Joe Miller

At the Law Office of Joe Miller, our legal team works to make sure work injuries are classified correctly. For help now, please call attorney Joe Miller at 888-694-1671 and ask for Joe Miller, or email Joe at jmiller@joemillerinjurylaw.com.