North Carolina Legal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When you or a loved one is injured in an accident, no one hands you a pamphlet containing all of the information you need to understand your case. In this section we strive to answer the basic questions that everyone has in the time following a car accident, on-the-job injury, medical malpractice, abuse, or other accident.
If you don't find the answers to all of your North Carolina injury questions here, we encourage you to contact our Raleigh injury lawyers for answers to questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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Is My Job Responsible for My Illness?
Will I Receive Coverage for a Preexisting Condition?
If you have a preexisting condition and your job worsens this condition, or if you receive an injury at work because of your preexisting condition, you will most likely be covered by workers' compensation. For example, Darren worked in a warehouse for thirty years--constantly lifting heavy objects--and he injured his knee. After six months, his knee healed, and he worked for ten more years. Now he works at a department store. He is carrying mannequin and somehow reinjures the same knee. He will receive workers' compensation for his injury.
Will I Receive Benefits for Hearing Loss?
Jobs that place their workers in noisy environments--such as construction sites--typically provide workers' compensation for hearing loss.
Will I be Compensated for Mental Conditions?
Yes, you are entitled to workers' compensation for mental conditions. However, proving your job caused your mental condition will be hard to do and may require a lawyer's help.
If I Get a Disease or Illness at Work, Will I Receive Workers' Comp.?
Yes, if you receive a disease or illness from your place of employment, you are entitled to workers' compensation.
How Do You Know if You're Eligible for Workers' Compensation?
Workers' compensation is a type of insurance most businesses are required to have for their employees. If you are injured while at work or become ill because of your job, you may be entitled to compensation. Nolo.com discusses the three requirements you must meet in order qualify for workers' compensation benefits. These requirements are as follows:
Your Employer Must Have Workers' Compensation Insurance
Some state laws do require an employer to have workers' compensation insurance; however, this requirement does vary depending on the type of business and the number of employees the business has. Under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act, "businesses that employ three or more employees, including those operating as corporations, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and partnerships, obtain workers' compensation insurance or qualify as self-insured employers for purposes of paying workers' compensation benefits to their employees." The NC Workers' Compensation Act does list a few exceptions to these requirements such as "employees of certain railroads, casual employees, domestic servants, farm laborers with fewer than 10 full-time, nonseasonal farm laborers, and federal government employees." If you are a federal employee, you are entitled to receive benefits based upon the federal governments' workers' compensation plan.
You Must be Employed
According to Nolo, not all workers are employees. To receive workers' compensation benefits, you must be an employee. If you are an independent contractor, you are not an employee.
Your Injury/Illness Must Have Happened at or because of your Job
For example, if you injure your shoulder lifting boxes on the job, or you get sick because of exposure to a dangerous chemical, your injuries are without a doubt, work-related. This gets tricky to determine when you're technically "off the clock," yet injured doing something that is technically work-related. For more information on situations such as this, click here.
What is a Ghost Policy?
A ghost policy is a type of workers' compensation insurance coverage where the owner is excluded, as well as additional employees. This policy does not actually provide workers' compensation benefits unless the employer becomes liable for a contractor or employees. WorkersCompensationShop.com states, "A ghost policy is typically purchased by a subcontractor to satisfy coverage requirements of a general contractor or other entity hiring the subcontractor." These policies are not available in all states.
Is My Job Responsible for My Injury?
Were you injured on your lunch break? At a company picnic? Or any type of company event? Or were you injured while violating work safety rules? Good news, you may still be entitled to workers' compensation.
If You're Injured on Your Lunch Break:
You will not receive workers' compensation if you are injured on your lunch break; however, if you are injured on your lunch break while on the way to pick up coffee for your boss or something of that nature, you might be able to receive workers' compensation. If your company has a cafeteria, and you are injured while in the cafeteria, you might be compensated by workers' comp. as well.
If You're Injured at a Work Event:
Any injuries obtained at work events such as parties, picnics, kickball leagues, etc. will most likely be covered by workers' compensation. For example, if Pamela sprains her ankle while playing volleyball at a company picnic, her injury would be covered by workers' comp.
If You're Injured While Traveling:
If you are commuting to and from work, your injuries will not be covered. However, if you are on a business trip, or you are driving a company car, your injuries will most likely be covered.
If You're Injured While Violating Your Job's Rules:
You are not guaranteed coverage if you are injured on the job while breaking the rules. However, there is still a chance you could receive workers' compensation benefits.
What are the Benefits of Workers' Compensation?
Not only does workers' compensation pay for your hospital bills or any other necessary medical expenses, but it also pays you while you are unable to work. However, you will only receive two-thirds of your regular salary. Workers' compensation may also pay for rehabilitation and retraining, according to Nolo.com.
Can a teenager receive workers' comp benefits in North Carolina?
Teenagers can be eligible for workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina. Eligibility depends on several factors. One involves if the work injury is recognized as an eligible condition under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. Secondly, if the injury or illness arose out of the course and scope of the young worker's job. One of the more significant factors is how much time has passed since the work-related injury or illness occurred or was discovered. North Carolina's statute of limitations for work injuries is two years, which means if more than two years has passed since an injury occurred, the victim forfeits their rights to a benefit claim. Our attorneys can explain some exceptions.
Our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh can also explain how pre-existing injuries or illnesses might be covered by workers' comp, which generally entails whether the worker's job duties or work environment worsened a pre-existing condition.
Facing a work injury is challenging, and doing so as a young adult is even moreso. Legal language can be confusing to understand. Our lawyers help individuals understand workers' comp regulations in simple terms. This helps teens and their parents or legal guardians make informed decisions about the steps they need to take to recover from their injuries. We offer free case evaluations, which can be scheduled by calling 877-BRENT-ADAMS or by completing the form on the right side of this page.
I work in North Carolina and I am concerned my employer does not have workers' comp insurance, how can I verify this?
North Carolina workers can verify if their employer has insurance by searching a free online database provided by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. You can access the Insurance Coverage Search System here and our workers' comp lawyers explain more about the process in "Verify a North Carolina Employer's Workers' Comp Insurance."
Although this does appear to answer a question with a few more questions, there are three issues you might be concerned about in addition to whether or not coverage is in place:
From your question it appears you work in North Carolina, but is your employer based in North Carolina? That might affect how a work injury claim is filed. Some employers are based out-of-state and maintain satellite offices elsewhere, including our state. Sometimes these employers have new hires sign letters stating they acknowledge any work injury claims that arise will be filed in the state where the company is headquartered. Since workers' comp limits vary state-to-state, this could prohibit the amount of compensation the worker is eligible to receive. However, there are some cases where these letters could be void and the individual might still be able to pursue comp claims under North Carolina statutes. Have your case reviewed by an attorney to learn your best options.
Is your employer self-insured? Similar to the question posed above, some states allow employers to maintain self-insured coverage. This means the worker must pursue a work injury claim internally. If staff within the company delay or fail to acknowledge the illness or injury as work-related, the employer may be able to file a complaint with the state. This is another complicated situation that an attorney's guidance would be of great help with.
Is your employer committing fraud? Some employers violate the workers' comp insurance requirement--they either fail to acquire coverage or they fail to acquire coverage and lie about the policy information. The North Carolina Industrial Commission launched a fraud-detection system to help identify and inspect employers who might be in violation.
I was hurt at work a year ago and an incident report was written that day. Now a year has passed and I'm still not better - is it too late to file for comp benefits?
It is good to hear that the work incident that caused your injury was documented timely. Since the incident was logged in a company report on the same day of your injury, it is fairly clear that your employer has received written notice of your injury within the 30-day window imposed by North Carolina workers' compensation regulations. Under the provisions, a worker must notify their employer in writing within 30 days of the date of injury.
Sorry to hear you still have not recovered yet. On the other hand, it is also good to hear that only one year has passed since your injury. The North Carolina Industrial Commission requires an injured worker to file a Form 18 within two years of the date of the work accident. Since your injury only occurred a year ago, you are still legally entitled to start the workers' comp benefit application process.
Hopefully you have sought medical treatment for your work injury and alerted healthcare professionals how your condition developed and that it was a direct result of an accident in your work environment. Medical records are very important in a workers' comp claim. A detailed healthcare history of a work-related condition generally serves claimants well.
Now that so much time has passed since your initial injury you might wonder how long you need to wait to receive benefits. At the following link our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh explain how long claimants must wait for comp benefits.
Do my injuries qualify for workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina? I got hurt two weeks ago and have not told my employer yet.
Possibly. Qualified workers who are injured during the course and scope of their employment should report their injury to their employer in writing within 30 days of the incident. Our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh provide an example of a simple letter a worker can use to notify their employer of the incident. Some leniency is granted if this notification is delayed to the employer. However, there is a two-year statute of limitations for work injury claims and a Form 18 must be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within time limits.
Whether the worker qualifies is conditional on three factors:
- Worker status. Is the worker truly an employee or an independent contractor?
- Part of employment. Did the injury occur during the course and scope of the employee's work?
- Circumstances. Was the injury caused by a deliberate act or was it a true accident?
Of course, in addition to the above the worker must be injured or diagnosed with an illness that stems from work-related causes. One of the first steps to begin a workers' comp claim is medical attention. The worker should immediately advise the attending medical provider how their injuries are connected to their workplace. This helps establish medical records pertaining to the potential claim. The injury does not necessarily need to be caused by something in the work environment, the injury could also be worsened or exacerbated by the workplace to be considered compensable.
After reviewing the items above, the next helpful step would be to consult with workers' compensation attorneys. This should not come as a cost on the injured worker. Most attorneys, like the ones at our firm, provide complimentary case evaluations. Feel free to schedule a confidential evaluation with one of our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh, which can be held at one of our other locations, in the privacy of your own home, while you recover in a hospital, or via phone conference.
Will I get paid for vacation time while I'm collecting workers' comp benefits in NC?
If you are collecting workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina for temporary total disability (TTD) you will not receive pay for vacation time. However, bonuses and overtime (during one year prior to your incident) should be calculated into your average weekly wage. Check with our firm's Raleigh workers' comp lawyers to learn if your benefits are being calculated properly.
Sheila Chavis, our workers' comp lawyer in Raleigh, explains how to calculate your NC workers' comp rate correctly in the video at the link.
Remember these important facts about your workers' comp benefits:
- Your North Carolina workers' comp benefits are non-taxable
- There is a maximum weekly compensation rate that changes annually. As of January 1, 2014, the amount is $912.00 per week.
- Note: Your comp rate does not change once it is determined. It does not adjust annually or with inflation.
Every injury case is unique--check with an attorney for legal advice regarding your comp claim.
I travel for business. If I am hurt while traveling, can I collect workers' comp in North Carolina?
If you are injured during the course of your employment, such as traveling for work, you may be eligible for North Carolina workers' compensation (provided your employer's headquarters are based in North Carolina). Your eligibility may not be affected even if the accident was your fault.
However, an employer's basic workers' comp policy covers a limited number of benefits. This becomes especially important for workers who travel internationally for work. When employees travel internationally for work, depending on the countries they vist, they may be at a greater risk of:
- Accessing modern healthcare
- Exposure to illnesses
- Infectious diseases
Employers are not obligated to provide--but you can inquire and request that they purchase--voluntary foreign workers' comp insurance. A domestic workers' comp insurance policy may not cover certain expenses. For example, Insurance Journal recently reported that the average cost of a medical airlift by a helicopter is $60,000. The great benefit about a foreign workers' comp insurance policy is that it provides benefits in addition to the benefits provided by North Carolina workers' comp and does not affect the value of your domestic benefits.
How Long Do I Have to Wait for Workers' Comp Benefits in NC?
The length of time you are waiting for workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina to start may be affected by a few factors. The North Carolina Workers' Comp Act poses a seven-day waiting period during which no compensation benefits for time away from work are permitted.
Workers who lose more that one work day as a result of a workplace injury must go on NC workers' comp leave and receive weekly benefits.
According to the North Carolina Office of State Personnel, payments will only begin if the injured worker has missed more than 21 days due to the workplace injury. If the injured worker is out of work for more than 21 days, the compensation will be retroactive to the date of disability.
There may be factors unique to your workplace injury that are causing delays or denials of your claim. Schedule a free case evalulation with our Raleigh workers' comp lawyers to learn more.
If I am on workers' comp in NC, does my employer have to keep my job for me?
No, if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina, your employer does not have to keep your job open for you. North Carolina is an employment at-will state. Unless you are a contracted employee, you may leave your position whenever you desire, and your employer may terminate your position whenever they choose to.
Employers are usually inclined to keep your position open for you. Why? They want you to return to work. When you return to work, your employer will no longer have to tap into their workers' comp insurance policy to cover your benefits. Employers rely on their employees to complete necessary services for the day-to-day requirements of their businesses. It’s in both the employer’s and the employee’s best interest for the injured worker to have a safe recovery and return to work as soon as possible (according to a physician’s approval and prescribed course of treatment).
The answers to questions like this and information about North Carolina workers' compensation are available in injury attorney Brent Adams' book How to Get Top Dollars For Your Workers' Compensation Claim - available for free to injured workers.
Do North Carolina workers’ compensation laws allow my employer to fire me if I filed for workers' comp?
No, North Carolina workers’ compensation laws do not allow an employer to fire an employee for filing a claim for workers' comp benefits. Most employers – with the exception of those with agricultural employees or with just a few employees – are required to carry workers’ comp insurance.
Some Employers Discourage Workers’ Comp Claims, That is Not Acceptable
Some employers may not want workers to file claims because that can drive up the employer's insurance rates. However, laws are in place for a reason: To protect injured employee rights. Contact workers' comp lawyers if you were fired after filing a workers' comp claim.
If an employer fires an employee who files a claim, the company may state that the employee was fired for “other reasons.” However, the real reason the employee was fired may be because he or she filed a claim, and the employer wants revenge. This is called retaliation, which is illegal. Our workers' comp department in Raleigh helps employees file wrongful termination lawsuits against the employer.
Injured Employee Rights
Injured employees have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. It is against the law for an employer to discriminate, make threats, or retaliate against the injured employee. If this occurs, the local workers’ compensation office should be informed and the victim may consult with a lawyer to determine the best course of legal action.
If your employer fires you in violation of North Carolina workers’ compensation laws, consult with a lawyer who will fight for injured employee rights.
You may be eligible for various damages, including:
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress
- Compensation for attorney fees
If you believe your employer did not adhere to North Carolina workers' compensation laws, contact our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh. Our firm helps workers state-wide and provides free case evaluations - in-person or over the phone. Brent Adams has 30 years of experience helping clients. Contact our lawyers to schedule a case review.
Will I be followed by a private detective after I make my workers compensation claim?
If your on-the-job injury is serious enough to require you to be out of work for an extended period of time, you will almost certainly be followed by a private detective who will monitor you, probably in a paneled truck or van, and try to take video footage of your activities. Because of the strong likelihood of being followed, you should assume that you are being watched and act accordingly.
Should I settle my case without the assistance of a NC workers compensation lawyer?
It will be difficult for the injured worker to know what their case is worth and whether the insurance company has offered a fair settlement offer. If the case is very minor, which does not involve the emploee missing work for any substantial period of time and does not involve permanent injuries, the worker does not necessarily need a North Carolina workers' comp lawyer. However, it would not hurt to get a consultation from a lawyer before settling a case, even if it is a relatively small case.
Are the vocational counselors assigned to injured workers by the insurance company interested in worker welfare?
No. Vocational rehabilitation counselors (both medical and vocational) work for the insurance company. Their involvement in an injured worker's case is for the benefit of the insurance company, not the worker.
Injured workers should carefully handle their interactions with vocational rehabilitation counselors. Sometimes these counselors can misconstrue a worker's words in an attempt to invalidate the claim and terminate benefits. Our Raleigh workers' comp lawyers provide an overview of how workers should conduct conversations with vocational rehabilitation counselors.
How do you file a complaint with the North Carolina Department of Labor?
Workplace safety in North Carolina is investigated many times throughout the year for various reasons. Agricultural worker safety on farms has garnered a lot of press in recent years, which which has shed light on the Department of Labor's regulations and the lack of safety inspections and enforcement.
Department of Labor Complaint NC
If you are worried about your work conditions or the safety of a loved one's workplace, you can file a complaint with the NC Occupational Safety and Health Division. OSH allows complaints filed online. Plaintiffs can also download a PDF document and follow the fax instructions on it.
Read more about workplace safety in North Carolina from our workers' comp attorneys in Raleigh.
If my doctor assigns me work restrictions which limits what I can do at work such as the amount of weight I can lift and whether I can bend and stoop, should I work outside of those restrictions when I return to work?
No. It is not only detrimental to your health to work outside of the physical restrictions that your doctor has given you, but it will also hurt your case.
It is imperative that a recovering injured worker maintain activity strictly within the scope that a medical doctor has prescribed. If an employer pressures a restricted worker to participate in activities that are outside that which a physician has provided, the worker should contact a workers' comp lawyer immediately. The North Carolina Industrial Commission has specific procedures that address situations like this and a lawyer can help a worker take appropriate steps to help preserve their employment, workers' comp benefits, and proper work restrictions.
Can I recover money for my pain and suffering involved with my on-the-job injury in North Carolina?
No. Workers in North Carolina may not receive compensation for pain and suffering related to their on-the-job injury. The General Statutes do not provide laws that require employers to cover awards for pain and suffering that develop as a result of a job injury.