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N.C. Workers’ Compensation Settlements: Proceed With Caution!

North Carolina Workers Comp AttorneysBy Ryan Bliss

At some point, most injured workers receive a phone call from the workers’ compensation insurance company asking whether they’re ready to settle their case. Maybe you’ve already received that call…

If so, it’s probably a good time to consult a James Scott Farrin workers’ compensation attorney. More than half our workers’ comp attorneys are NC Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation law. This is the highest level of specialization available in N.C., and only a small percentage of N.C. attorneys can make that claim. Very small.

Navigating the twists and turns of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is hard enough while your case is still open. But when you receive that phone call, you’ve got a whole new set of issues to consider. This is your livelihood we’re talking about. You don’t want to make any decisions you later regret. And when it comes to determining the “value” of your case, Facebook said it best:

IT’S COMPLICATED!

Do all workers’ comp cases settle?

First thing’s first. It’s important for every injured worker in North Carolina to understand that not all workers’ compensation cases settle. There is no requirement that your case should eventually settle, and you can’t force a workers’ compensation insurance company to offer a settlement. In fact, based on my experience, some injured workers are better off leaving their cases open. That being said, many cases do eventually resolve by “clincher” agreement. This means the insurance company offers a lump sum of money to an injured worker in return for a full and final settlement of their case. A clincher (or settlement agreement) typically closes the case in full, including all medical treatment and wage replacement benefits.

If you find yourself considering a settlement, BE CAREFUL! Before making any big decisions, there are two important issues you should examine.

Is it a good time to settle your case?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every workers’ compensation case is different. Based on my opinion, however, for most cases, the best time to settle is after your major medical treatment has concluded. If the insurance company pushes you toward a settlement too quickly, they may be unable to reasonably evaluate the value of your case. This can result in lowball settlement offers, which typically do more harm than good.

Additionally, there are many other benefits you may or may not be receiving, which can adversely affect (or be adversely affected by) a workers’ compensation settlement. Social Security Disability benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, and even private disability/health insurance plans can cause complicated legal issues when it comes time to settle your workers’ compensation case. All of these issues must be carefully considered in order to determine whether settlement is a good idea, based on your particular set of circumstances.

What is the “value” of your case?

Once you decide it’s a good time to settle your case, there’s still another looming question that will need to be answered: How much?

My job as a workers’ compensation attorney would be a lot easier if there was a magic “settlement calculator,” but unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. In order to determine the reasonable value of your claim, an experienced professional will typically consider the following:

  • The cost of your future medical treatment
  • The likelihood that your injury will prevent you from returning to work in some capacity down the road
  • Any decreased earning potential resulting from your injury

Additionally, you may be entitled to an award for a permanent partial disability rating to your injured body part or parts. This is typically determined by your doctor. The calculation associated with this potential award is set by statute in North Carolina.

James Scott Farrin workers’ comp attorneys are trained to help you weigh the pros and cons of settling your case. If you decide to move forward with settlement, your attorney can then help you negotiate with the insurance company in order to try to maximize the amount you could potentially receive. Regardless of whether or not you decide to retain an attorney, when it comes to settling your workers’ compensation case, proceed with caution.

North Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

Workers’ comp is complicated to navigate. We urge you to consult with us if you have any questions whatsoever.

If you think you can't afford a workers’ comp lawyer, you may be surprised. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis to try to help our clients navigate the best course of action for their unique situation.

Feel free to contact us by clicking here or calling us toll free at 1-866-900-7078. We'll have an attorney evaluate your case for FREE.

Will I Be Denied Social Security Disability Benefits if I Work 1 Day a Week?

The government has a methodical five-step evaluation process to determine if you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security examiners must follow those five steps in sequential order every time someone walks in their office to find out if they qualify for benefits.

There’s no wiggle room.

We know from firsthand experience. Nearly everyone on our Social Security Disability team previously worked for the Social Security Administration. You must be able to proceed through the first three steps or all five steps in order to be found disabled.

However, if you fail the first step the inquiry ends altogether.

Step 1. Are You Working?

The first step is the one that trips up many people. It is at this step that the inquiry can end abruptly. Here is how this works.

Step 1 asks about your current work status. What many clients do not realize is the weight and importance the government gives to whether or not you are working. It is very telling that your work status is the first question rather than what disability or disabilities you claim to have.

Here is what the Social Security Administration says about work status as it relates to potential benefits:

“At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled.”

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

As you might imagine, the government has a very specific definition as to what substantial and gainful activity means with regard to your potential to receive disability benefits.

Substantial refers to anything you are doing physically or mentally, and can even include part time work or volunteer work.

Gainful is something you get paid to do. But even if you don’t get paid (such as volunteering or helping a friend or family member with their startup business by taping boxes to ship) the Social Security Administration may conclude your activity is gainful if other people usually get paid to do it.

In 2017, substantial gainful activity is defined as earning $1,170 or more monthly ($1,950 for those who are blind).

Someone Has to Put Food on the Table”

We will sometimes have clients come to us and say they are working only because it is necessary in order to put food on the table for their family. They explain to us how difficult it is for them because of XYZ disability and they are barely getting by. We understand and we empathize. But the government reasons, if you are able to put food on the table today, you can do it tomorrow and the next day. The Social Security Disability Benefits document makes this very clear:

“Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.”

FREE Social Security Disability Case Evaluation

When you are completely unable to work to put food on the table is when you should come see us. Unfortunately, the government ties the hands of all Social Security Disability lawyers unless you say you are not working during Step 1 questioning.

Everyone’s situation is unique and we have helped hundreds in their time of need. If you’d like a FREE case evaluation, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We would love to try to help in any way we can.

Fatalities More Likely In Older Vehicle Car Crashes

By Jennifer A. Taylor

Vintage car dashboardA colleague and I were chatting over coffee, and she shared a concern that I thought others may have. She said she and her husband received an insurance bill for an old beat-up Ford Bronco that her husband drives up at their cabin.  She joked that her sunglasses are worth more than that Bronco, so she was shocked to see the insurance bill for it was more than they pay for their newer Lexus SUV.

The reasoning behind this is simple and makes sense when you think about it.

More Fatalities Likely in Older Cars

While newer cars can be more expensive, the insurance on older vehicles may cost more because many older vehicles may not be as safe. A 2013 research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded …

If involved in a fatal crash, the older a car is the more likely its driver will die in that crash.

The risk of serious injury or death from a car accident, whether it’s on the I-77 near Charlotte, N.C. 12 along the Outer Banks, or scenic Rt. 221 through the Blue Ridge Mountains., spikes in an older-model car. And the older the car the more likely the severity of the injury, including fatality.

Minimum Insurance Coverage Enough?

The North Carolina Department of Insurance notes the minimum coverage for bodily injury liability is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per crash and $25,000 for property damage. However, as a personal injury attorney, I can tell you in many cases this is rarely enough to fully cover many damages, particularly in more serious collisions. A good North Carolina car wreck lawyer will generally also seek compensation through the at-fault driver’s uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage, as outlined in N.C.G.S. 20-279.21.

Although there is a general perception that newer vehicles are less expensive to insure, the reality is that safety is considered a key factor when insurers determine how much to charge customers.

Almost all insurers give discounts for vehicles that come fully loaded with modern safety features, such as multiple airbags, rearview cameras, improved crumple zone design, blind spot sensors, and more. Vehicles manufactured prior to 2000 were not routinely equipped with those features, many of which were introduced after 2015. Safety and prevention of car accidents in North Carolina can often depend on features such as these.

When you are considering how much auto insurance you need, recognize that even if you can squeak by with lower rates on an older car, you may want to consider increasing your limit because of the heightened risk of serious injuries.

North Carolina is an at-fault state or tort-based system when it comes to how an injured person will be compensated following a car accident. That means the person who was legally at fault generally bears financial responsibility for the crash.

However, keep in mind that many people carry only the minimum level of auto insurance. If you’re in an older car and you suffer serious injuries, it is unlikely that having the minimums will be enough to cover the full scope of your damages. In those situations, you may need to tap into your own uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage for compensation. While sometimes auto insurers have been known to push back on this in an effort to minimize their own payouts, our personal injury lawyers will fight to try to ensure you receive the compensation you may deserve.

N.C. Car Wreck Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

If you have been injured by or in an older model car, I urge you to contact the James Scott Farrin personal injury Hurt Line for a free case evaluation. Things can get very complicated very fast, and with medical bills, and quite probably time out of work, you want to try to get the compensation you potentially deserve.

On average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer to represent them received 3.5X more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own*.

Contact us today or call 1-866-900-7078. We’re here for you 24/7.

*Insurance Research Council 1999

Hurt on the Job? Forms That Need to be Completed for Possible Compensation

When you’re injured on the job in North Carolina, it’s enough to deal with just trying to recover. Let alone, trying to put food on the table and pay the light bill while you’re not able to work.

In order to try to help make those payments and to propel your worker’s comp claim from one step to the next, the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) will play a key role in your claims process. It is the state agency responsible for ensuring that you, your employer, and its insurance company are all playing by the rules and treating each other fair and square.

We know these rules from first-hand experience. Two of our workers’ compensation lawyers, Doug Berger and Matthew Harbin were formerly NCIC commissioners presiding over workers’ comp hearings. As a former four-term N.C. state senator, Mr. Berger helped write some of our workers’ compensation laws.

As with many large bureaucratic agencies, you will be required to fill out a number of forms during the course of your claim. Strict deadlines apply. If your forms are late, you can lose your claim rights.

People can often be confused and intimidated as to which forms to fill out and why. We get it. We fill them out all day every day. That’s one of the conveniences of having a workers’ compensation lawyer handle your case.

If you do not have a workers’ comp lawyer working on your behalf, and you’ve decided to try to tackle your claim on your own, we have compiled a list of some of the more common forms the North Carolina Industrial Commission requires.

NCIC Workers’ Compensation Forms

File Immediately After a Work Injury

Form 18

Your report of the injury. A Form 18 should be filed with the NCIC as soon as possible, but no later than two years from your date of injury. You should notify your employer immediately after you are injured, or as soon as is practical, and within 30 days of your injury. This form lets the NCIC and your employer know that you are requesting to be compensated for your injuries. If you do not file within the 30-day deadline (which begins the day you were injured), your claim may be dismissed after a period of time.

Form 19

Your employer’s report of the injury. Form 19 must be filed within five days of the employer’s knowledge that you were injured. Do not assume your employer will file this claim or file it within the deadline. We have seen employees’ claims get bogged down right from the start because this form was not filed or not filed on time. If you are able, we suggest you follow up, as there is no penalty to the employer if they do not file.

File to Determine Benefits Status and Amount

Form 60

If your employer accepts the claim, they need to file a Form 60 admitting responsibility and agreeing to pay full workers’ comp benefits (wage loss benefits and medical treatment).

Form 61

If your employer denies responsibility for your injury, they need to file a Form 61 stating the reasons why they are denying responsibility.

Form 62

Your employer or insurance carrier should file a Form 62 to make modifications to your weekly benefit amounts and the reasons for doing so.

Form 63

A Form 63 allows your workers’ comp insurance carrier to pay some of your medical bills, while they investigate your claim. However it does not obligate them to accept responsibility for your injury or to pay wage loss benefits.

File for Mileage Reimbursement

Form 25T

The insurance company may not always mention this mileage benefit to you. You should be aware that you are allowed reimbursement for mileage to medical appointments when you have to drive more than 20 miles round trip.

Returning to Work

Form 26A

Be vigilant when signing Form 26A. This form is typically used when you are able to continue working for your employer in your pre-injury job after your medical treatment has concluded. The insurance company fills out Form 26A utilizing the information from your doctor’s assigned permanent partial impairment rating. You will receive a lump sum based on a statutory formula, which is based on your weekly compensation rate and the part of your body that was injured. We have handled thousands of workers’ comp settlements. We can tell you from experience that it is prudent to have a worker’s comp lawyer on your side when finalizing your settlement amount.

We guarantee you the insurance company has their own lawyers to call on when
determining your settlement amount.

Request an NCIC Hearing

Form 33

If you believe you require a hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission, you can file Form 33 to request one.  Be forewarned. Your employer and the insurance company will almost certainly be represented by attorneys who will fight for their rights which could include not paying you benefits.

We do not recommend you go through an NCIC hearing without your own workers’ comp attorney to help try to even the battlefield on your behalf.

You Can Afford a James Scott Farrin Workers’ Comp Lawyer

Many of our clients come to us after trying to negotiate the workers’ comp bureaucracy with its many forms, deadlines, and confusing and seemingly conflicting information on their own. While we have helped many who threw in the towel mid-process, we suggest injured workers come to us right after their injury. You can see why. The NCIC clock starts ticking on Day 1 of your injury.

Our contingency fee is the same whether you hire us from the beginning, middle, or toward the end. So you might as well take full advantage and hire us from the start. If we take your case, you don't pay an attorney's fee unless we recover compensation for you. And you only pay a percentage of the money you potentially recover.

If we don't recover for you, we won't charge you an attorney's fee.

NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Offer Free Evaluation

Of the more than 28,000 attorneys who are licensed in North Carolina, only 140 are N.C. Board Certified in workers’ compensation law*. Several of our workers’ comp attorneys are NC Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation law.

If you have been injured on the job, take full advantage of the experience we have to offer. Don’t wait. Contact us right after your injury for a free case evaluation. As you can see, the forms alone are a lot to deal with, and we’d love to help you fight for the compensation you potentially deserve.

Contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for your FREE case evaluation.

*Figures provided by the N.C. State Bar as of December, 2016.

 

Contact Information

Raleigh Law Office

5848-100 Faringdon Place
Raleigh, NC 27609
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

517 Owen Drive
Fayetteville, NC 28304
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

1001 Morehead Square Drive, Suite 350
Charlotte, NC 28203
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Greenville Law Office

702 G Cromwell Dr.
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

214 South William Street, Suite 3
Goldsboro, NC 27530
Phone: (919)-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

3202 Sunset Avenue, Suite B
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078