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Do I Need to Hire an NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

You’ve been hurt on the job. You need medical treatment. Maybe you’re out of work or working under restrictions imposed by your doctor as a result. Maybe your employer is paying you less while you’re working light duty. Your injury may mean you’re struggling physically, emotionally, and financially. And the insurance company – who may be more concerned with their profits than your well-being – is calling the shots.

This is an unfortunate but typical predicament and is among the many reasons the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin has grown to become one of the largest personal injury firms in North Carolina. People need us to help try to keep them from potentially being sidelined by the insurance company that may be looking out for themselves, not injured workers.

Why Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?

Admittedly, sometimes in minor cases, you may not need a workers’ compensation lawyer. But many times in more complicated cases, where healing time may be longer, or your employer is pressuring you to come back to work before you’ve healed, or threatening to fire you if you don’t get back to work or you want a second opinion from another doctor, you very well may need a workers’ compensation lawyer to go to bat for you. The laws are just too complicated and nuanced, and the insurance companies, for the most part, know they have the upper hand because they know the laws better than injured workers. When you’re hurt on the job, employers and adjusters (the insurance company reps assigned to work on your case) may tell you that you don’t need to hire a lawyer. They may try to make you feel like they’re on your side and will look out for your best interests. But beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. There’s one thing they’re generally looking out for: Their own corporate coffers. Every dollar an insurance company spends on you is a dollar they don’t get to keep for themselves – or pass along to their shareholders. Do you really think when given the chance to pay you more or keep it for themselves, they will readily pay you more?

Experience tells me no. Not without a fight.

You vs. the Workers’ Comp Insurance Adjuster

The adjuster on your case may work on hundreds of cases with a goal of paying injured workers like you as little as possible. They know North Carolina workers’ compensation laws inside and out, and they know how to use and interpret these laws to their advantage. They also have access to corporate lawyers that they won’t hesitate to call upon to try to deny your right to benefits. For example, injured workers often call us after their employer and employer’s insurance company (with the help of their lawyers) order them to return to work. The insurance company and its lawyers may leave the impression that if you don’t return right away, your workers’ compensation checks will be cut off automatically. But this isn’t true, and the law doesn’t allow the insurance company to cut off your checks just because they want to. Of course, there’s no way for most people to know that unless there’s someone like us to tell them.

The bottom line? If you try to go head-to-head by yourself against an insurance company and their well-trained adjusters and experienced lawyers, you may end up potentially receiving less than you are entitled to under the law. That’s great for the insurance company, but bad for you and your family.

Even the Playing Field

There is a way to even the playing field. Hire an experienced North Carolina workers’ comp lawyer.

The workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin work tirelessly to try to push insurance companies to meet their obligations to injured workers just like you. Like the adjuster assigned to your case, we spend all day every day on workers’ compensation cases. But unlike your adjuster, our goal – actually our passion – is to try to maximize your benefits, including wage benefits, medical treatment, and other payments and services you may be entitled to under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Many of these benefits your adjuster may never even tell you about.

Why the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin?

First, our firm was named one of the “Best Law Firms” for workers’ compensation by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® for the greater Raleigh area1 in 2017. That doesn’t happen by accident. So who’s on this team?

  • Former defense attorneys and paralegals for insurance companies who have worked inside the insurance companies, so they know what you’re up against.
  • More than half our workers’ comp attorneys are NC Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation law. This is a NC State Bar certification denoting a high level of proficiency in a particular practice area, and less than 4% of licensed NC attorneys can make that claim2.
  • We have two former North Carolina Industrial Commissioners. The North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) is the impartial agency that administers and enforces workers' compensation laws.
  • We have a former North Carolina State Senator who was elected to serve four terms. He also helped write some of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws.
  • Many of our attorneys have been acknowledged by colleagues and peers. They are often asked to speak at seminars for other workers’ compensation attorneys. Others are accomplished authors of scholarly articles and two have received coveted awards for workers’ compensation, including Best Lawyers “Best Lawyer3” and NC Super Lawyers Magazine’s “Rising Star4.” One was named NC Super Lawyers Magazine’s “Super Lawyer5” three times and Best Lawyers “Lawyer of the Year6” for Raleigh twice.
  • Our attorneys are givers and champions of the underdog. Many of them join our side because they are advocates for those without a voice. And that is often the injured worker. Of our 13 workers’ comp attorneys, 12 are members of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of legal representation in our state. Many are active members in their communities – from teaching at local colleges, to counseling the Hispanic/Latino community.

Contact James Scott Farrin Soon After Your Work Injury

It’s never too early to contact us after being hurt. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin as soon as possible after your injury so we can try to answer questions about your situation. Any delay in contacting us could give your adjuster a chance to deny you benefits. After you explain the details of your injury and case to us, we can let you know if the time is right for us to partner with you to fight the insurance company. If it is, then we can get to work for you right away.

NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

Of course, you don’t have to contact a lawyer, but based on our team’s 150 years of combined experience, it is almost always a good idea to speak with us about your circumstances. Our confidential case evaluations are free, and you may learn that you’re entitled to more than the insurance company is letting on.

If you’ve been injured in a work accident or know someone who has, contact us today or call 1-866-900-7078 to learn how utilizing a workers’ compensation lawyer from the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin could potentially benefit you.

 

1 Visit www.usnews.com for more information about criteria for inclusion.

2 Figures from the N.C. State Bar as of December 2016.

3,6 For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.bestlawyers.com.

 4,5 For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.superlawyers.com.

 

Which NC Workers’ Comp Attorney Should You Choose? (5 Reasons to Consider Us)

In our business, it’s not always about just lawyering. It’s about helping people as much as we can in any way we can.

Work injuries have a terrible way of impacting important areas of your life – your health, your job, your finances, and your family.

We know. We work with injured workers every day and we see their struggles. That’s why we put compassion over case numbers. The firm began that way, and even though we’ve grown to nearly 200 staff including roughly 40 attorneys, that needle hasn’t budged.

  1. Compassion That’s Real

We had one client that was out of work and getting workers’ comp checks. As is often the case in workers’ compensation cases, she started to have financial troubles because she was only receiving the statutorily mandated 66% percent of her average weekly wage. She had to give up her car, and she was about to lose her home to foreclosure. She wasn’t doing well, and her efforts to avoid a crisis weren’t working. She tried to refinance her home on her own, but she needed help. The firm worked with her mortgage company, and she was able to keep her home. Crisis averted. With her settlement money1, she bought a car to replace the one she lost.

Next, her injury had to be addressed. While working on her case she was referred to get a medical evaluation, but her insurance company denied that visit. It was obvious to us she needed the evaluation. The firm decided to set up an appointment for her to visit a doctor, and we got a treatment plan accepted by the insurance company1. Things began to turn around.

When you’ve been injured on the job, you shouldn’t also have to worry about whether the insurance company is going to treat you fairly. That's why our firm was founded – to assertively advance the cases of clients in the face of adversity.

  1. Formidable Size, Personable Attention

Fighting for justice is not just our job – it’s our passion. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us motived day in and day out.

We believe this is among the reasons we’re now one of the largest personal injury law firms in North Carolina. More than 30,000 people just like you have turned to us when faced with injustice, whether workers’ compensation, car accidents, personal injury, Social Security Disability, or eminent domain.

While we have been known to be a formidable force to reckon with in courtrooms and mediation, we maintain a personal and personable one-on-one relationship with each individual client. Why? Because our clients like it that way. And so do we.

One of the best compliments we can get from our clients is when they refer family and friends to us.

We handled a case for a client who fell and suffered significant and permanent injuries. When we settled her case1, she was overwhelmed by how we took care of her. She told us she considered us family. Clients often tell us they feel as though they are part of the James Scott Farrin family.

And we oftentimes get referrals based on this “family style” atmosphere. Referrals are a big part of our business coming from clients, friends, and family members. And we have some stellar results to show for the good work we do. We’ve recovered over:

  • $700 million total for over 30,000 clients since 19971
  • $100 million total for over 3,000 clients in 2016 alone1

These figures don’t include $1.25 billion1,2 we helped 18,400 farmers recover against the U.S. government in a historic class action case.

  1. Peer and Client Recognitions that Set Us Apart

When you choose us, you are choosing a recognized Tier 1-ranked U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” 20173 firm – the highest ranking possible.

Some of our workers’ comp lawyers have won awards and achieved peer- and client-reviewed designations for 2017, including Best Lawyers in America, “Best Lawyers”4 and “Lawyer of the Year”5; and Super Lawyers Magazine “Super Lawyers.”6

More than half the attorneys in our workers’ comp department are North Carolina board certified in workers’ comp. Board certification is the highest level of specialization available in NC, and only a very small percentage of NC attorneys can make that claim. Out of the more than 28,000 attorneys licensed in North Carolina only 140 attorneys are NC board certified in workers’ compensation law – that’s less than 1%7.

One of our workers’ comp attorneys is a former North Carolina state senator and former Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Others used to work for workers’ compensation defense firms for the insurance companies, and several of our paralegals and other administrative staff have worked for insurance companies, themselves.

  1. Workers’ Comp Advocates On and Off the Job

Advocating through various professional and community service organizations is something important to us. From teaching at local colleges to counseling the Spanish-speaking community, we’re always looking to partner with others to improve our communities.

The vast majority of our workers’ comp attorneys are members of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of legal representation in our state. And we’re proud of that because it’s an important way that we show that we care for those living in our communities.

  1. Empathy Is in Our Cultural DNA

While we could go on discussing the many achievements, accolades, and designations of our attorneys and staff, and highlighting all their credentials, what I really think sets our firm apart is: we just hire good people.

I’ll never forget something Jim Farrin, our president and firm founder, said when I was hired. “We don’t hire jerks.”

Of course, we make conscientious decisions about who we hire based on professional abilities. But we also value the ability to empathize with people, address a client’s dire predicament, and try to get fair and just results for them.

Empathy at this firm is not icing on the cake. It’s in the batter – in our cultural DNA.

The firm goes to great lengths to try to make the lives of our clients better. Going through a major injury is a big deal. We look at clients’ circumstances as if it were happening to our brother, sister, or any family member. What would we do for our loved one if they were injured? I could tell you countless stories about times we’ve sent flowers to our clients who might have lost a loved one or who’ve celebrated a marriage or a new child, but it goes back to one quality – empathy.

We also take care of each other.

The young daughter of one of our employees was living in South America with her grandparents. The employee is the breadwinner for her family in South America, and she would regularly send money to them. Meanwhile, she was trying to save enough money hoping to be able to afford the expense of bringing her daughter to the United States to live with her. As you can imagine, she missed her daughter terribly. Without this employee’s knowledge, firm employees got together and raised the money to bring her daughter from South America to the United States to finally be reunited with her mother.

They just wanted to do that. That’s the kind of people we are here at James Scott Farrin – real human beings who care.

Questions to Ask Any Workers’ Comp Attorney

Whichever firm you choose, just make sure it is the right fit for you, personally, and for your workers’ comp circumstances. Here is a list of questions we have put together to ask potential attorneys when selecting a workers’ comp attorney.

NC Workers’ Comp Attorneys Offer FREE Case Evaluation

We hope this information has been helpful in determining what we believe sets us apart. Feel free to contact us about your situation, or call us at 1-866-900-7078. We’ll do our best to try to determine if we can help you.

 

1 Cases or matters referenced do not represent the law firm’s entire record. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer’s or a law firm’s past results.

2 Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin led a team of firms to recover $1.25 billion for African-American farmers from the U. S. government for discrimination.

3 Designation was for Workers Compensation practice in the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area. For more information regarding Best Law Firms standards for inclusion, visit www.usnews.com.

4, 5 For more information regarding standards for inclusion for “Best Lawyer” and “Lawyer of the Year,” visit www.bestlawyers.com.

6 For more information regarding standards for inclusion for “Super Lawyer,” visit www.superlawyers.com.

7 Figures by the NC State Bar December 2016.

Client identities have been removed or changed to protect their privacy.

 

Can I Get Paid for Pain and Suffering in NC if I’m Injured at Work?

I’ve represented a lot of injured workers in my 10+ years as a North Carolina worker’s compensation lawyer. One of the top three questions I am asked when speaking with a new client is whether they are entitled to receive benefits for pain and suffering associated with their injury.

The simple answer is, like most states, North Carolina worker’s compensation laws do not provide pain and suffering benefits for injured workers.

But I advise them to take heart. All is not lost.

There are other benefits available under the North Carolina worker’s compensation legal system that provide for losses injured workers suffer. It’s a matter of semantics. While these benefits are not specifically earmarked as “pain and suffering,” clients can potentially receive compensation for things other than their injuries.

But before we get into what pain and suffering is, let’s talk about what you can get paid for.

The benefits available under North Carolina Worker’s Compensation laws are intended to cover medical expenses to treat injuries from work accidents and wages lost as a result of the work injury. In the worker’s comp world, we generally call these benefits “medical compensation” and “indemnity compensation.”

Getting Paid for Medical Compensation

Medical compensation is intended to cover all the medical benefits that are reasonable and necessary and related to a workers’ compensation injury. If your employer or their insurance company agree that they are responsible for your injury, then they are responsible for paying the medical bills.

These medical benefits cover your expenses fully (nothing out of your pocket) and there are no co-pays or deductibles as with private health insurance. They will even reimburse you for gas money to and from your appointments (but don’t expect them to necessarily tell you that up front).

Additionally, medical compensation can cover future medical expenses associated with the injury once you have healed from the original injury. However, there are lots of twists and turns associated with what employers could be responsible for paying.

What is Indemnity Compensation?

Indemnity means payment from loss of wages, for example, as a result of your injury. Once you have healed, if your injury is permanent, there is a benefit available for that permanent injury. The types of benefits you might be entitled to in indemnity compensation can be highly variable depending on the type of injury, how long it prevents you from working, and whether the injury is permanent in nature.

We urge anyone who is having indemnity compensation issues with their workers’ comp insurance company to contact one of our worker’s comp attorneys.

What Does Pain and Suffering Mean?

Pain and suffering is a physical or mental pain or discomfort stemming from your injuries. It could be that you can’t sleep at night because your slipped disc keeps you up from pain. This could cause you to trudge through your days, tired, short-tempered, less cognitively alert. You may have stopped your morning workout routine due to the injury and lack of sleep. Maybe your marriage is suffering as a result, and your family life, too. Anything that has decreased your enjoyment of life as you knew it before the accident can qualify as pain and suffering. Maybe you’ve had to stop volunteering or taking classes because you’re in pain, tired all the time, and can’t focus.

But, you reason, this is not the real you. You only became this tired, grouchy, depressed, constantly-in-pain person as a direct result of the accident you suffered at work. You should be compensated for this very real quality-of- life loss.

Good point. But here’s the trade-off as the workers’ comp system sees it.

Why Can’t I Get Paid for Pain and Suffering?

Workers’ comp was designed to resolve claims between injured workers and their employers quickly and efficiently.

Employees don’t have to prove their employers were at fault, so that makes it easier for them to obtain workers' compensation benefits. That’s good news for the employee.

On the other hand, the trade-off is that employer compensation is usually limited to payments for medical bills and wage loss – not such nebulous things as pain and suffering, which could open a can of worms and leave a lot of room for interpretation and “he said she said.”

However, an experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you classify your issues
to pursue potential payment from legally defined and acceptable options.

For example, if your injuries have developed into a mental or emotional disorder, you might be able to recover for this through worker’s comp. If, for example, you were diagnosed with depression as a result of dealing with all the issues mentioned in the scenario above, you may be able to receive benefits. However, these are potentially considered separate grounds for filing worker’s comp claims and recovering benefits. We urge anyone who finds themselves in this scenario to contact a worker’s comp lawyer.

There are other avenues to pursue compensation for your injuries, too. Avenues you should explore with us (or any knowledgeable workers’ comp attorney):

  • Defective products. If there’s evidence that a defective product caused your injury, we could sue for products liability against the manufacturer of the product. Were you driving a vehicle with a Takata airbag, for example?
  • Toxic substances. Sometimes injured workers can be compensated by bringing a tort lawsuit against the manufacturer of the toxin. Think asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.
  • Was your employer’s conduct intentional and substantially certain to cause serious injury or death of an employee? If we can prove that, we can file a personal injury lawsuit against them.
  • You could also bring a personal injury lawsuit against a third party if, for example, you were making a work delivery and were hit by another vehicle.
  • If your employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance, you could potentially sue your employer for that. With very few exceptions, The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires that all businesses that employ three or more employees carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Are you beginning to see why we urge injured workers to contact an experienced North Carolina worker’s compensation lawyer? There are so many nuances in workers’ compensation law – too many for the average person to know and understand.

An NC Board Certified Worker’s Compensation attorney can try to make sure that you receive all the workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to. Out of the 28,000 lawyers licensed in North Carolina, only 140 claim that designation in worker’s compensation law*. And we have seven of them who practice right here at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From NC Workers Comp Lawyers

If you are injured in a work accident, we strongly urge you to contact a worker’s compensation attorney to determine whether you have received all the benefits you may deserve. Your health, your job, and possibly, future benefits could be at stake.

Click here or call us at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case.

P.S. If you think you can’t afford to hire a qualified workers' comp attorney consider this. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we work on a contingency basis, so you don't owe us an attorney's fee if we don't get you compensation for your claim.

 

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

Should I Talk to the Insurance Company After My Work Injury?

When you sustain an injury on the job it’s crucial to report your injury to a manager or supervisor right away. You should also file a Form 18 with the Industrial Commission, which can be submitted electronically. Click here for Form 18.

In order for your case to be accepted, the insurance company must follow an investigative process to determine if your case will be accepted or denied. They will review medical records regarding the injury and talk to your employer. They will also talk to you by phone to obtain what is known in the workers’ comp industry as a “recorded statement.”

The recorded statement is a key phone call for them – and for you. What you say can lead to acceptance of your claim or denial.

Be careful how you explain what happened to cause your injury. And be careful how you answer seemingly harmless questions. You want to tell the truth, of course, but we have seen instances where the insurance adjuster spun the truth out of context in their efforts to deny claims.

What is a recorded statement?

The first contact you have with the workers’ comp insurance adjuster will likely be in the form of a recorded statement. The adjuster will call you and ask your permission to ask you questions over the phone while they record the conversation.

The recorded statement should be approached with great caution, and it is prudent to consult with an attorney prior to providing one. Here’s why.

The insurance adjuster is NOT on your side.

The primary purpose of the questions the adjuster asks during the recorded statement is to gather facts and information about your workplace accident. The adjuster might try and use this information to deny your claim.

That is why it is so important to be careful what you say and how you say it – and why we urge people to contact a workers’ comp lawyer before anything is said in that recorded statement.

“Anything unusual happen?”

Let’s say, for example, after you describe your work accident the adjuster asks you if anything unusual happened. Were you doing a task that is part of your regular job and were you doing it the way you normally would? The purpose of this question is not to judge whether or not you are a conscientious and careful employee. The answer you give might be directly related to the compensability of your case. In order for an injury to be considered compensable, there must be an “injury by accident,” which means that something out of the ordinary or unusual must have happened.

“Unusual” to the insurance company might mean that one particular shelf you were stocking had been moved higher than usual and you lost your balance and fell while reaching. To you, reaching for a high shelf is all in a hard day’s work. So you might reply that nothing unusual happened. Unusual to you might mean the electricity went out and you were stocking shelves in the dark.

If you tell them you were doing your job as usual at the time of injury and omit to report any unusual circumstances, such as the shelf having been moved a bit higher than normal, your case may potentially be denied.

To the insurance company, this critical piece of information could be a key factor in accepting or denying your claim. Adjusters know you are not aware of this. But they know we are!

There are a few exceptions to the “injury by accident” requirement. Different rules apply for injuries to the neck and back, hernias, and repetitious motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The most important thing that you have at the beginning of a recorded statement is your good word, and you need to make sure the adjuster is not distorting your word. Be honest, brief, stick to the facts, and don’t editorialize, i.e., “I didn’t get much sleep last night, and was feeling more tired than usual.” Be aware, we’ve seen some adjusters try to veer off-track and make judgments about the incident, i.e. “Were you taking anything like cold medicine?”

Why consult with an experienced workers’ comp attorney?

This is just one example of the hundreds of nuances of workers’ compensation law. That is why we urge anyone who is faced with giving a statement to an insurance representative to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney first. We can try to help you understand the types of questions you may be asked and possible pitfalls and nuances in language to heed. We can also be part of the conversation during your recorded statement. If inappropriate questions are asked we can object.

Get a FREE Evaluation From a NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Not only do we have many experienced workers’ comp attorneys who deal with these issues every day, we have seven North Carolina Board Certified specialists in workers’ comp law. Many of our staff used to work for the insurance companies – and two worked at the NC Industrial Commission. There’s something to be said for that kind of inside experience.

Before you talk to any insurance representative, especially on a recorded statement, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We’re available to take your call 24/7.

 

PS: For the record, you have the right to decline a recorded statement and provide a written statement instead.

Striving to Become a Better Attorney – Q&A With Our Newest N.C. Board Certified Specialist in Worker’s Comp Law

Recently workers’ compensation attorney Ryan Bliss became a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in workers’ compensation law. Becoming North Carolina Board Certified is quite an achievement. Out of the more than 28,000 attorneys licensed in North Carolina, only 140 are board certified in workers’ compensation law – that’s less than 1%*. While not all practice areas in North Carolina offer board certification, workers’ comp does.

Not every attorney who has the opportunity to become board certified chooses that path. It’s a tough one to forge. The time commitment alone can deter many capable attorneys.

We sat down with Mr. Bliss to get his thoughts about why he chose to become North Carolina board certified in worker’s compensation law.

What prompted you to become a North Carolina board certified specialist in workers’ compensation law?

For me, it was a no-brainer. The board certification process gives lawyers a unique opportunity to demonstrate specialized knowledge, skill, and proficiency in a designated area of practice. Specialization is a distinguishing accomplishment in the legal profession, and very few lawyers licensed in North Carolina can claim this designation.

I’m proud to say we now have eight attorneys at our firm who are board certified. I chose to apply for board certification because I want my clients to know I strive to be the best lawyer I can be for them. Becoming board certified is one more step toward that effort.

What was involved in becoming board certified in workers’ compensation law?

Candidates for board certification must devote a significant portion of their legal practice to workers’ compensation for at least five years. Additionally, they must meet Continuing Legal Education requirements and be favorably evaluated and recommended for certification by other lawyers and/or judges. There’s also a lengthy written exam, which lasts six hours and covers many aspects of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law, including nuanced details from decades of court decisions.

What was this experience like for you?

Rigorous. Interesting. Enlightening. Often stressful. I knew that finding time to study while working full time and having a family wasn’t going to be easy, but I looked forward to the challenge.

Before allowing applicants to sit for the exam, the specialization board requires attorneys to demonstrate their experience and skill via a written application. We are asked to list our qualifications and summarize years of active legal practice in just a few pages. Applicants must also provide several personal references from upstanding peers in the legal community.

The exam covers a lot of ground so I began studying in advance. It was a major time commitment, but what I learned has already begun to pay dividends in the cases I am handling. My firm is all about doing what is best for the client, and board specialization certainly runs in that vein.

What did you learn that might potentially enhance and fortify your practice?

In many ways, I believe I’m a better attorney because of this experience. After immersing myself in the intricacies of our workers’ compensation system, I’m now able to be more creative when crafting legal arguments. As a specialist, I can offer my clients a much broader perspective when discussing complex issues that arise in their cases.

I’ve looked forward to this experience for a long time. In my role as a workers’ compensation attorney, I make important decisions every day that directly affect my clients’ livelihoods and families. As a board certified specialist, I know I’m giving them the very best I have to offer.

 

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

Answers to 10 Commonly-Asked Workers’ Comp Questions

We get so many calls from injured workers who have questions about what to do in certain workers' comp situations. Some questions we hear consistently. We sat down with workers' compensation attorney Jacob Goad to address 10 of the most common questions we hear.

(Incidentally, before Jacob became an attorney, he worked as a workers' comp paralegal for many years, so he has a uniquely rounded perspective). Here, Jacob shares some good news about your rights under North Carolina's workers' comp law.

1.  My employer is treating me differently now that I filed for workers' comp - can they do that?

They shouldn't be, but we see it all the time.

We recently represented a client* who injured his leg driving a delivery truck. The workers' comp doctors insisted the injury only needed a brief stint of physical therapy and the employee could go back to work soon. Yet physical therapy wasn't working. The employee went to another doctor for a second opinion, and that doctor took images that proved the employee would need much more time off work to heal. That extra time off did not go over well with the employee's manager. When he showed up for work after healing, his manager fired him. That's when he called us.

2.  I filed for workers' comp and got fired - what can I do?

When some employers notice an employee files a workers' comp claim they might try to terminate the employee because of the injury. That's against the law in North Carolina.

An employer cannot fire you simply because you filed a workers' comp claim. If they do, they could be violating the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, (REDA). REDA is one of a number of laws enacted after the 1991 Imperial Foods Inc. fire in which more than 70 employees were killed or injured in a chicken processing plant that had previously been cited for numerous safety violations.

REDA protects employees who have been hurt on the job and are entitled to workers' comp benefits. It also protects them from being mistreated at work for filing a claim.

Yet people still get fired when they come back after an injury. Let me explain why.

In certain cases, if an employee files a claim, they might as well have a proverbial bull's-eye on their back. The reason is employers and insurance companies know that if the employee is terminated for non-workers' comp issues, the amount they'll have to pay may be significantly reduced. In other words, it can often be cheaper to fire an employee than to pay them workers' comp benefits. That is why some employers may try to get the employee back to work right away, and then look for any technicality to get rid them.

This is often done under guise of rehabilitation. Get the worker as good as possible to get them back to work as quickly as possible, and then fire them so you don't have to possibly deal with a more substantial workers' comp settlement. Return-to-work issues happen in our cases fairly regularly. We often encourage employees to return to work if it is advisable to do so and when their doctor tells them to. But some employers in North Carolina are particularly aggressive with return to work issues, and if employees don't have good legal counsel we've seen them get pushed around. That's when employees could use a lawyer with resolve and passion to help the injured.

3.  Do I have a better case if I am terminated after a workers' comp claim?

Not necessarily. If the employer has solid documentation of why you were terminated, then it may impact your potential compensation because it could mean the insurance company doesn't have to pay your future out-of-work benefits or as much out-of-work benefits.

On the other hand, if the employer fires you for no good reason after you've returned to work under workers' comp simply because they don't want to deal with your ongoing disability, then that does likely help your case. We've seen this happen a lot.

4. What protection is available to keep me from losing my job if I file for workers' comp?

Primarily the REDA, as I mentioned earlier. It is a safety net for employees who have been injured in the workplace when they are entitled to workers' comp benefits. And again, REDA is also supposed to help protect you from being harassed or mistreated at work because of your injury.

5.  Will it hurt my workers' comp case if I go back to work?

It depends on your circumstances. You should always discuss this with your workers' compensation attorney first.

In many cases, if you go back to work you may be forfeiting your right to continue receiving workers' compensation checks.

However, if recommended by your attorney, it may be advisable to return to work if your employer is willing to accommodate work restrictions, and you want to stay with that employer for a long time or permanently. In those cases where there is a good relationship and there is no permanent medical restrictions, it could be in your best interest to go back to work and continue working with your employer, and be compensated for your permanent partial impairment rating (PPI) rating. We see a lot of claims go that route.  As a matter of fact, the majority of claims filed through the workers' comp system resolve this way. Additionally, we have knowledge and experience working with many employers throughout the state; so again, it may potentially benefit you to consult with us about your claim.

6.  What if I can't do the same job?

Often injuries prevent an employee from continuing to do the same work they were doing before their accident. That's where the rub often is. A lot of employers have policies in place where if the employee can't come back full duty, they can't accommodate them permanently. The employee would then be entitled to future out-of-work compensation until they or the insurance company find more suitable work for them.

This would come through vocational rehabilitation or possibly even a self-guided job search. For example, a Spanish-speaking laborer might be assigned to ESL classes to be able to acquire marketable skills in a non heavy-duty job. If somebody can't go back to their regular job, the insurance company assumes a major responsibility to try to get that person gainful employment.

Otherwise, the insurance company may be on the hook for future time out of work. That is why they will generally work very hard to help them find some work somewhere. Under the new workers' comp law, an employee could potentially get up to 500 weeks of benefits if they are out of work and are unable to find suitable employment.

7.  Will I lose my health insurance, if I lose my job?

A lot of times, yes. If you file for workers' comp and you're out of work completely, you're probably going to lose your employer-provided health insurance. Of course, there are exceptions. Some companies have a specific policy in place that says they, as a company, have decided that despite the workers' comp claim, they're going to continue to provide health insurance.

But if a corporation has no such policy in place, the employee could lose their health insurance. Workers' comp will pay for the work-related injury, but no other unrelated health issues.

8.  Do I have to go back to work if I'm able to?

If you are able, yes.

For example, let's say an injury is healing well, the employee wants to go back to work and the employer agrees. The doctor will give the employee a Permanent Partial Impairment (PPI) rating. A PPI rating allows an employee to receive compensation for a determined period of time for that injured body part, even if they continue to work. That allows them to go back to work and everyone can live happily ever after.

But sometimes, in the employer's eyes, it may not be about what you want. It might be about their bottom line. If the employer doesn't want you back after you filed a workers' comp claim, you may need a workers' comp attorney to help guide you through this process because the employer may very well want your resignation - or may simply fire you for trumped up allegations. Sadly, as you can imagine after almost 20 years representing injured workers, our firm has handled these situations many times. It's our daily mission as advocates for injured workers.

9.  When should I contact a workers' comp lawyer?

Whether or not you'll need a workers' comp lawyer depends on the nature of your injury. But it's almost always wise to contact one early - especially if your injury is serious.

At our firm, these initial case evaluations are free. One of our attorney's will review your claim and let you know if we think we can help you or not.

And if you hire an attorney who works on a contingency basis, like we do, you only pay an attorney's fee for the compensation we may be able to obtain for you.

10.  What will a workers' comp lawyer do for me?

First, as your advocate, we try to see to it that you're getting the medical care you may need to heal properly. And we can consider whether it is advisable to try to obtain a second opinion if you don't feel you are getting proper care or if a more neutral medical opinion is needed.

Second, we can try to help you protect your job while you are recovering. And if you are unable to return to work, we will help inform you of your options and the compensation to which you may be entitled.

Third, we help determine what other benefits you may be entitled to. Determining workers' comp benefits is a complex system involving complex math and all kinds of variables. A lot of people don't even know what benefits they may be entitled to, and if they did most would probably not understand how those benefits are calculated and determined.

For example, let's say an employee developed CRPS following the injury to an upper or lower extremity. CRPS is complex regional pain syndrome and it can develop after an injury, surgery, and other situations. It is a major medical condition and is painful and can be difficult to live with. It can also require long-term medication treatment, and that treatment can be expensive.

Now let's look at occupational disease claims like carpal tunnel or de quervain's, for example, repetitive motion injuries. We see this a lot with factory workers, food industry workers, or fabricators here in North Carolina. Those things can be difficult to deal with because it can be a chronic condition. Depending on who the employer is, if you have to go out for surgery, an employer who takes and aggressive position might not want you back. And they might not to want to pay you for future medical expenses for a chronic condition. We've seen this happen too.

Complex conditions, such as CRPS, carpal tunnel, and others abound. It is prudent to have someone on your side who knows what workers' comp insurance calculations involve, including familiarity with these and other medical conditions and knowing how to project future medical costs so that you may not be burdened with these medical expenses after your settlement.

Bottom line? You don't know what you don't know.

For these reasons and dozens of others, we urge anyone who has suffered a workplace injury to contact an experienced workers' comp lawyer as soon as possible. Right away even. If you need a lawyer, the earlier we can advocate for you, the better we can help you deal with your medical issues, your employer, and workers' comp insurance benefits.

END OF Q&A WITH ATTORNEY JACOB GOAD

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From Our NC Workers Comp Lawyers

If you've been injured at work, don't be afraid to file for workers' comp. It's your right under North Carolina law. Just as importantly, don't think you will necessarily get the medical and future benefits with your workers' comp insurance company just because you were injured on the job. There's too much at stake. Your health, your job, and possibly, future benefits.

Click here or call us at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case.

P.S. Don't feel like you can't afford to hire a qualified workers' comp attorney. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we work on a contingency basis, so you don't owe us an attorney's fee if we don't get you compensation for your claim.

* Client identity has been removed or changed to protect privacy

The Top 4 Ways People Die at Work in North Carolina (and How to Avoid Them)

More people died at work this past year than in any of the past four years. It's a sad, but true fact.

If you've lost a loved one in an at-work accident, please click here to talk to someone immediately who can help advocate for you.

According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, workplace fatalities in 2016 (federal fiscal year) are higher than they've been since 2012. A total of 48 people lost their lives, primarily in construction and manufacturing.

The 4 Most Common Reasons People Die at Work (in NC)

In an effort to curb workplace deaths, the North Carolina Department of Labor identified the following four accident categories that caused the most work-related deaths (89%) in North Carolina from 2009 - 2015. These were in large part construction-type jobs.

  1. Falls From Elevations

    Nearly half of all these "Big 4" fatalities were falls. Electricians, construction workers, firefighters - anyone whose job involves using a ladder or working at great heights can be susceptible to deadly falls.Many are preventable. A worker in Carteret was not secured onto the roof when he bent over, lost his balance, and fell 50 feet below onto concrete. Other falls are just very unlucky. One victim from Person County fell through a tin roof and landed on a vertical rod protruding from a table. The Centers for Disease Control recommends keeping work spaces free of clutter that could trip someone and cause a fall, making sure edges are protected, and checking all ladders or work surfaces for stability and proper positioning before applying weight.
  1. Struck-By Events
    Although the Department of Labor does not count car accidents among their work fatality numbers (such as a truck driver who dies in a crash), they do count when a vehicle strikes someone outside of a vehicle - such as someone working on a highway construction site.Other struck-by events can include those who were killed by something falling on them or being hit by a type of machinery.

    More than a third of the at-work deaths in North Carolina in 2016 were struck-by events, which are largely preventable.

    In an interview with WRAL-TV, Division of Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Allen McNeely said, "All of us - safety professionals employers and employees - must do better in identifying struck-by hazards... Staying vigilant around heavy machinery and construction material is critical."
  1. Caught In or Between Objects or MachineryThis category traditionally includes being caught in agricultural or manufacturing machinery, but may also include trench or excavation collapses and cave-ins. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 90% of their safety citations involve excavations. Even something as seemingly simple as laying pipework near a roadway can turn deadly in a split second, as it did for one Rocky Mount worker who was laying pipe near a pond in August when the ground collapsed, trapping, and killing him.The agency says that cave-ins are the most deadly of any type of excavation-type job. Again, safety and precautions are emphasized. They recommend having protective systems in place and inspecting trenches every day. Sadly, the Rocky Mount worker was unprotected.

    For other kinds of caught-in accidents, it is imperative to be diligent about safety training. ABC Eyewitness News in Gastonia County reported on the tragedy of a 19-year-old young man who suffered an unthinkable death when he was pulled into a wood cutter. It was his first day on the job. The owner of the business was so distraught he suffered a heart attack.

    Safety is everyone's responsibility. Be mindful of things like lose clothing and hair that could get caught in a machine. When around machinery, whether conducting maintenance or when it's not in use, make sure it is turned off and any wheels are blocked.

  1. ElectrocutionsWhile electrocutions can happen anywhere an electrical current is tampered with, those that prove fatal often involve power lines. Crane operators and people working on scaffolds near power lines must be especially careful.In general, assume all lines are energized unless verified otherwise, keep yourself and all equipment at a safe distance, and use a spotter and warning devices to avoid getting too close.

Temporary Workers Are Most Vulnerable to Fatalities on the Job

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health cites a report by the Labor Relations and Research Center at the University of Massachusetts indicating that 90% percent of U.S. businesses utilize temporary labor.

The report claims that temps sometimes receive insufficient training or are inexperienced in protecting themselves on the jobsite. Yet they are reluctant to ask employers for help because they fear they could be replaced. Moreover, temporary workers tend to be younger, less educated, and disproportionally consist of minority workers, many of whom might be immigrant workers.

Why are temps at higher risk for job injuries and fatalities?

"There's little incentive for host employers to rigorously train and supervise temp workers because staffing agencies carry their [workers'] comp insurance. If an agency has a high number of injuries within its workforce, they - not the host employer - are penalized with higher premiums," a recent Center for Public Integrity feature on the plight of temporary workers reported.

Further, there's little monetary accountability. The Occupational Safety and Health Act limits negligent employers to a maximum fine of $7,000 per safety violation deemed "serious" - even if the violations cause death.

That fine amounts to little more than a finger wagging for many employers.

If a Loved One Died at Work

No matter how careful we try to be, sometimes accidents happen. If you've lost someone, you have our deepest sympathies. You're the reason we do the work that we do. Click here for helpful resources that we believe might be of some help in your time of grief.

You should know there are many workers' compensation benefits surviving family members may qualify for. But don't rely on your loved one's employer or workers' comp insurance company to make sure you get everything you may be entitled to.

Regrettably, even in a time of loss, we've seen insurance companies turn their backs - or try to.

NC Workers' Comp Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

If someone died at work we are here to try to advocate for you. Our experienced team is dedicated to fighting for justice and trying to get surviving family members the benefits they may deserve. Let one of our workers' comp attorneys - seven of whom are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation Law - evaluate your situation for free.

We are here to listen to what you are going through and see if we can help get you the answers you need. Contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

My Workers’ Comp Adjuster Won’t Return Calls or Authorize Medical Treatment. What Should I Do?

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've gotten a call from an injured worker who needed a lawyer because the insurance company adjuster would not return phone calls or simply seemed to stop all forms of communication.

Not only is this offensive, but it's just plain rude.

There's one story in our free booklet, Insurance Companies (and others) Behaving Badly about an insurance adjuster who waited months before responding to an injured worker. When we got involved and reached the adjuster, she made light of the fact that she had ignored our client, and said she would make a decision in two weeks. Two weeks?*

In workers' comp, we trade stories like this all the time. In our experience, some adjusters will sit on cases just to keep our clients waiting, hoping to wear them out. Unfortunately, this type of "avoid and delay" approach does wear some people out until they just give up. And that's why some insurance companies do it.

Here at our firm, we know their approach. We'll fight that approach.

These injured workers are usually people in need of medical treatment or disability payments. Payments they may be entitled to. Payments that may make a huge difference between deciding to pay their rent or pay their utilities, or even whether to buy food in some cases. Or payments that may mean the difference in continuing to get the medical care they need.

Injured workers can too often experience unnecessary pain and financial hardships just because some adjusters ignoring their pleas for help!

What to Do If an Insurance Adjuster Won't Return Your Calls

My professional observation over the 23+ years I've been an attorney is that insurance companies do not hire enough adjusters to manage the number of cases they have.

Sadly, the reason they don't, in my opinion, is likely related to money. Most insurance companies are for-profit businesses. The less people they hire, the less money they have to spend. And as we've seen day in and day out, it seems that some insurance companies hope that the injured workers will just give up and go away. Many of them do go away. But this type of treatment is not fair or appropriate under our workers compensation laws.

If you find yourself in a situation in which the adjuster won't return your calls, here's what I suggest.

  • Sometimes, it's simply a function of the "squeaky wheel gets the grease." Call the adjuster often and leave messages every day reminding them that you need medical treatment in order to return to work, or that you need your disability check so that you can pay your bills.
  • Call the adjuster's supervisor as frequently as you feel you need to. While frustrating, we have found that this approach often works.
  • If you need follow-up medical care, try calling the doctor's office that the carrier sent you to and ask them to schedule an appointment and ask that they get approval from the adjuster.
  • In other words, be a pest.

But if you don't want to go through all that rigmarole, or if you don't have the time to follow up every day with letters and phone calls, hire an experienced workers' comp attorney from the start.

North Carolina Workers' Comp Lawyers Can Help You...

  • Communicate with the adjuster and others
  • Try to get your payments started, or continued in some cases
  • Keep your case moving along
  • Try to negotiate a higher settlement than you may be able to on your own
  • Try to obtain medical benefits the insurance company is denying
  • Fight for a measure of job security if, for example, the insurance company forces you to go back to a made up job, which may be disguised as "light duty," "modified duty," or "restrictive" employment. (These jobs are sometimes eliminated later.)
  • Give you added peace of mind knowing you have someone who is championing your rights

And many other things, depending on your situation. Think you can't afford legal help? Think again. Most workers' comp attorneys work on a contingency fee basis set by the state of North Carolina. The standard fee is 25%, and it usually comes out of any payments your attorney helps you collect from the insurance company. This 25% set rate affords you the peace of mind of not having to worry about a particular lawyer or law firm being "too expensive." And it allows you to choose a law firm you feel is best suited for your situation - without having to worry about fees.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from North Carolina Workers' Comp Attorneys

If you feel you're getting the run-around, or that your insurance company may not have your best interests at heart, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

Let one of our workers' comp attorneys  - six of whom are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in workers' compensation law - evaluate your situation for free.

* This is a specific example of an experience we had with an insurance company and adjuster. This does not necessarily represent any industry as a whole. The description of events are based upon the recollections of individual staff members.

What Is My Workers’ Comp Case Worth?

Many people considering a workers' compensation claim want to know "How much is my case worth?"

It's a complex question, and can sometimes depend on who's holding the calculator. Here are three primary factors that will affect how much you're paid.

Click here to get a free professional opinion on how much your workers' comp case may be worth. No strings attached.

3 Factors That Can Determine Your Workers' Comp Benefits

Three key elements go into determining the value of a workers' comp case:

  1. Impairment rating
  2. Indemnity benefits
  3. Future medical treatment

1. Impairment Rating

Once you have reached what is known as Maximum Medical Improvement (when you've healed as much as possible) but you're still not the same as you were before your injury, your doctor should assign an impairment rating to the part of the body that was injured.

An impairment rating is worth a certain amount depending on your compensation rate at your job and the part of the body that was injured. Your compensation rate is 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your injury. The part of the body that was injured and the rating is significant in this formula because the North Carolina Industrial Commission has determined that specific body parts are worth a certain number of weeks of your compensation rate.

For example:

Spine = 300 weeks
Leg = 200 weeks
Arm = 240 weeks

Let's say you injured your left arm at work and your authorized treating physician has assigned a 10% impairment rating to that left arm. Your compensation rate is $350, based on the following formula:

10% of 240 weeks = 24 weeks
24 weeks x $350 salary = $8,400
You would be entitled to $8,400 for that rating

Unfortunately, that means if you have low wages, and therefore a low compensation rate, your impairment rating will not be worth as much as another employee with a large compensation rate. Based on the above scenario, if your compensation rate is $100, that same 10% rating would only equal $2,400.

That's why making sure your compensation rate is calculated accurately is extremely important. We've found additional money for lots of clients by looking more closely at their compensation rate and sometimes finding that overtime pay or additional work days had not been factored into their compensation rate.*

We can help you try to get a second opinion on your impairment rating.

2. Indemnity Benefits - or Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

Another factor taken into consideration when determining the value of your workers' comp case is how much the insurance company may have to end up paying in indemnity benefits (disability benefits). Indemnity benefits are the weekly payments the workers' comp insurance company makes to you when your authorized treating physician has written you out of work or has assigned work restrictions your employer cannot accommodate. This is also known as Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.

Our firm has been representing injured workers for a long time. And one of the many things we've seen is that insurance companies don't want to have to write these checks to you for any longer than they have to.

Many factors affect how long you may be entitled to these checks. Whether they continue to pay you TTD or try to settle your case is a numbers game to them to try to ensure they pay you as little as possible. Here are some of the factors they consider when deciding how much and how long to pay you.

Date of Your Work Injury Affects TTD Benefits

  • If you were injured on or after 6/24/11, you can receive a maximum of 500 weeks of TTD.
  • If you were injured prior to 6/24/11, you could potentially receive TTD for the rest of your life.

Work Restrictions a Factor in Workers' Comp Settlement Amount

We may be able to help you maximize your indemnity benefits by working to prevent you from returning to work in a job that is outside of your work restrictions.

If you have temporary light duty restrictions with minimal medical treatment, and are expected to be able to go back to your regular job performing the same duties as before your injury, the insurance company may be less likely to pay a large sum to settle your case. However, if you have permanent restrictions that prevent you from returning to your pre-injury employment or other work, the insurance company may have more incentive to settle your case as soon as possible, rather than potentially paying you years of TTD.

While we cannot tell your treating physician what restrictions to assign you, we can try to make sure your doctors are aware of what your job entails and fight on your behalf to get reasonable restrictions - or a second opinion from another doctor.

As is the case with impairment ratings, your compensation rate plays a big factor in determining how much money the insurance company may have to pay you for being out of work.

Salary a Factor in Workers' Comp Settlement Amount

If you have a compensation rate of $350, the insurance company knows that if they have to pay you for being out of work for a year they'll spend $18,200. However, if your compensation rate is only $100, even if you are out of work for a year, the insurance company only has to pay you $5,200. They may be more likely to settle earlier on if it they believe it might cost them more to continue paying you TTD.

Pain and Suffering NOT a Factor in Workers' Comp Cases

Many of our workers' comp clients are surprised to find out that pain and suffering are not taken into account in workers' comp. No matter how much frustration and suffering your work injury has caused.

3. Future Medical Treatment

Your claim will also be more valuable if your authorized medical physician recommends significant medical treatment for your workers' comp injury than if there are few or no medical recommendations.

If you have a shoulder injury, for example, and your physician recommends a rotator cuff repair surgery, the insurance company may be more inclined to pay you more to settle your claim quickly so they don't have to pay for that surgery. On the other hand, if you have a shoulder injury and your physician says you only need some physical therapy, the insurance company may likely be more motivated to simply pay for your physical therapy instead of paying you more to settle your claim.

As you can see, there are many nuances in workers' compensation law. Thousands and thousands of legal pages have been written to explain these nuances. It can take an experienced workers' comp attorney to understand and interpret these laws to help you try to maximize these factors to your advantage.

We can help you try to ensure your physician knows the full extent of your injuries. And we can help monitor your progress with the doctor and the insurance company. 

A good workers' comp attorney can do more than that! They can help you try to get a second opinion on your impairment rating if the first rating is too low, based on your injury. They may be able to help you maximize your indemnity benefits by working to prevent you from returning to work in a job that is outside of your work restrictions. And while they cannot tell your treating physician what restrictions to assign you, they can make sure your doctors are aware of what your job entails and fight on your behalf to get reasonable restrictions - or a second opinion from another doctor.

Choosing a Workers' Comp Lawyer

You're reading this blog for a reason. Are you getting the run-around from your insurance company? Are you confused by the rating and compensation process (you're not alone)? Is your insurance company trying to force you to settle? Are they withholding checks?

If you're struggling with your workers' comp situation and you think you may need an attorney, download this booklet: How to Choose a Lawyer for Your Workers' Compensation Claim. We think you'll find it valuable - particularly the interview questions to ask attorneys, which we made into its own separate printable.

If you follow the tips in this booklet, we believe you'll find a good attorney for your case. Of course, we believe our attorneys embody the qualifications and ideals you should seek when looking for a workers' compensation attorney. Six of our attorneys are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation Law. (Very few attorneys in in North Carolina can make that claim.) We're committed to helping you understand your options and arming you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision that's right for you.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From Our North Carolina Workers' Comp Attorneys

Contact us anytime or give us a call at 1-866-900-7078 if you have questions or concerns about your workers' comp case. We're available to you 24/7.

 

* Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer's or a law firm's past results.

 

How Can I Appeal a Denied WC Claim?

You were clearly injured at work. You file a workers' compensation claim with your employer's workers' comp insurance carrier.

You're denied.

Now what?

How Can You Be Denied Workers' Comp If You Were Clearly Injured at Work?

There's no shortage of reasons behind this often-asked question. Sometimes claims are denied because the employer alleges the injury was not an accident or because it occurred as a result of a normal work routine. Sometimes not reporting the injury right away could result in denial. Sometimes the employer might simply lie and say you weren't injured on the job.

Bottom line is this, I've seen some of the very entities that are supposed to protect my clients in the event of injury try to protect their bottom line instead. And if that means doing everything in their power to deny benefits, then the injured worker could be up the creek without a paddle.

That's because the insurance companies, third-party administrators, and even employers have all sorts of "legal" loopholes they can pull to try and avoid paying. The workers' comp system in North Carolina has become more and more obscure and can sometimes take even our best talent and legal resources (and we have many!) to sort through their entangled rules, guidelines, and processes.

What You Should Do After You're Injured on the Job

First, seek medical assistance. Then provide written notice to your employer immediately after the injury. This can be in the form of a text, email, letter - just make sure it is in writing so they cannot come back and say they were never notified.  Notice should also be filed with the Industrial Commission (the workers' comp "court") within 30 days on a Form 18, which you can access by clicking here.

Yet what happens when you've followed those steps, but you're still being denied benefits?

What Should You Do If You're Denied Workers' Comp?

If you've been denied workers' compensation benefits, you're going to need the NC Industrial Commission to force the insurance company's hand.

If your employer and/or insurance company denies your claim, you can file a request for hearing on a Form 33, which you can access by clicking here.

But be careful. How you present your case during this hearing will have a huge effect on how much (if any) workers' comp benefits you're able to collect. You really have two options. You can present your case without an attorney or with an attorney.

Denial Hearings - Without an Attorney

When you file Form 33 without an attorney, a hearing will be scheduled before a judge - the Deputy Commissioner. The role of North Carolina Deputy Commissioner is something I am very familiar with. I held that position for 10 years. I can tell you from experience that it is very difficult for an injured employee to win without legal representation.

For example, here is what your hearing might look like when representing yourself:

Your hearing will usually be scheduled within 90 days after you file Form 33.  At your hearing, you and any witnesses you present will be allowed to testify.

Typically you will need an expert medical witness in order to prove your case. These witnesses typically do not come cheap. Physicians are not required to appear at the hearing. So you may not be able to get one to testify (they are very busy and expensive to boot).

What many people do not realize is that if you represent yourself, the judge is more limited in how he or she can receive the testimony of any physicians involved, and this can cause delay with the decision on your case.

Denial Hearings - With an Attorney

We advise that you secure an attorney before you file Form 33. If an attorney is involved, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will allow physicians to testify by deposition and will, in most cases, require your employer and/or the insurance company to pay for the costs of up to two physician depositions who can testify on your behalf.

Furthermore, if you secure an attorney, the Commission will order your employer and/or the insurance company to meet with you and your attorney to discuss settling your case.

If you have a strong case, the employer and/or insurance company may be willing to settle for a reasonable amount at this meeting.

But let me emphasize an important point:

We will not take your case unless we believe we can get a better result
for you than you could get for yourself 1.

Get a FREE Evaluation From NC Workers' Comp Lawyers

When you contact us for a free case evaluation, we'll tell you point blank if we think we can help you more than you could help yourself1. And if we can't, click here for our booklet which outlines information you can use to attempt to go through this process on your own.

If you decide to choose us to represent your rights, you'll have the collective experience and knowledge of several experienced workers' comp attorneys (some of whom previously represented the "other side"), as well as paralegals and others who have previous experience working for the insurance companies. Seven of our attorneys are NC Board Certified Specialists in workers' compensation law. (This is the highest level of specialization available in NC, and only a small percentage2 of NC attorneys can make that claim. Very small.) And in 2017 our firm received the highest ranking possible by U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" for workers' compensation law in the greater Raleigh area3.

Click here for a free case evaluation or call us today at 1-866-900-7078.

 

Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer's or a law firm's past results.

Based on figures provided by the N.C. State Bar as of December 31, 2015.

3 Visit www.usnews.com for more information about criteria for inclusion.

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