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9 Common Mistakes Injured NC Workers Make

Without a doubt the most important step if you are injured on the job in North Carolina is to report the injury to your employer.  Many employers have an accident policy in place that is found in an employee manual.  If this is the case with your employer, follow the guidelines set out in the manual.  If there is no policy, we find that it is most helpful to let everyone know of the injury.  This would include your supervisors, co-workers and any human resource people that your employer may have.

Many employers and insurance companies tell injured employees that they cannot file the claim because they were not notified of the accident in a timely manner.  Some employers tell the injured worker that they had to have notice within 24 hours of the accident.  THIS IS NOT THE LAW.  Some employers tell injured employees that were recently hired or that are injured during a probationary period of early employment that they are not yet entitled to worker’ compensation benefits.  THIS IS NOT THE LAW. 

The law generally requires written notice of the injury by accident within 30 days.  But there are exceptions to this rule.  If the employer or an agent or representative of the employer had actual knowledge of the accident, the employer is also deemed to have notice of the injury.  This is why it is so important to report your injury to everyone at your place of employment. 

There are other exceptions that may apply to your case.  Therefore, we recommend contacting an attorney immediately if your claim has been denied by the insurance company or employer for failure to timely report the claim.  An attorney can determine if the appropriate time limits have been applied and can determine if your claim meets one of the exceptions.  If the Industrial Commission thinks an employee is telling the truth, it is rare that it will deny a claim due to a delay in reporting an injury.

If an employer tells you that you are not entitled to workers’ compensation because of a delay in reporting the injury, this is not likely to be true and you should immediately call an attorney.

We cannot stress this enough.  If you fail to tell the medical providers how your injury occurred and that it occurred while you were at work, you could be harming your claim from a legal standpoint. This could prevent you from getting the medical treatment that you need.  We all know that it is very important to advise the medical providers of all our complaints and symptoms so that the doctor can give us the proper treatment.  But it is just as important to provide as much detail about your injury and the fact that it is work-related to protect your claim for benefits.


When the insurance company or its attorney is investigating a claim, they take statements from the injured party and witnesses. They also look at and inspect the medical records.  They are looking to see what information is in the medical records, including the employee’s reports of how and where the injury occurred.  They will also read and review the records to determine which body parts the employee reported to the doctor as being injured. 

For this reason, when you talk to any doctor or medical provider be clear and detailed when describing the nature of your injuries and how they occurred.  Always identify where you were hurt, how the injury occurred and if there was anything unusual that caused your injury.  Provide information to the doctor about anything unusual about the incident, such as a trip, slip, fall, or an injury performing a task that was not a usual, normal duty of the job.  Do this every time you see a new doctor or medical provider.  This is particularly important when you are first seen after your injury and during the appointments in the first days, weeks, and months after the injury.  However, it continues to remain important throughout the life of your claim. 

Sometimes an injured employee comes to our office and the insurance company has either denied their claim completely or they do not wish to provide medical treatment to a specific body part.  One of the biggest hurdles we find is that the accident or injury was not reported in the medical records until several weeks or months after the initial date of injury and was not reported at the first date of treatment.  Insurance companies read these records.  If the injury, body part or the fact that it occurred at work is not in the medical records, they will often use that as a reason to deny the claim or fail to compensate the employee. 

If it becomes necessary for your case to go to trial, the medical records are often the most important evidence that will be entered in at trial.  When medical records are being evaluated by a deputy commissioner, they are given a great amount of weight as they are written by a third party (a doctor) that has no stake or interest in the claim. 

It is a common belief that patients are most honest when they are reporting their physical complaints to doctors as they want to get better and they know that the doctor needs all the information to make a proper diagnosis.  Remember that the practice of reporting how the injury occurred and the fact that it occurred at work is recommended not only for your first visit to the doctor on or around the date of injury.  Continue to repeat this information for every appointment and every time you see a different or new doctor. 

This advice also applies to intake forms at doctor offices.  Every time you see a new medical provider or doctor, they will provide intake forms for you to fill out or complete.  When the insurance companies and their lawyers request medical records from these doctors, they also usually receive the intake forms.  Sometimes the intake forms ask the employee where or how they were injured and sometimes they do not.  Any time you see a new doctor or medical provider; make sure to put on the intake forms that the injury occurred at work.  Provide all body parts injured and explain how the injury occurred.  As noted above, describe anything unusual about the incident, such as a trip, slip, fall, or task that was not a usual, normal part of the job.  Provide this information somewhere on the intake form regardless of whether the form asks about it or has a specific question asking for that information.

In the State of North Carolina there are certain time limitations that govern when an injured employee can pursue a workers’ compensation claim.  In order to be clear, we are not speaking about notice to your employer of the accident.  That was already discussed.  These are two separate concepts.  We are speaking about the actual request for compensation under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

In order to help protect your right to compensation, you need to file a Form 18 with the Industrial Commission.  If you fail to immediately file a Form 18 with the Industrial Commission, your claim may be barred after a period of time.  The time or tolling of a workers’ compensation claim may be different for different injured employees depending on the circumstances.

There is no definite statute of limitations as can be found in other areas of law.  You may have heard that you have two years to pursue benefits in the State of North Carolina.  While this may be true in most instances, it is not true under all circumstances.  It depends on the type of benefits that are being requested (such as medical treatment or disability benefits).

The rule to remember is that if you want to get workers’ compensation benefits, file a Form 18.  If a Form 18 has not been filed in a case where we have been retained, we file a Form 18 every time. The Form 18 lets the Industrial Commission and the employer know that the injured party is asking for workers’ compensation benefits.

In the State of North Carolina, the workers’ compensation insurance company or employer generally has the right to direct the medical treatment of the injured worker.  If you have been injured and you are out of work receiving weekly benefits from an insurance company, it is very important that you comply with the recommendations of the treating doctor and that you attend all medical and therapy appointments.

If you fail to attend medical appointments, you might lose your benefits. Medical appointments are appointments for any type of treatment that is reasonably necessary to “effect a cure, provide relief, or tend to lessen the period of disability.”  If the injured employee fails to attend medical appointments on purpose and that have been scheduled by the insurance company, employer, or the doctor, the insurance company or the employer will usually request that the injured employee be ordered by the Industrial Commission to attend these appointments.

Of course you may be asking yourself why the insurance company or the employer would want to order the injured employee to attend medical appointments. Wouldn’t this cost them more money?  A request for an order to cooperate with medical treatment is done by the insurance company or employer when the injured employee is out of work and receiving disability benefits.  If an employee is ordered to attend medical appointments and the injured employee fails to comply with this order and continues to miss appointments, the insurance company or its lawyer will file an application to stop or suspend your benefits.  If your benefits are suspended, it can be a very lengthy process to reinstate your benefits.  It can take months or even years to get them reinstated.

The workers’ compensation laws include vocational rehabilitation in the definition of medical treatment.  If an injured employee is receiving vocational rehabilitation, cooperating with that process is important in order to keep receiving your weekly benefit check.  This means that it is important to apply for jobs, find job leads, and to follow the instructions of the vocational rehabilitation counselor.  Most of the time, if an employee is receiving vocational rehabilitation the employer could not offer suitable employment and the employee’s injury prevented him or her from returning to the job they were doing at the time of the injury.  Many times, the only reason that employers and insurance companies provide vocational rehabilitation is because they hope that the injured employee will not cooperate.  

If any injured employee does not do what the vocational counselor is asking him or her to do, is missing meetings, or fails to comply, the insurance company or its lawyer will request that the Industrial Commission suspend the employee’s benefits.  It is best to comply with the vocational rehabilitation process to avoid this.

Once again, it is very important to cooperate with medical treatment.  It in your best interest to help your injury heal and it keeps the insurance company from having a reason to stop your benefits

Most employers, at the request of the workers’ compensation insurance company will provide light duty to injured workers.  Either the employer or the insurance adjuster may then request or require that the injured worker return to work.

But what type of light duty is being offered?  Prior to returning to work, it is necessary to know what you will be doing for the employer.  Some employers simply say, “we will find you something.”  Unfortunately this might cause a hostile environment that could cause problems for your claim, your settlement recovery, and your employment.

If you return to work without an established job position, the employer will be forced to find or come up with tasks over and over again.  The employer may be required to make other employees assist you with tasks that you could do yourself prior to your injury.  The employer might make other employees do more of the heavy, more difficult tasks to make up for the fact that you cannot perform those tasks.  Other employees often dislike having to do this.  Those employees and the immediate supervisor often begin to “make fun of” the injured employee without even realizing it.  Many times, the injured employee is asked to do specific tasks without regard to the employee’s restrictions.

Too often employers return injured employees to work at jobs that are not suitable to their work restrictions.  Other times they tell employees that they will be doing a light duty job and then return them to their regular, normal job when it is not within the employee’s work restrictions.

In order to avoid this situation, ask for a specific job description prior to returning to work.  Then ask or require that it be submitted to your treating doctor for review before you agree to return to work.  If your doctor does not approve the job as something you should be doing, do not return to work.  If the treating physician is confident that you will be able to perform the position, you may return to work.

Remember; perform only those tasks within your work restrictions.  If an employer asks that you perform duties outside of your restrictions, show them the doctor’s note that contains your work restrictions.  Take the note with you to work and keep it with you.  If the doctor fails to approve the job description or the employer asks you to work outside of your restrictions, you do not have to return to work.

If the employer fails to provide a job description or if the doctor fails to approve the job description and the insurance company or employer refuse to provide weekly benefits, contact an attorney immediately.

Also, if your benefit checks ever stop without you returning to work and without you having ever received in the mail an application for the employer to terminate or stop your benefits, contact an attorney immediately.

Although the insurance adjuster may be correct in telling you that he or she can tell you where to treat, he or she cannot keep you from having a second opinion.  In the State of North Carolina if you are directed to treat with a particular doctor and that doctor releases you after treatment at maximum medical improvement, the law allows you to have a second opinion with a duly qualified licensed doctor of your choosing.  It is all too common that injured employees contact our office and tell us that they were told that they could not have a second opinion.  THIS IS NOT THE LAW!

One law states that if you want a second opinion on work restrictions, treatment recommendations or any other medical opinion besides your permanent partial disability rating, you can suggest a doctor or doctors for a second-opinion or “independent medical examination.”  If you and the insurance company are unable to agree on a second opinion doctor within 14 days of your request, you can ask the Industrial Commission to award a second opinion with a doctor that you choose.

Under this first law, if you have been released and you are still in pain you should seek a second opinion or “independent medical examination.”  If the second opinion doctor recommends additional medical treatment, you may apply to the Industrial Commission to have a change in treating doctors.  Then you can request the recommended medical treatment.  The insurance company or the employer is not going to freely allow this.  It might be necessary for you to obtain a lawyer to be successful in this request.  Remember, you are not simply required to stay and remain in pain and having ongoing symptoms.  There are options.

Another law states that if you receive a permanent partial disability rating as a result of your injuries (this is discussed in more detail in the next section) and you are not satisfied with this rating then you may also get a second opinion.  Do not allow the insurance company to mislead you.  You do not have to agree with the insurance company on the doctor for this type of second opinion.  You are entitled to a second opinion on a disability/impairment rating with any doctor you request that will agree to see you.  This law only allows the second opinion to be used for the disability rating.  It cannot be used to show different work restrictions, medical recommendations, or medical opinions.

What happens when the doctor releases you and says that you are as good as you are going to get?  As noted previously, this is called maximum medical improvement.  It is at this point in time that you may be entitled to a settlement.

The Industrial Commission has set out guidelines that assist the treating doctor with how to assign a permanent partial disability rating.  It is called the North Carolina Ratings Guide.  It takes into account several different considerations including, but not limited to, the range of motion, the tendency to form arthritis, and the structural damage caused by the injury or any surgeries that were necessary.  Once the doctor has assigned a permanent partial disability rating, the insurance company can create a Form 26A utilizing this information.  This establishes the settlement amount of your case.

In workers’ compensation there is no payment for pain and suffering.  The amount of the settlement is guided by the law.  The settlement amount is calculated by using a math formula that includes your compensation rate multiplied by your rating then multiplied by the number of weeks assigned to your injured body part.  This type of settlement should only be used if you have returned back to work with your employer and you are still earning the same or greater wages.  By this we mean that you are making the same or greater wages then you were before you were injured.  If you are not back to work at a real job or you are making significantly less money, do not settle on the rating alone!

If you have been released by the treating physician at maximum medical improvement and you have been assigned a permanent partial disability rating, the insurance company or the employer is going to be ready to settle.  But what happens if you can no longer perform your previous position and the employer does not have another job for you within your restrictions?

As previously stated, you should not settle for the rating.  Workers’ compensation in the State of North Carolina is intended to compensate the injured employee for the loss in wage earning ability.  If you can no longer perform your position, a scheduled injury settlement will not compensate you for your injuries.  The insurance company or employer will have to assist you with finding another job in the job/labor market that offers you similar wages and that is within the work restrictions assigned by your doctor.

The insurance company or the employer will do anything within their power to convince you to resolve your claim without truly attempting to offer you compensation for your inability to return to your position.  The insurance company and the employer do not wish to put the injured employee into vocational rehabilitation because it is expensive.

When an injured employee is in vocational rehabilitation, the insurance company must continue to provide temporary total disability benefits to the injured employee.  But they also have to pay a trained specialist to assist the employee in finding a suitable job.  These claims are all about money and cost saving to the insurance company or the self-insured employer.  But to the injured employee it is about your future, your well being and the ability to return to work and earn wages.  If you cannot return to work with your previous employer due to your restrictions, do not settle in a hurry.  Do not accept the insurance company’s first offer.  Make sure that the compensation that you receive is fair and reasonable.  After the case is settled it is business as usual for the insurance company.

Remember, an attorney can better help you analyze and determine the value of your claim.

You know more about doing your job than an adjuster or insurance company lawyer does.  They know better than you how to determine the value of your workers’ compensation claim or settlement.  It is common for insurance companies to make settlement offers to an unrepresented employee that are much, much less than would be offered to an employee that has a lawyer.  Do know that insurance companies often take advantage of employees that do not hire lawyers.

We mentioned this in passing several times in the previous sections.  While it seems that most people should know it is important to seek advice when they are injured, statistics show that many people do not hire a lawyer.  Here are five main reasons why people don’t hire a lawyer immediately after an injury:

1. They don’t know if they really need a lawyer so they do not talk to one.

2. They don’t know a lawyer personally, so they don’t bother to look for one.

3. They aren’t sure if they can trust a lawyer, so they don’t want to use one.

4. They believe it when the insurance companies tell them that they will end up with less money if they hire an attorney.  (By the way, that is absolutely NOT true.)

5. They believe that the employer will retaliate against them, treat them poorly, or that the employer and insurance company will not run the claim as smoothly to punish the employee for hiring a lawyer.

These reasons are not good ones.  In spite of all the lawyer jokes you might have heard, there are many honest, hard working, and ethical lawyers who can help you deal with an insurance company or workers’ compensation claim.  While it is true that a lawyer will usually get a portion of the money you collect from the insurance company, it is also true that a good lawyer can dramatically increase your chances of getting all the benefits to which you are entitled.  In addition, represented employees typically receive more money even after the attorney fee is paid than they would settling the claim without an attorney and without the insurance company paying a portion of the settlement to the employee’s attorney.

Why do you need an attorney in a workers’ compensation claim?  Immediately after being injured at work, you are thrown into a complicated, adversarial legal system.  In other words, the insurance company or the employer has in place a team of adjusters, investigators, and attorneys who are working against you.  These people are seeking to pay as little as possible and to get you back to work as quickly as possible.  They are not too concerned about whether you are able to perform the job, whether it is suitable, or whether you are forfeiting benefits or decreasing the value of your claim by returning to work.

Many job injury victims are already in distressed physical, mental, and financial circumstances.  They sometimes choose to delay what they consider to be the hassles involved in retaining a workers’ compensation attorney.  Some may have had a bad experience with an attorney (in a divorce, for example), or they simply do not like or trust attorneys.

Some injured workers, in an attempt to avoid paying legal fees, try to represent themselves.  We often get calls from these employees seeking legal representation or advice only after they realize that “they are in over their head.”  Unfortunately, there are many mistakes (such as providing damaging statements to adjusters) that cannot be “undone” by even the most experienced workers’ compensation attorney.  Plus, if you wait too long to get legal help it gets harder to find evidence and witnesses.  You also risk losing your claim because of the deadline for filing a Form 18.  Many times, injured employees do not call an attorney until the insurance company has filed with the Industrial Commission to stop paying benefits.  You are in a better position to retain and keep your benefits if you have an attorney that is familiar with your case and already has all the records, medical reports, and information about the case before the insurance company tries to stop your benefits.

The bottom line is…considering the legalities and complexities of the established system for compensating job injury victims, hiring an attorney is usually necessary to “level the playing field,” and to ensure that you receive maximum benefits and proper medical treatment for your work injury.

This general rule almost always applies in any work accident that involves serious injuries.  BUT, if you have been involved in a work accident involving small or minimal injuries, you might not even need a lawyer.

If you didn’t contact a lawyer immediately, as we have recommended, time has passed.  If you only had a couple of doctor visits and you only lost a few days from work, then you probably don’t need to hire a lawyer.  But you certainly should at least contact a lawyer and get some free advice.  Many law firms won’t even talk to people in this situation – as soon as they determine there’s no “good case” for them, they just want to get you off the phone and move on.  Our law firm isn’t like that.  If you call us with a problem or a question, even if we know we can’t represent you, we will still try to answer your questions or we will refer you to another lawyer or to a government agency that can help you.

29 NC Workers Comp Questions Answered

Workers’ compensation is a remedy that was created by the Legislature in order to provide compensation for those who were injured on the job. Prior to workers’ compensation it was necessary for an injured party to prove that the employer was negligent and it was that negligence that caused the employee’s injuries in order to obtain recovery. Many injured employees were left without compensation and unable to work thereafter. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act was then formed. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act offers benefits to entitled injured workers through the form of medical treatment, lost wages, and payment for permanent disability. 


In order to have a compensable workers’ compensation injury you must have been injured by an accident that arose out of and in the course of your employment 


If you are injured on the job the very first step is to notify your supervisor. Make sure that an accident report is filed with the appropriate personnel of your employer. Even if your injuries are not serious you must still report your injuries as they become more problematic at a later date and failing to report them may hinder your claim. In addition if you need medical treatment then request it when you file your report with you employer. 


No. Workers’ compensation is not disability that is provided by the State of North Carolina. It is governed by state legislation, therefore, the state has laws that govern an individual’s entitlement to workers’ compensation. The Industrial Commission is the state governmental entity that applies those laws found in the North Workers’ Compensation Act. 


No. If you are receiving weekly benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier then you cannot receive unemployment benefits from the Employment Security Commission. 


Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-18(g), if any payment of compensation is not paid within fourteen days of the day the payment was due then you are entitled to a 10% late payment penalties for any amounts not received. In order to receive this amount you must file a request for this penalty with the Executive Secretary’s Office of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. 


If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment. 


If you have a workers’ compensation claim and you receive only medical treatment and do not lose any time from work then your claim will close within 12 months of the last date of medical treatment paid for by the workers’ compensation carrier. If you received weekly benefits due to your injury then your claim will close two years from the last date of compensation received. 


No. There is no requirement to a file a form with the Industrial Commission; however, in order to protect your statutory rights it is highly recommended that you file Form 18. A Form 18 is a Notice of Accident which lets the Industrial Commission, your employer, and their insurance carrier know that you are claiming a work-related injury. If a Form 18 is not filed within two years then your claim may be time barred and no recovery may be had. 


If you are injured on the job and you have a compensable workers’ compensation injury then you are entitled to medical treatment, lost wage benefits, and benefits for any permanent partial disability suffered as a result of those injuries. 


If you are not able to perform your position at work due to your compensable injury and your treating physician has you out of work or light duty that your employer cannot offer then you are entitled to temporary total disability benefits. Temporary total disability usually come in a weekly check and are supposed to be two thirds of your average weekly wage. Your average weekly wage is the average wage over the 52 weeks prior to your injury. 


Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act the insurance carrier has the right direct the medical treatment. You must find out from either your employer or your insurance carrier where you need to seek treatment. If they will not provide you with treatment then you can seek treatment on your own and then request that the Industrial Commission name this physician as your treating physician. 


If you become dissatisfied with your treatment and that provider releases you then you may be entitled to a second opinion pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-27. If after that second opinion there are other treatments recommended then you can ask the Industrial Commission to Order the workers’ compensation carrier to provide the recommended treatment. 


In order to have a compensable workers’ compensation claim your injuries must be the result of an accident that arose out of and through the scope of your employment. 


If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment. 


If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment. 


The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides a limited amounts of benefits for those who are killed as a result of a work related accident or as a result of work related injuries. Generally, the deceased’s dependants are entitled to 400 weeks of two-thirds of the deceased’s average weekly wage. The average weekly wage is computed by averaging the weekly wage of the deceased for the 52 weeks prior to the injury. There are exceptions to this rule which may need to be addressed by a competent workers’ compensation attorney. 


There are some instances in which you may be entitled to short-term or long-term disability as well as workers’ compensation. This depends on many factors such as your employer, whether you individually have one of these policies, and the individual policy itself. 


There are several instances in which you may need an attorney. Several problem areas which legal counsel can address are as follows: you are not receiving the proper medical treatment; your benefits checks are not coming properly; the insurance adjuster will not call you back; and you are not capable of returning back to work and you are concerned about your future. 


If you wish a consultation with Hardison & Cochran the consultation is free. You can speak to a workers’ compensation attorney at any time within your own time. 


No. Workers’ compensation only offers compensation for injuries that are the result of a work related. As of right now, the courts have not recognized employer harassment for the above circumstances as a compensable workers’ compensation injury. 


N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-31 allows for compensation for disfigurement if there is no other compensation payable under the statute for that injury. If the disfigurement is to the face or head then the law allows up to a max amount of $20,000.00 for the disfigurement. If the disfigurement is to any other body part then compensation may be payable up to $10,000.00. 


If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment. 


Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-22 the injury must be reported to the employer within 30 days of the accident, unless it can be shown that the employer had knowledge of the injury. The Industrial Commission also may within its discretion allow the claim to be filed as long as the employer was not prejudiced by the delay. 


It is almost always customary for the insurance carrier to require a recorded statement. It is usually permissible for an injured employee to give a recorded statement, however, if for any reason you have knowledge to believe that the insurance carrier questions the circumstances surrounding the events of your case you may need to consult an attorney prior to agreeing to provide a recorded statement. 


If you are not sure as to what you are signing then you should consult an attorney prior to signing any documents. Consultation with Hardison & Cochran is free so you have nothing to lose and you could be severely hindering your claim by signing documents.


If you are receiving weekly benefits from the insurance company for disability then you are not entitled to unemployment. If, however, you are not receiving benefits and you have been terminated from your employment and you are not completely taken out of work from your doctor then you can apply. In order to apply for unemployment you have to certify that you are ready willing and able to work. As long as you can work in some capacity you can apply for unemployment. 


No. It is against the law for an employer to terminate an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is covered by both state and federal laws. 


If you are injured on the job and suffer a compensable injury wherein it was due to the fault of another party other than the employer then you may have a cause of against that “third party.” If that is the case then the workers’ compensation carrier may also have a lien in this matter. The amount of their lien is limited to medical treatment and disability benefits that they have provided for you by way of your workers’ compensation claim. In order to resolve the third party action you will need to address this lien with the workers’ compensation carrier. It may be possible to have the lien waived by the carrier or extinguished by a Superior Court Judge.


4 NC Workers Comp Myths

The employer is required to file a Form 19 report of injury to the Industrial Commission.  Defendants are required to file a report of injury to the Industrial Commission within five days of the employer’s knowledge of the injury.  This form does not protect your claim.  Defendants do not always file this form.  There is no real penalty for a failure to file this form.  An injured employee must file his or her own notice to the employer and a Form 18 with the Industrial Commission.  We will discuss this in more detail. 


This is not true.  You file a claim (not a suit) with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.  The Industrial Commission is a state government agency that oversees workers’ compensation claims in North Carolina.  Workers’ compensation is an administrative hearing process.  The Industrial Commission is an administrative court or tribunal.  It is not regular civil litigation.  In most cases, an injured worker is really filing the claim against the employer’s insurance company (unless the employer is uninsured or self-insured).

The Industrial Commission is the judicial body that hears motions and hearing requests through appointed judges called Deputy Commissioners.  There is no right to a jury trial in a workers’ compensation claim.  An example of the difference between a state superior or district court judge and the Industrial Commission is that the Industrial Commission judges (deputy commissioners) are dressed in business suits.  They do not wear black robes.  If your case goes to a hearing, there are no sheriffs or bailiffs present. 


This is not true. The purpose of the Act is to compensate the employee for lost wages, medical treatment, diminished future earning capacity, and any permanent disability/impairment percentage rating.  The Act never allows for or provides compensation for pain and suffering. 


This is not true.  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.   The accident can be 100% your fault and you still are entitled to full benefits under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

Now that you have a general overview of what workers’ compensation means in the State of North Carolina, you need to have a basic understanding of certain terms frequently used in a workers’ compensation claim.  What follows is a simple, plain-language description of key words you will often hear after filing a workers’ compensation claim.


12 NC Workers Comp Terms to Know

This is when the insurance company accepts or agrees that your injury or illness will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. 


This is the injured employee’s average weekly salary prior to the injury.  In order to determine the average weekly wage, you must look to the 52 weeks of the injured employee’s salary prior to the date of the accident.  Generally, you total the yearly salary or wages and then divide that number by 52 weeks.  If there are not 52 weeks then most times the insurance company or employer simply uses the average of those weeks that the injured employee worked prior to the date of the injury.  If someone has not worked for the employer for one year, the average weekly wage is determined by what is fair and reasonable.  If the above options are not fair and reasonable, it can be determined by using the wages of another employee that performs the same job as the injured employee and who has worked for the employer for a year or more. 


The compensation rate is two-thirds of the injured employee’s average weekly wage. 


A denied claim is one in which the insurance company or employer does not accept or believe that they have a responsibility to provide compensation for your injury or condition(s). 

Now that you have a general overview of what workers’ compensation means in the State of North Carolina, you need to have a basic understanding of certain terms frequently used in a workers’ compensation claim.  What follows is a simple, plain-language description of key words you will often hear after filing a workers’ compensation claim.


 A claim in which the insurance company or employer accepts or agrees that you have suffered an injury but they believe that you are still capable of working.  They are agreeing to pay for medical treatment only. 


Once it is unlikely that the injured employee’s condition will change or improve with or without further medical treatment, an employee is declared to be at MMI or maximum medical improvement.  Maximum medical improvement is determined by the authorized treating doctor.  Usually when the injured employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) he or she is released from that doctor’s care. 


This is temporary employment offered by the employer to the injured employee while they are on restrictive duty by the treating doctor.  Restrictive duty means that the doctor has assigned work restrictions and the employee cannot perform the pre-injury job due to those restrictions. 


This is the percentage amount assigned to a body part.  This is intended to determine the number of weeks the injured employee is entitled to compensation for their injury.  The permanent partial disability rating is assigned by the treating doctor. 


Once the employee reaches MMI, the law requires that the injured employee be returned to suitable employment.  Suitable employment is permanent employment available in the competitive marketplace that is within the employee’s physical, educational, and vocational abilities.  The employment also must be similar in wages as to the employee’s pre-injury position.  Suitable employment must also be 50 miles or less from the employee’s home. 


This is the weekly disability compensation provided to the injured employee for his or her inability to work.  The disability payments are provided at the employee’s compensation rate (two-thirds of average weekly earnings). 


This is weekly disability compensation provided to the injured employee for his or her reduced or lowered average weekly wage due to the compensable injury.  The disability payments are two-thirds of the difference between the injured employee’s pre-injury wages and those wages after the date of injury. 


If you are unable to do your regular job and your employer does not or cannot offer other suitable employment, you will qualify for this benefit.  It may include job placement counseling, re-training and a vocational rehabilitation maintenance allowance.  The insurance companies for the employers almost always pay for this.  Vocational rehabilitation is usually only offered to employees that are receiving temporary total disability benefits (a weekly workers’ compensation check) after they have been declared at MMI (maximum medical improvement).


NC Workers' Compensation Podcast

Hardison & Cochran Managaing Partner, Ben Cochran joins the podcast in this episode to answer five basic questions about North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. Cochran is a Board-Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law in North Carolina.


Like most things in life, Workers’ Compensation Claims have myths about them that simply aren’t true. Maybe it’s something a friend told you. Maybe it’s something a coworkers told you. It may even be something a boss or someone in Human Resources told you.


In this episode of the Hardison & Cochran Podcast, Managing Partner Ben Cochran, who is also a Board-Certified Specialist in NC Workers’ Compensation Law, addresses the top five myths he hears from injured workers in his practice.



If you have been injured at work are there people watching you? NC Workers’ Compensation Board-Certified Specialist Ben Cochran weighs in on the subject on who and why some people who are receiving workers’ compensation benefits may actually have someone watching their every move. The interview with Cochran also covers how people may be using your social media to keep tabs on you, too.

Ben Cochran is the Managing Partner of Hardison & Cochran and also Board-Certified by the NC State Bar in Workers’ Compensation Law.



North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Board-Certified Specialist and Hardison & Cochran Managing Partner, Ben Cochran tackles the topic of dealing with medical providers in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claims. Most people are confused when they have been injured at work and are told their medical care is going to be directed by the insurance company. You may be wondering if you can see a doctor of your choosing. Ben covers that topic and more in this podcast.

If you’ve been injured and you’re out of work, you may be receiving weekly workers’ compensation checks. Many clients and potential clients of Hardison & Cochran have many questions about the workers’ compensation checks, so we decided to dedicate a whole episode to the subject. In this episode, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorney Ben Cochran answers questions such as “How is the check calculated?” and “What happens if the check is late?”

When listening to our podcasts on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation, you may assume that we’re speaking about people who have full time jobs. You may ask, is there any difference if I have a part time or seasonal job?