A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The North Carolina workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers’ comp. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim.)
North Carolina pays temporary total disability benefits to workers who need to take more than seven days off work due to their injuries. The first seven days of disability are not paid unless you end up missing more than 21 days of work.
Benefits for total disability are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceed a maximum amount set by law each year. For 2018, the maximum benefit is $992 per week. This cap only kicks in if your annual salary is around $76,000 or more. (The cap is updated annually in January; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the North Carolina Industrial Commission.)
If you’re able to return to work but you are earning less due to your injury, you can receive temporary partial disability benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your wages before your injury and what you’re able to earn after your injury. For example, suppose you normally earn $900, but you’re working a light duty job earning $300 per week. You could receive two-thirds of $600 ($900 - $300), or $400 per week. Temporary partial payments are paid for a maximum of 500 weeks.
Once you reach maximum medical improvement, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to be permanently and totally disabled, you will continue to receive weekly payments at your temporary total rate for life. Only the most serious injuries qualify, such as:
If your doctor finds that you have a permanent partial disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits. A scheduled loss of use award is available for disabilities of certain body parts, such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, feet, or back. The award is paid at two-thirds of your average weekly wages, for a number of weeks determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of a hand at 200 weeks. If you have only a 50% loss of use of the hand, you would receive 100 weeks of payments.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission can also make discretionary awards for other types of permanent partial disabilities, including:
If you have a permanent impairment that has led to a decrease in wages, you can elect instead to receive benefits at the temporary partial disability rate. As mentioned above, this is two-thirds of the difference between your earnings at the time of your injury and what you are able to earn now.
North Carolina workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)