How Much Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits in North Carolina?

Workers’ compensation benefits are fixed by state law.

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.)

Temporary Disability Benefits

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.

Permanent Total Disability Benefits

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:

  • the loss of both eyes, hands, arms, feet, or legs (or a combination of any two)
  • severe brain injury
  • severe burns, or
  • paralysis of both arms or legs.

Permanent Partial Disability Benefits

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:

  • up to $20,000 for serious disfigurement to the face or head
  • up to $10,000 for serious disfigurement to another body part, and
  • up to $20,000 for permanent disability to any external or internal organ.

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.

Additional Benefits

North Carolina workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:

  • Medical benefits. Workers’ comp pays for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to a work injury, as long as your treatment is authorized. (For more information, see our article on how to get medical treatment through workers’ comp.)
  • Mileage reimbursement. Mileage for travel to and from doctors’ appointments is also covered through workers’ comp.
  • Vocational rehabilitation. If you are unable to return to your normal job, you can receive placement services and other assistance trying to find new employment.
  • Death Benefits. A worker’s spouse, children, or other dependents can receive death benefits when the worker passes away due to a work injury. The benefit is two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks.
  • Funeral expenses. A worker’s family members can receive up to $10,000 in funeral and burial expenses for a deceased worker.

Limitations of Workers’ Comp Benefits

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.)

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