Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Protecting your rights. Preserving your future.
If you’ve been hurt at work and you want to pursue workers’ compensation, you need legal representation. Why? Because you need someone to protect your rights.
Locations We Serve
The North Carolina
Workers' Compensation Lawyer
If you have been injured on the job, you may be eligible to receive compensation under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. At Collier Law, we understand the hardships that injured workers face and we work tirelessly to obtain full compensation for our clients who have suffered a serious work-related injury.
Benefits you are entitled to receive for a workplace injury include compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and disability–both temporary and permanent. It is important to know that the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim can be both complex and time-consuming, and a positive outcome may hinge on the smallest details. Unfortunately, employers, insurance companies, and their lawyers will often do everything they can to avoid compensating you the full amount you deserve. They may deny your workers’ compensation claim, withhold benefits, or decline authorization for medical treatment. In such circumstances, it is imperative to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney with a solid knowledge of North Carolina law.
The Lawyer for Injured Workers in North Carolina
Trey Collier, founder of Collier Law, began his career as a defense attorney representing North Carolina employers and insurance companies. Although he quickly discovered he would rather fight for injured workers, his experience representing the other side gives him unique insight into workers’ compensation law. He understands how employers and insurance companies approach a case, and uses this knowledge to negotiate the financial compensation his clients deserve.
A North Carolina native, Trey has since 2016 had the distinction of being a certified workers’ compensation law specialist by the North Carolina State Bar Association. This specialization has been earned by fewer than 200 lawyers statewide, and requires demonstrated special knowledge, proficiency, and skill in workers’ compensation law, with a minimum of five years of practice. Furthermore, specialists must complete a certain number of hours in continuing legal education and practice of the specialty, pass a written examination, and be favorably peer reviewed by six other attorneys or judges. In addition, Trey is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a select group of attorneys who have recovered a settlement or judgment over one million dollars.
At Collier Law, we are passionate about getting justice for our clients. We will gladly provide you with a free consultation on your workers’ compensation case and give you straightforward, professional feedback. In addition to English, we are also able to provide legal service in fully proficient Spanish and French, as well as working proficiency in Portuguese, Italian, and German.
How Workers' Compensation Law Works
All employers in the state of North Carolina with three or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, in the event that an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness. The Workers’ Compensation Act is administered by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, It is designed to provide benefits to injured workers to help cover medical expenses and wages lost while recovering.
The workers’ compensation system essentially operates as a compromise between the employee and employer. The employer agrees to provide said medical and wage replacement benefits, and in exchange the employee is legally barred from filing a lawsuit against the employer for compensation.
While in theory this is a practical system because it helps protect both employers and injured employees, it unfortunately does not always work in favor of the employee. The employer’s insurance company will often deny or limit the benefits a worker deserves, resulting in financial hardship for workers and their families. This is why it is important for individual’s who suffer a workplace injury to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer and understand their options.
Who Can File a Workers' Compensation Claim
Any individual in the state of North Carolina who is hurt on the job qualifies to file a workers’ compensation claim as long as they meet the following criteria:
- His or her injury occurred while they were working
- His or her injury occurred because of the work they were doing
- His or her injury was caused by an accident or specific incident
- His or her employer has three or more employees
Note that there is no stipulation requiring that the accident must be the employer’s fault. It is a common misconception that employees are not entitled to workers’ compensation if the accident was their own fault. Negligence is not a factor under North Carolina workers’ comp law. You may still be entitled to benefits, even if the injury was your fault. That being said, you cannot collect compensation if you intentionally injured yourself, not as the result of an accident.
North Carolina Workplace Accident Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of over 69,000 non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in North Carolina in 2019. While North Carolina’s rate of 2.3 incidents per 100 full-time workers is lower than the national incident rate of 2.8, it is still a significant number.
The total number of fatal occupational injuries was 186 the same year. The primary causes of those fatal workplace accidents are as follows:
- Transportation incidents – 74 deaths
- Falls, slips, or trips – 36 deaths
- Workplace violence – 30 deaths
- Contact with objects and equipment – 29 deaths
- Exposure to harmful substances – 13 deaths
- Fires and explosions – 3 deaths
While many workplace injuries occur within certain industries, a work-related injury can occur in any industry. Falls, slips, and trips are the second highest cause of workplace injuries, and they can happen in a factory or an office.
What a Workers' Compensation Attorney Can Do for You
A proficient and experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help ensure you receive the full compensation you are entitled to after a workplace accident, and that you receive them within a reasonable time frame. Because workers’ compensation cases are complex and can be confusing, it is vital to seek legal advice from an attorney well versed in workers’ compensation laws.
Collier Law can help you navigate the complicated waters of workers’ compensation claims. Following are just a couple examples of important factors that injured workers may not consider, but which can be essential to getting the best outcome in a workers’ comp case:
- Location – If you were not on your employer’s property when you were injured does not mean you aren’t qualified to collect benefits. You are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits so long as you were performing work for your employer at the time, even if it was in a different location. Injuries sustained during travel to and from work generally do not qualify for compensation, but a knowledgeable attorney can help determine if your specific case is an exception.
- Safety Precautions – While North Carolina does not award or deny workers’ compensation benefits based on fault, it does matter that your employer follows proper safety protocols. If your employer failed to follow approved safety guidelines, your compensation can be increased. Likewise, if a worker failed to follow safety guidelines or is unfit for work due to drug or alcohol use, his or her compensation can be reduced.
If you’ve been injured on the job, employers and insurance companies may try to take advantage of your “ignorance” of the law. In egregious cases, they may even try to deceive you about your legal rights. You may also find the workers’ compensation you receive for your accident is less than you expected, or doesn’t cover your medical expenses. Seasoned, dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys can help prevent these situations from happening to you.
North Carolina Workers' Compensation Benefits
If you’ve suffered a debilitating workplace injury that has affected your life and ability to function, you may be entitled to benefits. North Carolina law provides for the following five categories of benefits:
- Disability Benefits
- Medical Treatment Benefits
- Wage Loss Benefits
- Disfigurement & Scarring Benefits
- Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
- Workplace Wrongful Death Benefits
Disability benefits take into account an injured workers’ wages lost while recovering from the initial accident, as well as its effect on future earning potential. The law provides a very specific formula for determining the amount of compensation, which hinges on the worker’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW). Correctly calculating the AWW is critical to obtaining fair compensation. Benefits are based on the following categories of disability:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
Temporary Total Disability benefits are administered when you are unable to work while recovering from your work-related accident. These benefits are equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage at the time of the injury or illness, with predetermined maximums and minimums. If you are written completely out of work, you are entitled to receive temporary total disability; if you are assigned work restrictions by your doctor, and your employer is unable to accommodate them or provide a light duty job, then you are also entitled to temporary total disability benefits.
Temporary Partial Disability benefits, also called “wage differential,” are administered when you are able to return to work, but are unable to function at the same capacity as before the accident. They are equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury AWW and your post-injury reduced weekly earnings.
Permanent Partial Disability benefits are awarded when you have recovered from your injury as much as possible–referred to as “maximum medical improvement”– but a certain degree of permanent restriction or disability remains. This designation is determined by a doctor’s professional opinion of your MMI, and the amount of compensation determined by the body part affected.
Permanent Total Disability benefits are awarded at the same rate as TTD benefits if you have suffered any of the following extreme injuries:
- Loss of both eyes, hands, arms, feet, or legs (or a combination of any two)
- Spinal injury that results in permanent paralysis of both arms, legs, or the torso
- Second- or third-degree burns to a third or more of your body
- Traumatic brain injury
North Carolina workers’ compensation law mandates that the injured individual’s employer’s insurance company cover all medical treatment given to cure or lessen injury, pain, and disability. The individual does not have to miss work to receive these benefits, and cannot be required to pay any deductible or co-pay. Reasonable travel expenses associated with obtaining such treatment are also covered. Medical benefits also include ongoing care, such as physical therapy.
If you’ve experienced a serious injury on the job, your employer and its insurance company have the right to select which physicians treat you for your workers’ comp claim. This can create complications and dissatisfaction on the part of the employee. However, you have the right to request a different physician from the North Carolina Industrial Commission. They have the authority to change your doctor when deemed necessary and appropriate, and capable workers’ compensation attorneys can assist you with this task.
Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, wage loss benefits are paid out in the amount of two-thirds of the injured worker’s average weekly wage. This is calculated by determining how much the worker earned before taxes during the 1-year period prior to the accident, and dividing that amount by 52 weeks. This amount is not taxable by the state or federal government.
Wage loss benefits can be claimed if you are out of work longer than seven days. If you are out of work more than twenty-one days, you can also receive compensation for the first seven.
North Carolina awards disfigurement and scarring benefits to individuals at the discretion of the NCIC. To qualify for these payments, the disfigurement must be serious, permanent, observable, and affect your ability to earn wages. Some examples of this would be permanent scarring over a large area of the body that is outwardly observable, serious facial or head disfigurement, or enucleation of an eye where an artificial eye cannot be fitted and used.
However, not all disfigurement and scarring is covered, if the disfigurement resulted in the loss of the use of a body part for which the injured worker has already claimed compensation. For example, if an individual claimed partial disability benefits for the loss of a leg, he could not also claim disfigurement benefits for the leg. In other words, you cannot “double dip.”
If you are able to return to work after an injury but at less than 75% of your pre-injury wages, you may qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits. These services are designed to help injured workers obtain suitable employment. They may include skills assessments, education and retraining, and counseling and assistance obtaining a new job.
North Carolina Workers’ Compensation insurance does provide for death benefits, in the tragic event that your loved one died due to a workplace injury or illness acquired in the course of employment. However, you must file the claim within six years of the date of injury or onset of disability, or within two years of the final determination of disability.
Notably, the workplace injury or illness does not have to be the sole cause of death, so long as it contributed to the worker’s demise or aggravated a preexisting condition which then lead to death.
Wrongful death benefits are paid to dependent children and the deceased’s surviving spouse in the amount of two-thirds of what the worker was earning at the time of the accident. These benefits also cover funeral and burial expenses up to $10,000.
You May Also Have a Personal Injury Claim
While workers’ compensation covers medical bills, ongoing medical care, and lost wages, it does not cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
You cannot sue your employer for non-economic damages through a personal injury claim once you have collected workers’ compensation benefits. (The exception to this is if you’ve been injured by the conduct of an employer and it can be shown to be an intentional act to cause injury.)
However, you may be able to sue a third party if you can demonstrate that their negligence directly contributed to your workers’ compensation injury. An example of this would be the manufacturer of faulty equipment, or a contractor or sub-contractor on a construction site, so long as that party is not your employer.
Common Workplace Injuries and Accidents in North Carolina
Despite employers’ and workers’ best efforts to provide a safe work environment and follow safety requirements, workplace accidents happen every day. Some of the most common types of workplace injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Muscle and tendon strains
- Joint sprains
- Fractures and broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Loss of limb(s)
- Internal bleeding or organ injuries
- Mesothelioma and workplace exposure injuries
Exposure to toxic substances can cause a host of occupational diseases, which are listed on North Carolina General Statute 97-53. Any of these conditions are presumed under the law to have occurred due to increased workplace risk.
What To Do if You've Suffered a Workplace Accident
Because of the complexity and technical nature of workers’ compensation claims, it’s important to take the following steps if you’re injured on the job and to make sure everything is properly documented.
- Seek medical attention immediately. If your injuries are severe or life-threatening, call 911 or go to the ER. If they are not severe, seek treatment from an on-site healthcare provider if one is available. Alternatively, your employer may direct you to a doctor, or you may seek medical attention from your regular doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor that your injury is work-related so it is appropriately recorded.
- Report the injury to your employer both verbally and in writing within 30 days, if you haven’t already. Include what happened, when, and details of your injuries.
- Follow your doctor’s treatment instructions, including medication and physical therapy requirements. Keep detailed medical records, including photographs, receipts, and after-care summaries.
- File a claim with the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. You will need to fill out Form 18, which you can get from your employer or online from the NCIC.
- Contact Collier Law for a free case evaluation. We will provide you with honest feedback on your case, and let you know if it would be prudent for you to obtain counsel.
North Carolina Workers' Compensation FAQs
If you’re an injured worker hurt on the job, there are time limits on how long you have to take legal action and file a workers’ compensation claim. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of injury.
While this may seem like ample time, keep in mind that focusing on your recovery may take up much of your time. Furthermore, medical expenses can start to pile up and cause financial strain if you’re out of work long.
State law also requires that you report your injury to your employer both verbally and in writing in a “timely manner,” which it defines as within 30 days of the accident.
Workers’ compensation claims may be denied for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are that the injured worker has failed to file the claim by the two-year deadline, or he has improperly or incompletely filled out the forms.
If your claim is denied, you should immediately seek legal advice from a knowledgeable workers’ comp attorney. Under NC workers’ compensation law, you have only 14 days to notify the Industrial Commission of your intent to appeal the denial. The appeals process is technical and complex; it’s essential to have a skilled attorney on your side so you have the best shot at getting the decision overturned.
If you are an injured employee in North Carolina, your employer will often attempt to make you return to work before you are ready. There are certain hoops the workers’ compensation law requires the employer to jump through, but many employers will take advantage of an unrepresented worker to get around these. For example, the statute covering return to work light duty states that before an injured employee returns to work, the employer must have a light-duty job description approved by the treating physician. In addition, the proposed work must be within the employee’s work restrictions. This is important to know, as there have been cases where an employer will make someone return to work light duty only to find a reason to terminate them at a later point.
An Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney with Proven Results
Workplace accidents can have devastating effects on your life and future. If you’ve suffered a serious work-related injury, you owe it to yourself and your family to consult with an experienced, skilled workers’ compensation attorney. There is simply too much at stake to risk being taken advantage of by an employer or insurance company whose priority is their own self-interest. You deserve to be fairly compensated for your workplace injuries, and to have a future in which you are able to provide for your family.
At Collier Law, your physical wellbeing, recovery, and future are our number one concern. We will fight to get you justice in your workers’ compensation case, and we have the accomplished track record to prove it: Our founder, Trey Collier, is a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum, comprised solely of attorneys who have won million dollar and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for their clients. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.
The attorney-client relationship is personal to us. We are in the business of protecting your best interests, and we won’t back down. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us be in your corner.
We represent clients in Charlotte, Monroe, Lincolnton, Gastonia, Concord, Kannapolis, Hickory, Conover, and throughout central North Carolina. We provide legal services in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German.
Cases We Handle With Excellence
It is important to know that workers’ compensation in North Carolina is a “no-fault” system, meaning that the injured employee does not have to prove it was someone else’s fault he or she was hurt
If your injury was caused by another party’s negligence, you’re entitled to compensation. At Collier Law, we are fully prepared to aggressively pursue this compensation on your behalf.