- May 6, 2022
- Sumwalt Anderson
- Workers’ Comp
After suffering an injury at your North Carolina workplace, you may end up facing an uncertain future. You may feel like your injury will leave you unable to continue working at your current job. You may have to take a lower-paying job, or you may be unable to work at all. Your injury may be so serious that you are wondering, how long does workers’ comp last in NC?
The length of time an injured or ill worker in North Carolina can receive benefits through workers’ compensation will depend on the type of injuries the worker has. Certain circumstances regarding extremely serious and disabling injuries could result in the employee’s receiving benefits throughout his or her lifetime. Other cases may result in payments until reaching a certain time limit. A deadline of 500 weeks is common. Chapter 97 of the North Carolina statutes spells out some of the circumstances for setting time limits for benefits.
Understanding Claims of Disability in North Carolina Workers’ Comp
Before discussing how long a workers’ comp case stays open in NC, it’s important to understand how the state defines disability for injured or ill employees. North Carolina offers four different types of disability designations when it comes to workers’ comp benefits. Figuring out which designation applies to your case will help you figure out how long you can collect workers’ comp in NC.v
Permanent Partial Disability
According to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees workers’ compensation requirements in the state, permanent partial disability (PPD) involves the employee’s suffering partial loss of the use of a part of the body.
The Commission makes a determination of whether an ill or injured employee meets the definition of permanent partial disability. It relies on the testimony and reports of doctors caring for the employee. The doctor will make a recommendation as to whether the disability is no longer showing signs of healing and is likely permanent.
Permanent Total Disability
With a permanent total disability (PTD) designation, the employee could receive compensation payments for a lifetime. The PTD assumes a permanent disability occurred that will leave the employee unlikely to be able to work at any point in the future. Some of the types of injuries or illnesses that could lead to a PTD designation include:
- Loss of multiple limbs
- Loss of both hands
- Loss of both feet
- Loss of sight
- Paralysis in multiple limbs or the trunk
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe brain injuries
- Severe burns to more than one-third of the body
- Severe internal organ damage.
PTD and PPD Deadlines
After a PTD or PPD designation, the employee can receive a settlement that takes into account his or her average weekly wages before the injury. This average weekly wage can include regular overtime pay and regular bonuses. Compensation usually is two-thirds of this average weekly wage.
For both PTD and PPD, the state uses a formula that will determine the length of time an injured or ill worker can receive benefits. A 500-week limit is usually the maximum, but exceptions exist, based on the severity of the injuries.
Temporary Partial Disability
When a worker receives a temporary partial disability (TPD) designation, this means the employee is able to return to work in some capacity but is unable to earn the same wages as before the injury. This may occur, for example, if the employee is only able to work two days per week while healing, rather than the typical five days a week. TPD also may apply if the employee can return to work in a less strenuous job than he or she held at the time of the injury. If this less taxing job offers a lower salary, the employee can receive TPD benefits for the salary difference.
The TPD benefits will result in a payment equal to two-thirds of the difference between the wages the employee is able to earn after the injury and the average wages the employee earned before the injury.
Temporary Total Disability
Temporary total disability (TTD) is a common type of workers’ compensation situation. It involves an employee who has an injury that leaves him or her unable to continue working in the same capacity or at all. The belief when paying TTD benefits is that the employee will return to work at some point in the future.
To receive a TTD designation, the doctor caring for the employee should determine that the employee cannot return to work while healing from the injury. Generally, the employee receiving TTD benefits will receive two-thirds of his or her average weekly wage prior to the injury. These benefits can continue until the employee returns to work and no longer has a disabling condition.
With a TTD, How Long Does a Workers’ Comp Case Stay Open in NC?
According to the Workers’ Compensation Act, a claim involving a TTD designation made in North Carolina after 2011 will have a limit for wage replacement of 500 weeks from the date of the initial disabling injury. This is a little more than 9-1/2 years. (With a TPD designation, the employee also could receive these benefits for up to 500 weeks, if needed.)
Should your temporary total disability related to the jobsite injury or illness fail to resolve in that time, you could apply for a special exemption to see your wage reimbursement extend beyond the 500-week limit.
With a PPD, How Long Can You Collect Workers’ Comp in NC?
Section § 97-31 of the Workers’ Compensation Act specifies how long an employee can collect benefits with a PPD. The law provides compensation deadlines and amounts based on the body part where the disability or disfigurement is occurring and on the percentage of impairment the employee may have. The loss of a thumb provides compensation for 75 weeks, for example. The loss of an arm will result in 240 weeks worth of compensation.
The insurer plugs all of those items into a mathematical formula to come up with a compensation amount to pay. As an employee, you do not have to accept the findings of the insurer as to your level of impairment or the kinds of disabilities you may have, however. You have the right to present your own facts that tell a different story. Our legal team can help you present a case as to why you should receive a greater level of benefits with a PPD designation.
Should the employee eventually die because of these severe injuries suffered at the workplace, we can work to help the remaining family members seek a death benefit as well.
Trust Our Team to Help You Determine How Long Your Workers’ Comp Will Last in NC
Our North Carolina workers’ comp lawyer understands the frustration you may be feeling in this type of case. Not knowing what kind of financial future you are facing creates an uneasy feeling. Qualifying to receive workers’ compensation benefits should help to alleviate some of these concerns, but only if you complete the process while following all of the required rules.
The team at Sumwalt Anderson Law Firm represents clients in these types of cases regularly. Mark Sumwalt frequently works in the area of workers’ compensation law. He is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law. He appreciates the opportunity to put his experience to work for you in your case.
We know how to give our clients the professional representation they need. We do not back down in the face of difficult circumstances related to workers’ comp laws and rules. We understand the challenges our clients face after suffering a serious injury or illness on the jobsite, and we will give your case the attention it should have. Contact us today for a free consultation at (704) 377-3770.