This guide is to help others understand what happens when your earn waging abilities have been exhausted due to your workplace injury and how to maximize your workers' comp benefits.
I am totally disabled. Now what?
Once upon a time under North Carolina law if you were determined to be totally disabled in a workers’ compensation claim you could receive compensation for the rest of your life. It made sense provide financial benefits to workers suffering severe and permanently debilitating injuries. However, the law changed, and now all claims arising after June 24, 2011 limit those benefits to 500 weeks. That amounts to a little more than 9 ½ years!
Fortunately, there are some exceptions to this rule for permanently disabled workers who have the following conditions:
1. Loss of both hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes,
2. A spinal injury involving severe paralysis of both arms, legs, or the trunk.
3. A severe brain injury as evidenced by severe and permanent:
a. Sensory or motor disturbances;
b. Communication disturbances;
c. Complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function; or
d. Neurological disorders.
4. Second-degree or third degree burns to thirty-three percent (33%) or more of your body.
What if I'm not one of the exceptions?
But what about those totally disabled employees who do not suffer from any of those conditions? What can they do? The good news is that North Carolina law opens the door to extending your compensation beyond 500 weeks under certain conditions. First, you must receive total disability compensation for at least 425 weeks. Second, the insurance carrier must either agree or, the Industrial Commission has to determine that you have totally lost the ability to earn a wage. If those two conditions are met than you could receive financial compensation for years regardless of whether you receive social security disability benefits, social security widow or widower’s benefits, or reduced early retirement benefits.
The amount of financial compensation, though, would eventually be offset when you begin getting social security retirement benefits.
So what do I do?
Contact an attorney familiar with the ins and outs of workers' compensation since this is a very difficult topic that I do not recommend handling on your own.
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