When A Work-Related Injury Happens Outside The Workplace?
People often wonder: Does an injured worker have to be at their physical place of employment to qualify for a Workers’ Compensation claim?
Often, the claims process can be much smoother if an employee’s injury occurs at their place of work. For example, if you are injured in the office or factory of your employer, the question of whether or not you were actively working at the time of your injury is often much easier to answer.
However, there are circumstances when an employee is not “at work”, but “on the clock” and a Workers’ Compensation claim is valid. In fact, this comes up a lot with individuals who travel to job sites or travel to meet clients as part of their work.
It’s important to keep in mind that if an accident occurs during travel, the incident can be the basis for a Workers’ Compensation claim – even though the accident and injury did not occur on a work site.
Additionally, if an accident happens outside of a work site, you may have more than a Workers’ Compensation claim on your hands. Particularly if someone other than your employer is at fault for an accident outside of the workplace, you may be able to bring a separate personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
In this situation, you would have two separate claims of action happening at the same time. The first would be addressing the Workers’ Compensation claim that is concerned with this accident and injury that occurred while in the furtherance of your employer’s business. The second would address the personal injury claim against the at-fault party who caused the accident which injured you.
There are some interactions between these two cases that may somewhat limit your recovery. This is one of the many reasons it is so crucial to have a Workers’ Compensation attorney involved. Both so that you can be sure to maximize your benefits and manage any issues that would come up between the two cases.
What should you do if you believe you have a valid Workers’ Compensation claim in North Carolina?
If you believe that you have a Workers’ Compensation claim in North Carolina, it’s important to contact an attorney for a consultation as soon as possible. In your consultation, an attorney can:
- Evaluate the facts of your case,
- Determine the basis of your claim,
- Determine what steps will need to be taken to obtain your benefits,
- Explain the different directions that the case may take,
- Provide an overview of the process moving forward,
- Discuss potential strategies,
- And more…
Most importantly, your consultation can provide you with the opportunity to learn what to expect. If you are pursuing a Workers’ Compensation case, it’s likely you’ve suffered an injury that is affecting you in many ways. Between dealing with physical pain and missing work, it’s easy to feel stressed and unsure about your future. Whether or not you choose to work with an attorney, a consultation is a great start for the clarity that it can provide during an incredibly uncertain time.
Proving A Workers’ Compensation Claim
The majority of the evidence critical to these cases is based on the testimony of medical providers. If you have a medical provider who is willing to testify to the nature and form of your injuries, you are much more likely to find a favorable case outcome.
Some of the most important aspects of your provider’s testimony will include how the injury occurred, what medical treatment you have required, and how your injury has affected your ability to work.
Nearly any time that benefits are at issue or disputed in regards to a Workers’ Compensation claim, it has to do with an issue regarding medical evidence. The reason for this is that the North Carolina Industrial Commission can only receive evidence regarding these benefits from a medical provider.
But why is the testimony of a medical professional so important? Because the Industrial Commission knows that anytime benefits are in dispute in a Workers’ Compensation case, the employee and employer will testify to their own version of events.
Given that these cases are concerned with the nature and event of injuries, a medical professional is the premier source of testimony as it provides unbiased insight into the nature of the case at hand. Therefore, their testimony will provide the best source of information regarding lost time at work, the limitations of work-related activities, and the necessity of medical care in the future.
The Timeline Of Filing Workers’ Compensation Cases
You may find yourself wondering, “How long do I have to file a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits in North Carolina?”
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (Chapter 97 of the North Carolina General Statutes) is completely devoted to this area of the law and answering this exact question. More specifically, Chapter 97 includes a Statute of Limitations for these cases in Section 24.
(The Statute of Limitations is a legal term for the period of time within which a case must be brought forward. If you bring a case to the North Carolina Industrial Commission after the Statute of Limitations has elapsed, you will almost certainly have lost the right to have the case heard before the North Carolina Industrial Commission.)
In Workers’ Compensation matters, Chapter 97 Section 24 indicates that an official claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits must be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years of that date of injury.
Occasionally, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are in a situation where you were receiving medical treatment during the two-year Statute of Limitations, your case may be eligible for a filing extension. However, this does not apply to every similar situation.
Filing A Claim For Worker’s Compensation Benefits
A Workers’ Compensation Benefit Claim is started by submitting Form 18 to the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
Note: To properly “file a claim”, it is not enough to tell your employer about your injury, submit Form 18 to your employer, or email Form 18 to your insurance company.
To properly file a claim, you must submit the form to the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years of the date of your injury. Failure to file the form with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years of the date of your injury can result in the expiration of your claim.
Anytime that an injury has occurred, I recommend that folks reach out to that attorney to talk about the facts of their case. This way, you can prepare for your recorded statement and have an attorney on the case to file the claim for benefits on your behalf as soon as possible. In doing this, there’s almost never a risk of running afoul of the 2-year Statute of Limitations.
Talking To Your Doctor After A Workplace Injury
If you need medical treatment for your injury, you may wonder about what type of information is safe to share with your doctor.
After all, many people are afraid that talking about any preexisting condition could lead to the denial of their Workers’ Compensation claim.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind here…
- Anytime someone sees a doctor, the doctor will generate a medical report containing details of the visit. And each time a report is generated, believe it or not, anything you tell that doctor may be included in that report.
- There are instances in Workers’ Compensation cases where a nurse is assigned by the employer’s insurance company. And in some situations, this nurse is not allowed to go into an appointment with you. This is the case when you are entitled to a “private examination”.
- A “private examination” only means that the employer-appointed nurse is not present. It is not private in the sense that the information you share with the doctor during this visit is “off the record”.
Therefore, it’s important that you are comfortable with anything you share with the doctor to be passed on to your employer’s insurance company later down the line. This is because the information may show up on a report that is generated by the medical provider.
If you’re concerned about how your personal information may be passed down in these cases, your best option is to speak with an attorney. Your attorney is bound by law to be a confidential resource to you. This way, you can discuss your concerns openly without fear of the information impacting your case. Your attorney can advise you regarding what information you should share with a doctor and what information you can choose to keep confidential.
The most important aspect in any of these situations is to ensure that you receive the care that you need while preserving the greatest value of your claim. So speaking to an attorney can provide you with the best insight as you approach your private examination with a medical professional.
How To Handle Denials?
In some cases, you will see employers and insurance companies respond to your claim filing with a denial of benefits. In essence, this means that they’re disputing your entitlement to any workers’ compensation benefits.
In these situations, you may see that your employer is not contesting that you were injured at work. But rather that they are indicating the way in which you were injured does not qualify as an accident.
This goes back to a core principle of the way that Workers’ Compensation cases are handled: that an injury must occur due to an accident for it to produce a valid claim. If you were injured at work, but the injury was not caused due to an accident, it’s not at all unlikely that you would be denied benefits.
In other instances, you may see a denial as part of the investigation of your claim. During the investigation, an employer and insurance company may request prior medical records in search of a preexisting injury. If your medical records show that you may have been having issues with this same body part already, they may deny your claim. This is because they will have reason to believe that, yes, an accident did happen at work, but that your injury was not caused by that accident.
In yet one other scenario, a claim may be denied if your employer and their insurance provider look at their database and find that another accident occurred at some point in the past. If they find evidence that your injuries may have occurred due to another set of circumstances, they may deny your claim on the basis that the current condition or injury was not caused by the accident at work.
All of these situations are crucial to discuss with your attorney. Whether a prior work accident occurred or you have a preexisting condition won’t necessarily rule out your entitlement to benefits. However, your attorney needs this vital information so that your attorney can advise you how to handle this situation for the present workers’ compensation claim.
We’ve talked about “injuries by accident” as a way of pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. But there is another way of pursuing a claim by what is known as an occupational disease.
In occupational disease claims, there is not a specific date of injury. Rather, injury occurs due to the repetitive, ongoing nature of the work.
With these claims, there is a heightened amount of emphasis on the doctor’s testimony. This is because when filing an occupational disease claim, you must show that your job poses an increased risk of developing the condition you have been diagnosed with. Additionally, this condition cannot be a disease that would ordinarily occur on its own. Instead, you need to show that it was brought on by conditions particular to your occupation.
What’s more, there has to be some evidence from the doctor that your job not only created the risk of developing this condition, but that, in your individual circumstances, the risk is what actually caused your condition.
In other words, when filing an occupational disease claim, it’s vital to show that your job activities directly caused the condition you suffer from.
The Timeline Of A Workers’ Compensation Claim
Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating aspects of Workers’ Compensation cases is the length of the process. In some ways, this is just based on how the process has been built. In other situations, case resolution may take a long time because of actions taken by the employer and their insurance provider.
In any case, understanding the timeline of Workers’ Compensation cases in North Carolina can provide valuable insight before you begin the process…
- You file a claim for benefits by submitting Form 18 to the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
- After about two weeks, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will send out an Acknowledgement Letter. This letter will go to your employer and their insurance company, and it explains that an employee has filed for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
- After they have received the Acknowledgement Letter, your employer and their insurance provider will have no more than 30 days from the date of the letter to respond.
(Of course, your attorney can contact your employer’s insurance provider in an attempt to get a response before the 30-day period. However, you can see how the initial process already allows for some significant delays.)
If your case is denied, the trial process will typically take about a year from start to finish.
- If a claim is denied and trial is requested, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will allow up to 120 days to complete mediation. In some situations, insurance companies will wait as long as possible to conduct that mediation. If the case is not resolved at mediation, the date is set for a trial.
- About two months following the date of mediation, the first stage of the trial will occur within which the employer and injured employee will testify. No doctors testify at this point in the trial.
- The parties are then given 60 days within which to get the testimony of any physicians who are providing treatment to the injured employee.
- When the medical testimony has been obtained, the parties are given 30 days to file their written arguments.
- Once the written arguments are submitted, the North Carolina Industrial Commission has up to 6 months to issue a decision.
Unfortunately, these cases don’t have an immediate decision from the North Carolina Industrial Commission, as you would see from a judge or jury for personal injury claims. Instead, you can see how the structure of the process creates a timeline that results in incredibly drawn-out case resolutions.
Some of the most common delays that occur don’t have to do specifically with the process of Workers’ Compensation claims, but instead with the manner in which these claims are handled by your employer’s insurance provider.
Other delays can occur because:
– Insurance companies count on you to get tired of calling.
If you don’t have an attorney, an insurance company may “promise to get back to you” with no intention of doing so. Sometimes, claimants will be promised checks and treatment, only to have their claim ultimately ignored by an insurance provider that knows that some people will stop following up. In these cases, the insurance companies use your fatigue to their advantage.
– Insurance companies file forms as a stall tactic.
Your employer’s insurance company may file forms that create delays. One of these is called a Form 63, and it is used for “payment without prejudice”. This allows the insurance company to pay for only a few medical bills and wait to see how the case progresses.
Insurance companies sometimes do this with the hope that the medical treatment will be inexpensive. This allows them to perform a cost-benefit analysis as it pertains to whether or not they will accept liability for the claim down the road. The problem with this is that it draws out your case by halting it in its tracks. If your claim hasn’t been accepted or denied, you can find yourself waiting for an answer for months. It’s common in these situations that it’s not until surgery is required, or you are prevented from going back to work that an insurance company will accept or deny liability for the claim.
This can create quite a bit of difficulty if you are seeking benefits, especially because most people who receive payment for medical treatment will assume that their case has been accepted. In reality, this strategy puts you in a holding pattern without any promises regarding future medical treatment or disability benefits.
In this case, if you are denied benefits later on when you need surgery, etc., you can face a yearlong trial process in the middle of your treatment. This is another reason why an attorney plays such a vital role.
By forcing timely responses and proper filings, your attorney can help you to get a case determination as quickly as possible. This way, you don’t find yourself back at the beginning of your case months down the line.
The Benefits Available In Your Workers’ Compensation Claims
When we talk about the benefits that you can receive as part of a Workers’ Compensation case, they can be broken down into two different categories: medical compensation and disability compensation.
Medical compensation involves payment to doctors for treatment as it is provided.
– In cases where an employer and insurance company have accepted liability for your injury…
They will pay your doctors as medical treatment is needed.
– In cases where an employer and insurance company have denied liability for your injury…
You would submit a record of past and current medical treatment as part of the trial for benefits. During trial, you would request that the unpaid medical bills be paid, any out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment be reimbursed, and that the employer and their insurance company be responsible for payment for any future medical treatment as it occurs.
Disability compensation, the other category of benefits, can be broken down into three forms…
1.) Temporary Total Disability
This comes into play when a doctor indicates that due to your work injury, you are unable to return to work in any capacity. Or, when a doctor assigns work restrictions that make it impossible for an employer to bring you back on, and you can’t find new employment despite making reasonable efforts to do so.
Temporary total disability benefits are generally paid on a weekly basis. The amount you are paid is determined by your pre-injury average weekly wage. This is found by averaging all wages, overtime, bonuses, and compensation paid to you each week (before taxes) in the year prior to the date of your injury.
The amount of your temporary total disability will be two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wage. This is paid to you tax-free, and will likely come out to slightly less than what your take-home pay was prior to your injury.
2.) Temporary Partial Disability
These benefits are possibly available if your doctor is not preventing you from going back to work, but is imposing certain work restrictions. To qualify, you must only be able to find work that accommodates these restrictions and pays less than your pre-injury average weekly wage.
Temporary partial disability may entitle you to weekly or bi-weekly payments. These payments will be calculated using your pre-injury average weekly wage and your current wage. To the extent that there is a difference, you could receive two-thirds of the remaining balance tax-free.
3.) Permanent Partial Impairment Rating
This is possibly available when your doctor determines that you have sustained a permanent injury to a particular body part, but the damage hasn’t caused you to be completely disabled.
In these cases, you will be assigned a permanent partial impairment rating. This is done in two parts.
First, your physician will address your impairment by assigning a percentage of disability. Second, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law describes a set number of weeks during which you can receive benefits based on the body part that was injured.
Therefore, to determine the amount you are eligible to receive, you will multiply the number of weeks’ worth of benefits allowed for the injured body part by your percentage of disability. The resulting figure will equal the number of weeks of benefits you may receive due to the permanent injury.
It’s important to keep in mind that your permanent partial impairment payment is not meant to replace wages or compensate you for reduced wages. Instead, this payment is made to compensate you for the permanent injury you sustained as a result of an accident at work.
One option to resolve your Workers’ Compensation case is the pursuit of a settlement. But there are a few things to keep in mind when considering this option…
There is no requirement for a Workers’ Compensation case to settle. Additionally, the North Carolina Industrial Commission cannot order a settlement. This means that settlement only occurs if both parties want to settle the case and can agree on the settlement amount.
Because neither party can force the other into a settlement agreement, a settlement often involves negotiations. This process often starts with the employer and their insurance company coming in with their lowest offer, while you and your attorney start at your highest offer.
It’s only through negotiation between the parties that a conclusion can occur. Through this conclusion, the parties either:
1.) Agree to terms of settlement.
This involves a lump sum payment in exchange for the employer being released from any further obligation to pay Workers’ Compensation benefits.
2.) Are not able to reach a settlement agreement.
In this case, both sides walk away from the negotiations as if they never occurred.
So anytime this issue of settlement comes up, you need to confirm that both parties are interested and that they may be able to reach the terms of a settlement.
Why? Just because the parties are talking does not mean that case is going to settle. It only means that they are trying to explore whether they can potentially agree to terms of a settlement.
In Workers’ Compensation cases, settlement generally comes up in situations where the employer and insurance company are concerned that if they don’t settle the case, there may be further benefits to pay in the future.
For example, you often see settlements come up in cases that are initially denied, and benefits are yet to be paid. In these situations, the parties will discuss the potentiality of reaching a settlement during pre-trial mediation.
In other instances, settlement may come up when an employer and insurance company have paid benefits, but the doctor then assigns a permanent restriction to the injured party which do not allow a return to work for the employer or any other employer. In these cases, a settlement may be discussed to offer a lump sum in lieu of paying benefits into the future.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with settling Workers’ Compensation cases. In many instances, it may be in someone’s best interest to settle their Workers’ Compensation case. The one critical fact is making sure that that settlement adequately covers any additional benefits that are owed. And that’s where the attorney gets involved.
Anytime an attorney is involved in a case and the issue of settlement comes up, they’ll need to perform a settlement evaluation. This evaluation allows your attorney to provide a good estimate of what benefits would be owed if the case didn’t settle — whether that’s through medical or disability compensation.
A settlement evaluation is particularly important because it provides you with the information required to determine whether a settlement will sufficiently meet your needs.
In reality, any case can settle. An insurance company would likely settle every case in the world if they could. The critical factor is: How much are they willing to settle for?
The answer to this question ultimately decides whether or not a settlement is possible. Will it adequately compensate you for the benefits you are entitled to? Or will it confirm that you are better off continuing to receive or fighting for ongoing benefits that will provide you with financial support into the future? The choice, when given to you, is ultimately yours to make.
“Hacking” Your Workers’ Compensation Claim: What To Do If You’re Injured At Work
There are a couple surefire steps you can take to “hack” your Workers’ Compensation claim at the beginning. These steps are truly critical anytime you suffer a work-related injury.
1.) Make a report to your employer.
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires that you give notice of an accident to your employer within 30 days of its occurrence. This notice can be verbal or in writing. However, it’s much more advantageous for you to submit your notice in writing and keep a copy of it for your records. In this way, if your case is disputed and winds up in trial, there will be no question of your report of injury to the employer in a timely manner.
2.) Collect evidence about the scene of the accident.
If you are able, document everything you can about your accident right away. This can include taking videos of the scene, photos of your injuries, collecting the names of witnesses, and more. Often, this is the only opportunity you’ll have to take these steps. You may find that this evidence isn’t needed later on, but if it is, you will be grateful to have it on hand.
3.) Go to the doctor.
Even if you don’t think that your injury is serious, it’s crucial to go to the doctor for a medical evaluation. In your evaluation, you can have a physician document your injuries and make a decision regarding treatment and your return to work. In fact, it’s critical to your case that you receive an opinion from a doctor about whether or not you should return to work. If the doctor who is seeing you doesn’t mention your fitness for work, you should ask about it specifically.
Likewise, if the doctor suggests any treatments (physical therapy, medication, etc.), be sure to leave your appointment with an order or prescription for that treatment.
Additionally, at any following appointments, make sure to ask about your work status. And again, if your doctor doesn’t mention your limitations or comment about the fact that you are out of work — it’s best to bring it up yourself.
If you make a point to take these steps along the way, you can have the information you need on-hand and save yourself time trying to track it down later on.
4.) Contact an attorney.
It’s essential to consult with an attorney early on in your case so that you don’t miss any important steps. Speaking with legal counsel is especially vital before filing your claim for benefits, as the language you use to describe your injuries can greatly impact your case down the road.
By having a skilled Workers’ Compensation attorney on your side, you have access to an expert at every turn. And especially when it comes to your initial filing, your attorney will play a critical role in ensuring that your case is set up for success.
5.) File a claim for benefits with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
To set a Workers’ Compensation claim in motion, you must file Form 18 with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years of the date of your injury. In reality, there’s rarely a reason to wait — it’s best to file your claim right away. This way, you can get your case moving as soon as possible. What’s more, it will force the promptest response from your employer and their insurance company concerning an acceptance or denial of liability for your claim.
The sooner that you find out whether your case has been accepted or denied, the sooner you can take the next steps for your claim, regardless of if its accepted or denied.
The Role Of A Nurse Case Manager
In some Workers’ Compensation cases, your employer and their insurance provider will assign a “nurse case manager”. This is a nurse who will appear at your doctor’s appointments as a medical liaison _.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind here…
A nurse case manager has some abilities and restrictions in their role. Primarily, they are present to help facilitate and document your medical treatment. Therefore, the nurse can schedule appointments and document your doctor’s recommendations as to your treatment and return to work.
You are able to request and obtain a private examination with the medical provider in which the nurse case manager is not present. However, this does not mean that the information you share in the private exam will be 100% confidential. Instead, anything you discuss with your doctor in a private exam may be shared at some point with the nurse case manager.
On the other hand, the nurse case manager cannot have private conversations about your treatment with your doctor. In fact, any communication regarding medical treatment with your doctor must occur within your presence.
Of course, the nurse can document the doctor’s recommendations and ask clarifying questions in regards to those recommendations.
For example, if your doctor recommends light-duty work restrictions, the nurse can ask the doctor to be more specific. These questions could sound something like, “How many pounds should they be lifting, pushing, or pulling?” or, “How many hours of the day should this person be seated as opposed to standing?” and more.
Such questions make up a large portion of the nurse case manager’s role. However, the nurse cannot make recommendations of their own or advocate for one position or another.
For example, asking questions such as, “Don’t you think they should be allowed to perform heavy duty work?” or, “Shouldn’t this person receive X treatment?” would be inappropriate.
Any situation in which a nurse case manager asks a question like the ones just mentioned above is one where they are crossing the line. That’s because these questions are not meant to clarify or document. Instead, they are used to advocate for a specific position or outcome.
If at any point you believe that your nurse case manager is acting outside of their duty, it’s important to get an attorney involved immediately. Your attorney can either correct the situation or take action with the North Carolina Industrial Commission to have your case’s nurse removed or replaced.
Return To Work Issues
Return to work issues tend to be pretty hot-button topics.
Prior to any return to work, it’s important to obtain a copy of your job description. This is a written document that describes what your employer alleges that your job will require.
You’ll do this for a few reasons…
First, it’s important to have a clear idea of the expectations your employer will have of you when you return to work.
Second, it’s important for your doctor to have this information so that they can make an accurate recommendation whether a return to work at the position is safe and appropriate.
Now, there is a formal return to work process that can be facilitated in Workers’ Compensation cases.
In this process, the injured party can request a job description, along with seven business days to review the document and offer any comments. This provides an opportunity to make note if you disagree with the description, or feel that it is missing key responsibilities that are important for your doctor to be made aware of. After your comments are added, they are included with the copy that you present to your doctor. At this point, your doctor can determine if your return to work is safe and appropriate.
If your doctor recommends a return to work (especially if the recommendation comes with limitations), you may find it advantageous to bring a copy of your agreed-upon job description with you.
This step can be important because not everyone in the workplace may be aware of your work restrictions. For example, you may have a supervisor come to you and ask you to do things that are outside of your limitations. In this case, you could politely present the job description and note, “Well, this is all that my doctor has approved me to do.”
Having this on-hand can help you to avoid some of the conflict that so often comes up when injured employees return to work. What’s more, it helps to protect you from any situation in which you may otherwise be terminated or sent home.
Documenting Your Work Search
If your employer is not offering work because of your medical restrictions, you will need to perform job search activities. When it comes to your Workers’ Compensation case, it’s crucial to document the efforts that you have made to find work elsewhere.
Why? Because the disability benefits that are paid in the Workers’ Compensation system have very specific requirements. These benefits are not just based on your inability to perform the same job. They are not just based upon your inability to do some other work for the same employer. Disability benefits are based on the injured individual not being able to perform work in any capacity for any employer.
If your entitlement to these benefits is ever called into question, it’s critical to have a work search log on hand so that you can avoid missing out on any future disability benefits you may be entitled to receive.
At our office, we ask that clients complete work search logs. These are printed forms that we pass onto you so that you can easily keep track of your weekly requirements to look for employment. At the end of the week, you just send them back to us for review.
This way, if your employer and their insurance company asks you to prove your entitlement to disability payments via a trial, you don’t show up to the trial empty handed – you’re ready.
Why An Attorney Is So Important?
It’s understandable that some folks are reluctant to hire an attorney. Especially so when finances are a major concern. But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no risk or harm in hiring a Workers’ Compensation attorney.
In fact, the only way that Workers’ Compensation attorneys are paid in our state is when it’s ordered by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
So, how does this work? Let’s say that you hire an attorney and they file your claim for benefits. After receiving your filing, your employer and their insurance company accept liability for your claim and start paying for the medical treatment and issue any disability checks for the lost time from work recommended by your designated treating doctor.
In this situation, there is absolutely no attorney’s fee involved in that case. The reason for this is that the Industrial Commission does not have to order an employer and insurance company to do anything — they’ve done it on their own.
Now, on the other hand, let’s say an attorney files your claim for benefits, and your employer and their insurance company come back with a denial. If you choose to have your attorney go through trial, and through that trial, the Industrial Commission orders benefits, they will order an attorney’s fee to be paid as well. But this fee is ordered and set by the Industrial Commission only because benefits are now in place that would not have come about without the help of your attorney.
This standard creates a situation wherein if you hire an attorney and your employer does everything right — there’s no attorney’s fee. If your employer does not cooperate and legal force needs to be placed on them — there will be an attorney’s fee awarded based on the benefits ordered by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
When you think about it in this way, it seems that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain in this process. Especially when you consider the fact that an attorney is such a resource to their client throughout the lifetime of the case. This way, you don’t have to feel in the dark about what will come next. You can call your attorney to discuss your goals, concerns, and get an idea of how things are progressing at any point or how things may play out for the claim in the future.
What’s more, having an attorney involved from the beginning of your case can help you avoid some of the common roadblocks people face along the way. If medical records or forms are needed, your attorney won’t have to wait. They’ll have everything at the ready, and will be able to address any issues that comes up without any delay.
If you think you would like to handle their Workers’ Compensation case on your own, you can absolutely do that. In all honesty, you don’t have to have a workers’ compensation attorney. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is much easier to have an attorney involved at the beginning of your claim to address any issues than it is to bring them in after the fact to try to correct any issues thus far in the claim.
Not only is it difficult to correct some of the problems that may come up in a preexisting case, but it can also take quite a long time — sometimes up to a year or more.
This is one reason why, although you can certainly handle a case on your own, involving an attorney can help you to avoid some of the pitfalls that are so easy to occur in a Workers’ Compensation case.
The Cardinal Law Partners Difference
Let’s, for a moment, talk about Cardinal Law Partners in particular and what really sets our firm apart.
Part of our unique quality lies in the way our firm is structured. The other part lies in who we have handling cases.
When it comes to our structure, we find that we are able to achieve desirable outcomes by managing our caseloads. Some law firms model themselves by focusing on getting as many cases as they can while getting them out the door as quickly as possible.
We are happy to practice law as a smaller firm. This is because we believe that by focusing on client care instead of case turnover, we can provide the best services to our clients. And this is just one way that we set ourselves apart.
When it comes to the people who are handling our cases, we talk about the most distinct aspect of this firm. At Cardinal Law Partners, the only person handling your claim is a board-certified Workers’ Compensation specialist.
You won’t be speaking with an associate attorney, someone who has just started practicing Workers’ Compensation law, or someone who has to have a more senior attorney overseeing the process. You will have a bonafide expert tailoring services to meet your specific needs, which is something that can’t be said for every law firm.
This is something that we pride ourselves on — that every attorney at Cardinal Law Partners is a board-certified Workers’ Compensation specialist. (A distinction held by fewer than 1% of practicing attorneys in the state of North Carolina.)
When you have Cardinal Law Partners on your side, you can be confident that you are working with a qualified expert who will make the time to focus your goals, concerns, and any questions along the way. Our greatest concern is that you receive the benefits that you need and deserve — and we are committed to ensuring that this goal is apparent in every aspect of your experience as our client. For more information regarding Workers Compensation Law in North Carolina, a free initial consultation is your next best step.