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High Point Work-Related Back Injuries Attorney

When a back injury occurs at work, it can be difficult to know what to do and where to start. If you’ve been injured at work, you may be worried about how you will pay your household bills as well as any medical bills that are adding up due to your inability to work because of your injury. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act secures workplace injury insurance coverage for workers whose employers have three or more employees. Thus, there are likely benefits available for you. However, if you’ve had trouble getting compensation or just don’t know how to get workers’ compensation for your back injury, a workplace injury lawyer can be a useful ally in helping you secure a settlement for your lost wages and medical expenses.

M. Reid Acree, Jr., Attorney at Law, is a dedicated workers’ compensation attorney who has worked for countless North Carolinians in assisting them in getting the compensation they deserve for their workplace injuries. For more than 30 years, Mr. Acree has been building a practice with his compassionate nature and dedication to injured workers in High Point and all of North Carolina. In fact, he has represented clients in some of the most high-profile workers’ compensation claims in the state.

What Is the Most Common Back Injury at Work?

In North Carolina, the most common type of back injuries that occur at the workplace are whiplash injuries caused by work-related car accidents. Other common back injuries that frequently happen to workers while performing their job duties are listed below.

  • Lower Back Strain (Lumbar spine injury) – These types of injuries damage, stretch, strain, or sprain ligaments and muscles, which result in painful and debilitating injuries that can significantly affect one’s ability to perform their job functions properly or without pain. Lumbar spine injuries are characterized by soreness in the area, point tenderness, and swelling. Also called a spinal cord injury, lumbar spine injuries can take up to six months or as long as a year or more to heal and require rehabilitation. In many cases, surgery is necessary to initiate recovery. While there’s no way to reverse spinal cord damage, continuing to actively rehabilitate a lower back strain can significantly decrease pain, and many people may eventually return to work or partially return to work.
  • Herniated Disc – These injuries often occur when manual labor duties over-stress the lower back. This can also be caused by squatting, sitting in the same position too much, or repetitive activities that cause degeneration of discs over time. Symptoms of these injuries include sharp pain in the hip, leg, or buttock or a numbed sensation of the bottom of the foot or back of the calf. Surgery and/or physical therapy can improve these injuries and alleviate symptoms enough for an individual to return to work in some cases. A herniated disc, on the other hand, can also permanently disable a worker.
  • Thoracic Spine Injury – These injuries can occur from a fall or other jarring workplace injuries and affect the chest, middle back area, and abdominal muscles. They can be particularly painful and even cause problems with posture and cause loss of height. Symptoms can include fever, weakness, or loss of sensation in the leg, loss of control of bodily functions, and lower back pain.

Back injuries occur as a result of a number of various activities or accidents, including lifting or moving heavy items, repetitive motions, slips, trips, falls, and other workplace mishaps. In some instances, workplace injuries can occur due to an employer’s or fellow employee’s negligence or failure to follow recommended safety protocols.

Can You Claim a Back Injury at Work?

Back injuries are one of the easiest workplace injuries in NC to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits because the claimant is relieved of the burden of proof in proving their injury was caused by a workplace accident. There are still ways for insurance companies to deny back injury claims, and they will use any opportunity to deny a claim. For example, in order for a back injury claim to be eligible for workers’ comp, it must be a result of a specific traumatic incident. Therefore, if a claimant says anything that indicates otherwise, the insurance adjustor may deny the claim on the basis that no specific event can be identified. It is never recommended for an employee with a back injury to give a statement to an insurance company or adjustor without first consulting with an experienced High Point workers’ comp attorney.

What Should You Do if You Hurt Your Back on the Job?

Upon suffering a back injury on the job in High Point, your primary goal should be to seek medical attention from a doctor who focuses on back injuries to provide proper treatment as well as confirm you, in fact, have a back injury. If you simply go to the ER, you may have tests done, such as an X-ray and an MRI or CT scan, but back injuries often don’t show up on these tests. You may be wrongly cleared of physical injuries and be sent back to work prematurely.

Outside of getting examined by a physician with back injury experience, there are other steps you must follow to report your injury properly. These steps are identified below.

Step 1: Report to your employer you’ve been injured at your workplace.

Step 2: Proceed to seek care from a doctor straight away, explain to the healthcare provider that your injury is work-related, and name your employer. This is important for the sake of worker’s compensation billing.

Step 3: Within 30 days of the date of your injury, provide a written notice to your employer that briefly explains the injury and indicates the date it occurred. Keep a copy for your records, as well as any other paperwork or medical bills you receive related to your accident.

Step 4: Follow the medical treatment plan as directed by your doctor. Failure to follow your doctor’s orders could cause problems with the insurance company’s willingness to accept your claim.

Step 5: Fill out and submit the proper form to initiate your claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC). If you are unsure what form to file, speaking with a workers’ comp attorney can ensure you leave no room for error, which could potentially cause your claim to be denied down the road. Note that there is a statute of limitations on workplace injuries in North Carolina. Injured workers have two years from the date of the injury to file a claim for benefits. However, if you wait any significant amount of time, you could risk jeopardizing the approval of your claim due to extenuating factors. The sooner you file your claim, the better.

Once you’ve successfully filed your claim and your coverage is approved, your workers’ comp benefits will be paid directly to you on a weekly basis in most cases. If your claim is denied, the insurance company must file a detailed account of their reason for denying coverage, and employees may then request a hearing with the NCIC. An experienced High Point workers’ compensation attorney can assist you in obtaining benefits if you’ve been denied.

What Should I Do if My Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

Just because your employer tells you they do not have workers’ compensation coverage doesn’t mean they don’t. Some employers may lie and say they do not have it or discourage you from filing because they don’t want their premiums to go up. Any employer who has three or more employees working for them is required by law to carry workers’ compensation coverage, and they can be subject to strict fines and penalties if they do not, such as fines, misdemeanor charges, felony charges, and even imprisonment. If your employer does not, in fact, have workers’ compensation insurance, you must report this to the NCIC criminal investigations and employee classification division.

In some cases, it is necessary for employees to sue their employer for damages related to workplace injuries if the employer does not carry adequate workers’ comp coverage. However, employers that do carry the legal requirement of coverage are protected by law from being sued by their employees.

How Long Should You Be Off Work for Back Pain?

Back injuries are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries, so there are many assumptions that can be made regarding these injuries and how they might affect an employee’s ability to return to work. While there are different recovery timelines for the various types of back injuries, the average recovery time that workers need before returning to work following a back injury is about four weeks.

Workers’ compensation insurance coverage for both temporary disability benefits and permanent partial disability benefits have a 500-week max, so you will receive coverage for up to 9.6 years if you max out this timeframe.

Who Chooses the Doctor Who Treats My Back Injury Covered Under Workers Compensation?

Employers and/or workers’ compensation coverage insurance providers are allowed by law in North Carolina to choose the doctor who treats the employee receiving benefits. If you wish to change the doctor, you may petition the NCIC to request a change to your required provider. If you see a doctor without the permission of the commission, you could jeopardize your expenses being covered.

What Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits Are Available in North Carolina?

There are various types of workers’ compensation benefits available to employees who have been injured at work in North Carolina. The different types of benefits are described below.

  • Medical Expenses – Past and future medical bills and healthcare expenses that employees incur due to their work-related illness or injury are covered under workers’ compensation benefits. Examples of expenses covered include primary care physician visits, emergency room visits, hospital visits, specialist visits, and other types of doctors’ visits; any medical testing that must be done in relation to the workplace injury such as blood tests, CT scans, X-rays, MRIs, etc.; necessary treatment for recovery from the injury, for instance, prescriptions, physical therapy or other therapy, or surgery; medical equipment necessary for the treatment of the injury including wheelchairs or other types of equipment; nursing care when necessary for in-home recovery; and transportation costs if needed to and from the insurance providers’ required workers’ compensation doctor at the rate of $0.54/mile if round trip travel to the provider is more than 20 miles.
  • Indemnity Benefits, AKA Lost Wages – If you’re unable to return to work following your injury, whether temporarily or permanently, you’re likely eligible for compensation for some of your lost wages. The amount of compensation you receive and the time length for which you will receive wage recovery benefits is dependent on the complexity of your injury, as well as other factors. Disability indemnity benefits are calculated based on an employee’s average weekly wage (AWW).
  • Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) and Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits – Employees are entitled to receive 66 and 2/3% of their original AWW through workers’ compensation insurance benefits. There is a weekly maximum that is set annually based on cost of living and inflation rates, and benefits may not exceed this weekly amount. These benefits cover lost wages that injured workers cannot earn due to their injury, and they are available only for the first seven days of lost wages if loss of work exceeds 21 days. Otherwise, benefits are only paid for missed workdays up to 20 days beginning on day 8. If a worker can return to work but may only do so in a position where lesser wages are paid, they may opt to receive TPD benefits to make up the difference for lost wages, whereas a worker who temporarily cannot return to work at all will receive TTD.
  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits – The award amount for PPD in NC is often referred to as “the rating.” These benefits are meant to cover lost wages for injured workers who have a total or partial loss of a body part as a result of their injury and cannot work to earn the same pay they earned before their injury. Once an injured worker reaches their maximum medical improvement (MMI) expectation, they are entitled to receive PPD benefits. There are two types of PPD compensation awards: scheduled loss awards and unscheduled loss awards. Scheduled loss awards are compensation for scheduled injuries as indicated by the North Carolina scheduled injuries list. These benefits are calculated according to the severity of the injury. Unscheduled loss awards refer to injuries that are not listed as impairments under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD) – Injured employees with certain types of injuries will qualify for PTD. In order to qualify for PTD, employees must have one of the indicated physical or mental limitations according to North Carolina law. These include closed head injury or severe brain injury; spinal cord injury; second or third-degree burns on 33% of their body; and or loss of any two limbs or both eyes.

Does NC Workers’ Comp Coverage Compensate for Pain and Suffering?

No, workers’ compensation coverage does not cover pain and suffering. In order to seek retribution for these damages, an injured worker must file a personal injury claim against another third party responsible for their injury. Because NC prohibits employees from suing their employer, as long as they carry adequate workers’ comp coverage, suing the employer is not an option. However, if a co-worker was at fault or a manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment was at fault, these third parties could be held liable for an employee’s workplace injury damages related to pain and suffering. A reputable workplace injury lawyer can be an excellent resource for employees considering filing a claim against a third party for their workplace injury in addition to filing for and receiving workers’ comp benefits.

Can NC Employers Fire Employees for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim for Back Injuries?

The North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) protects employees from being fired or punished for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Employers who do act in violation of REDA can be penalized if an employee files a complaint against them with the NC Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Bureau.

Hiring a Competent High Point Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have experienced a back injury at work and need assistance, advice, or representation in regard to your workplace injury compensation claim, M. Reid Acree, Jr., Attorney at Law, is standing by to offer you the legal services you need to complete your claim. Our firm is dedicated solely to helping injured employees obtain the compensation they deserve for their workplace back injuries. We have the experience and knowledge to guide you in your case, and we don’t get paid until you get paid and unless you get paid, as our firm works on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not need money to initiate a case with us. Contact a member of our legal team today and learn more about how our experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you initiate, progress, and finalize your case.