Earlier this year, a bill was introduced into the North Carolina General Assembly that would have negatively affected injured workers’ rights. The bill had to undergo some radical changes before becoming law. The change to the bill made it more complex and still doesn’t side with the injured North Carolina worker.
Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Greensboro frequently posted on our North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog about the bill’s issues and progress.
The newly passed workers’ compensation law went into effect on July 1, 2011. Luckily, many of the less-than-desirable requirements only apply to cases with injuries happening after July 1. Unfortunately, some parts pertaining to medical care and talking with physicians will apply to current cases.
That is why it is vital to have a knowledgeable North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney who understands the new law. Of all the differences in the new law, the length of workers’ compensation benefits was the most noticeable change.
Previously, an injured worker would be paid for as long as they were unable to work. Now there is a 500-week maximum. But, if the worker is still unable to work at week 425 they can ask for additional weeks past 500.
It will be quite some time before the 500-week extension can be tested since it applies to injuries happening after July 1. Under the new law, affecting cases happening after July 1, “suitable employment” was redefined.
When establishing the degree of disability of an injured worker, the old law included concerns regarding experience, education, age and if the pay of an available job was close to the injured workers previous position. The new law omits the wage factor portion.
It will be interesting to see how this will work out. Currently, if an injured worker comes back to work and takes a lower paying position they can decide to be paid 2/3 of the difference in their pay. They can do this for approximately 6 years at which time they will then just be paid the amount of the lower paying job.
Under the new law the difference in pay will last for 500 weeks which is about 10 years. For this reason, oftentimes injured workers are advised not to take the lower-paying position. An additional requirement under the new law states that if the lower-paying job pays less than 75 percent of the previous job prior to the injury, it is likely that paying for vocational rehabilitation will fall under the responsibility of an insurance company so injured workers could be trained for higher paying jobs.
Compensation for surviving family members of those workers killed on the job will be paid for 500 weeks instead of 400. Though it is an improvement, it doesn’t seem nearly enough.
If you or a loved one has been in a Carolina work accident or needs assistance with a workers’ compensation or disability claim, contact the experienced attorneys at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.
More Blog Entries:
Employee Layoffs Can Often Lead to Employers Skimping on Safety, Increase in Work Injuries at North Carolina Job Sites, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 6, 2011
Fear of Losing a Job Can Silence North Carolina Workers Injured at Work, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 4, 2011