Contributed by Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC
You have been injured at work. You have filed a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Either your case is accepted and you receive benefits, or it is denied and you don’t. Some big issue – like the denial of medical treatment, or the insurance company trying to cut off your benefits — may have caused you to file for a hearing. But in a North Carolina workers’ compensation case, hardly anything happens quickly. What’s the best thing to do when you just have to wait until your case is done?
1. Look for work
When you are injured in North Carolina, and you cannot return to your job, you have to look for work if you can work. Sometimes workers don’t understand this. After all, they might have the right to return to work in their own job or a like job when they get better. Federal law requires employers to put employees back to work if they have more than 50 employees if you return during 12 weeks under the FMLA.
But NC worker’s comp laws require you to look for work whenever you can work and you claim benefits. Unless you can prove that a job search isn’t going to work, you must look for work whether or not you are getting benefits.
2. Start thinking about school
You didn’t start working so hard because you wanted to go to school. But you are realizing that you won’t be able to work in your old job or occupation anymore. You want to be the best you can be, so you realize that you might need to go to school to retrain.
It might be an exciting thing for you. Maybe you have always wanted to work in a medical office rather than in a plant. Or you think that you could benefit from having a degree since you have two years of college credits.
North Carolina law provides that if you haven’t returned to work, or if you have but aren’t making 75% of what you made before you were hurt, then you can ask to return to school for additional study. You could go to a community college or a state university at the insurance company’s expense.
3. Help your case
Your lawyer needs your full participation in your case. This means you should be active in:
- gathering documents, like emails or out of work notes
- identifying witnesses, and getting their contact information
- keeping a log of places you have looked for work
- asking and answering questions.
North Carolina workers’ compensation laws are complicated. Your lawyer needs to communicate with you. You should expect the process to be explained to you. But when you don’t understand the explanation, you have to ask questions. You need to communicate with her too.