When workers are injured on the job, there are 4 major categories of workers’ comp benefits they can draw on to ensure they’re compensated while trying to recover from their injuries. In North Carolina, those categories include medical expenses, lost wages, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits.
Let’s take a look at each category.
Major Types Of Workers’ Compensation
1. Medical Expenses
When most workers are injured in North Carolina, they can rest assured that their employer or their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company is responsible for covering any medical expenses the worker incurs due to their injury. This includes:
- Doctor visits (emergency room, hospital, primary care physician, specialists, etc.)
- In-home nursing
- Medical equipment
- Treatments (bloodwork, CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, etc.)
- Transportation to appointments
That said, employers in North Carolina are permitted to choose where an injured employee must seek medical attention. However, injured workers are allowed to petition to change their doctor through the Industrial Commission. They should get their petition processed before seeing a non-authorized doctor, otherwise, the expenses may not be covered.
Additionally, those who are required to travel over 20 miles round trip for their medical treatment may be compensated 54 cents per mile for their travel. It’s helpful if records of all medical costs are kept for your attorney so they will be able to adequately add up your expense total.
2. Lost Wages
Injuries that reach the point that you’re unable to work—whether temporarily or permanently—may make you eligible to receive lost income (indemnity benefits) compensation. The severity of your injury will determine how much money you will be compensated and how long the compensation will last.
One thing to remember is that the first 7 days you miss work will not be compensated unless your injury is severe enough to keep you out of work for 21 days or more. Moreover, indemnity benefits are paid out weekly but, if needed, you can get authorization to receive your payments monthly.
Those who are eligible to receive lost wage benefits will continue receiving them until they’re able to work again.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
Injured workers who have the ability to return to work, but need to work a position that provides less wages than their previous position, could be eligible for temporary partial disability (TPD). Under TPD, injured workers can draw two-thirds of the difference between what their salary was and what they’re currently making.
Most often, injured workers can receive TPD for up to 500 weeks from their accident date.
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
In the event that an employee is injured severely enough that they can’t return to work at all until they’re healed, then temporary total disability (TTD) is an option. Like with TPD, TTD benefits are equal to two-thirds of an employee’s typical weekly salary.
TTD maxes out at a certain compensation rate, which the North Carolina Industrial Commission sets and changes each year based on the cost of living and current inflation rate.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Permanent partial disability (PPD) occurs when an employee is injured severely enough that they are unable to return to work. More specifically, PPD benefits become an option for the injured worker when they have improved as much as medically possible after an injury.
PPD benefits are split into 2 categories: scheduled and unscheduled loss awards.
Scheduled loss awards are covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act and determined by multiplying two-thirds of the injured workers’ salary for a predetermined number of weeks. The number of weeks depends on the severity of the resulting impairment.
- Unscheduled loss awards aren’t covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act and are calculated just like any other NC disability benefit.  
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
Under North Carolina law, the only injured employees that can qualify for permanent total disability (PTD) are those that have 1 or more of the following limitations after being injured:
- Loss of both arms, eyes, feet, hands, or legs
- Second- or third-degree burns to more than 33 percent of their body surface
- Severe brain injury or a closed head injury which resulted in:
- Severe or permanent sensory or motor disturbances
- Communication problems
- Complex integrated cerebral disturbance functions
- Neurological disorders
- Spinal injury resulting in paralysis
3. Vocational Rehabilitation
The Workers’ Compensation Act states that employers can choose to pay for an assessment of their injured employee’s vocational potential at any time during the claims process. This is true whether the injured worker has achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI) or not.
Examples of vocational rehabilitation include:
- Analysis of transferable skills
- Employment training
- Job analysis
- Job development and placement
- Job modification
- Job seeking skills training
- Labor market survey
- On-the-job training
- Training or education utilizing the NC community college or university systems
- Vocational assessment
- Vocational exploration
- Vocational or psychometric testing
- Work adjustment counseling
These services are typically used as a way for workers’ comp carriers to help injured workers get back to their pre-injury working wage.
4. Death Benefits
In the event that an employee is killed while at work, their surviving dependents (spouse, children, and/or other dependents) can receive benefits on their behalf. Death benefits in North Carolina are paid on a weekly basis for a span of up to 500 weeks. Like other forms of benefits, the pay rate is two-thirds of the deceased’s average weekly salary.
Additionally, employers or their workers’ compensation insurance carriers will cover up to $10,000 for the deceased’s burial and funeral.
As you can see, there are specifics surrounding North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. This is why it is in your best interest to hire an experienced workers’ comp attorney to help ensure you get the benefits that you and your family deserve.