The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently affirmed an award granted by the Industrial Commission (I.C.) to an injured employee. The employee suffered an accident that injured her left shoulder. She returned to work as a machine operator, but then required surgery to repair a cerebral aneurysm. She was unable to work following the surgery, and was granted medical fees and a temporary total disability award from the Industrial Commission. To limit liability and payment of disability, the employer and insurance company claimed that the injured worker had returned to suitable employment, thus the award of disability should have ended upon her return.
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows an employee to attempt a trial return to work. During that period, the injured employee is paid compensation for any disability, and is entitled to compensation if the trial return is unsuccessful. Benefits may continue until the injured worker returns to a suitable job. Injured workers who sustained their injury before June 24, 2011 can receive Total Temporary Disability indefinitely, but workers injured after this period are capped at 500 weeks. Suitable employment is employment offered to the employee that is within the employee’s physical capabilities and training and within a 50 mile radius of the injured employee’s residence at the time of the injury. The governing statute states that no one factor shall be considered exclusively in determining suitable employment.
The defendant employer and insurance company in Church v. Bemis Manufacturing Company argued that the worker had returned to suitable employment and that she was not fully incapacitated. The injured worker testified that she had trouble putting heavier lids on boxes and found it difficult to lift anything over 10 pounds. She often required help and the more she worked, the more her injured arm hurt. She had limited education and vocational skills, and would have had difficulty finding work in another field. The Commissioner and Court of Appeals both felt the testimony related to the worker’s injury and experience fully supported a finding of total temporary disability for the worker.
Receiving the care you need is not always as straightforward as it should be. The Industrial Commission recommends five steps for those that have been injured at work so injuries are properly reported, the injured worker receives the appropriate medical treatment quickly, and the workers’ compensation benefits are initiated by the employer. An injured employee should first report the injury to the employer and seek out medical care. The employer may have on-site health care available to the injured. Second, the injured worker should inform the health care provider that the injury is work related, so that they bill treatment as a Workers’ Compensation Claim. Third, the Industrial Commission suggests that you inform the manager or owner of the company. Fourth, the I.C. suggests that a written description of the accident is given to the employer and that a copy is kept for your own records. Lastly, the I.C. recommends that you follow your physician’s instructions.
Documentation is important in all claims that may end up in front of a judge. All information submitted regarding the accident at any point of the claim may be used later, so it is beneficial for the information to be thorough. The experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Auger & Auger provide injured workers with the knowledge they need throughout the claims process. If you or a family member has been injured on the job and wants to ensure that the necessary compensation is received, contact our office for a free, confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
North Carolina Industrial Commission Ruling Against Injured Worker Upheld by Court of Appeals, North Carolina Accident Attorney Blog, April 22, 2013
North Carolina Audit Shows Several Companies Do Not Have Mandatory Workers’ Compensation Insurance For Their Employees, North Carolina Accident Attorney Blog, April 22, 2013