From musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive movement to catastrophic injuries caused by malfunctioning equipment, workers in a wide range of industries face health risks on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 there were 2.8 million occupational illnesses and injuries reported in the private sector alone.
North Carolina state law requires most employers to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy in place. In addition to coverage for medical expenses, injured workers may be eligible to receive payment benefits for lost or diminished wages.
Temporary total disability
Covered employees whose injury prevents them from returning to work for more than seven days become eligible to receive weekly payments to help compensate for lost wages during their recovery. Injured workers receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, with a maximum upper limit set by state law.
Temporary partial disability
An injured worker may be able to return to work part-time or find another type of job at reduced pay while continuing to recover. Under these circumstances an employee may be eligible to receive partial disability payments in the amount of two-thirds of the difference between the pre- and post-injury wages until regaining his or her former earning capacity.
Permanent partial disability
If an employee’s injury involves the partial or total loss of a body part or permanently diminishes a worker’s earning capacity, compensation benefits may include ongoing payments. The duration of these payments depends on the level of impairment as determined by a schedule of injuries outlined in North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act. The loss of a thumb may result in payments for 75 weeks, while the loss of an eye may result in payments for 120 weeks.
Permanent total disability
When a work-related injury prevents an employee from any future gainful employment, the law may entitle him or her to lifetime disability payments. Additionally, certain types of injury automatically qualify a former worker for lifetime benefits, even if he or she eventually returns to work. The law considers any employee who suffers the loss of both arms, feet, hands, legs, eyes or any combination of two of these to be totally and permanently disabled.