Back injuries are among the most painful and debilitating types of work injuries. After suffering a back injury, you will find it very difficult to perform any type of physical labor. Even if your job is not physical, you may be in too much pain to sit and focus on your work.
If your back injury was work-related, you would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under North Carolina law. Back injury claims could be complicated, especially since the insurance company may deny them and force you to prove your case in a hearing.
The Wilmington, NC, workers’ comp attorneys at Horton & Mendez can guide you through the workers’ compensation process and fight for you when it is necessary.
Common Causes of Work-Related Back Injuries
Back injuries can occur at any moment you are on the job (and even due to the effects of your job). Common causes of work-related back injuries include:
- Repetitive tasks that continuously involve one part of the back
- Lifting heavy objects
- Exerting too much force on the back
- Awkwardly bending down to pick something up
- Stretching or reaching for objects
- A car accident when in a vehicle for work
You do not need to have a physical job to suffer a back injury. Workers who sit all day and reach for a computer could suffer a back injury, especially if there is an issue with their posture. In other words, office workers can also suffer work-related back injuries.
Back Injuries Suffered on the Job
Here are some back injuries that could qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits:
- Bulging, slipped, or herniated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Continuous pain
- Spinal cord injuries
- Lower back strains
Regardless of the type of back injury that you have suffered, your ability to work could be compromised. You may not be able to perform any type of physical labor or even be able to walk or sit.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Your Back Injury
North Carolina law offers you some compensation for your back injury to help you when you are not able to work. If the insurance company approves your claim, you will be entitled to some of the economic costs of your work-related injury.
Here are the potential benefits for a workers’ compensation claim:
- You can be paid two-thirds of your weekly wage before the injury, subject to a statutory cap. Under North Carolina law, temporary disability benefits can be paid for up to 500 weeks. If you have suffered a permanent injury, you could qualify for a settlement based on your disability rating.
- You are paid for the reasonable medical expenses to treat your injury, including doctor’s visits, medications, and surgical procedures (You are even paid for mileage to travel to and from the doctor’s office)
Factors that Influence Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement
If you are permanently injured and opt for a settlement, the main factor involved is your disability rating. You would be examined by a physician, who would determine the percentage of your impairment. North Carolina regulations give guidance to physicians in giving their ratings.
If you have suffered a serious back injury, you may be 100% impaired. If you disagree with your impairment rating, you would have the right to challenge the finding.
Another factor that influences your settlement is the present value of money. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. If you opt for a lump-sum settlement, you would take less than the overall amount that you are due, but you would need to negotiate the proper discounting factor.
Next Steps if Your Claim Is Denied
An insurance company may deny your claim for several reasons, including:
- They do not believe that you suffered an injury
- They claim that your injury occurred elsewhere and was not work-related
You should not lose hope if you do not receive benefits at first. North Carolina law allows you to appeal when the insurance company has denied your claim. First, you should hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Your lawyer may have a conversation with the insurance company that could clear up any misunderstandings.
The Workers Compensation Appeals Process in North Carolina
You must file an appeal with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. An appeal is not as simple as showing up to court to argue your case. First, you must understand the reason for the denial before you can successfully challenge it on appeal.
There are a number of steps that you must take as part of the process, including:
- Notify the Commission of your intent to appeal within 15 days of receiving the denial notice from the insurance company
- Attend a mandatory mediation session with the insurance company (this is a very important session because you can present evidence, and the mediator will send a recommendation to the Commission)
- Request a hearing with the Commission if the mediation is unsuccessful. An Administrative Law Judge will preside in a trial-like hearing
- If the ALJ does not rule in your favor, you can request a further hearing in front of a panel of three judges
Contact a Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
The attorneys at Horton Mendez understand that you are going through a difficult time and are experiencing financial strain. We will provide you with attentive service and aggressive legal representation when you need us.