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THE WORK COMP BLOG

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If You Are Collecting Workers Compensation Benefits and Are Out of Work, You May be Out of Luck

If you were laid off but are collecting workers compensation benefits, expect those payments to come under scrutiny. The state Appeals Court recently issued a decision (Medlin v. Weaver Cooke Construction) that could possibly result in the loss of those benefits.

Claude Medlin worked as a project manager and estimator for Weaver Cooke Construction. He was hired in 2006. He injured his right shoulder while moving furniture at a worksite in May 2008. He continued to work until being laid off in November 2008.

The following month Weaver accepted plaintiff’s injury as compensable and he began receiving medical treatment. In January 2009, Medlin started collecting unemployment benefits and in February 2009 he started collecting both workers compensation and temporary total disability benefits.

Medlin had surgery and physical therapy and was released to return to work. He subsequently felt more pain and a second physician assigned permanent work restrictions. He sought work but was not successful.

The need to prove work related disability is cause of unemployment.

Weaver sought to have Medlin’s workers compensation benefits ended in December 2010. It claimed Medlin couldn’t establish a work related disability and the poor economy was the reason he wasn’t working, not his injury. The full Commission agreed and Medlin appealed.

The Court of Appeals agreed with that decision, stating that an injured worker must prove that his injury caused his inability to find work. The judges ruled Medlin failed to do that because of evidence he was physically able to work, but couldn’t, because of the slow economy. Though he showed evidence of a diligent job search, it wasn’t relevant. In prior decisions, the Court has tended to consider extent of “diligent” job searches, economic conditions, and the actual job availability. If this decisions stands, these factors will have much less or no importance is reviews of ongoing disability.

A large part of my practice involves helping injured workers obtain and maintain workers compensation benefits. I believe that the Medlin case may encourage more insurance companies to move to cut off disability payments using the slow economy argument. If you find yourself in the same situation, or a similar situation as Mr. Medlin, where you’re collecting workers compensation benefits while you’re unemployed and your former employer wants to end those benefits, contact my office to discuss what’s going on and your legal options.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED WORKERS' COMPENSATION QUESTIONS

Q. What if I am able to work after my workers’ compensation injury, but my earnings are significantly less than before my injury?

A. If you return to a job paying significantly less wages than pre-accident wages, you may be entitled to 66 2/3% of the wage differential. Since NC Law is based on actual earning capacity, a loss of ability to make money might be compensable. Claims based on lower earning capacity are difficult to prove and quantify. Most successful claims under this theory of WC Law require testimony from experts in the field of vocational analysis and labor markets.

Q. What type of physical ailments are considered disabling under WC law?

A. The key to the question of whether you are disabled under WC law or not is based on how the physical or mental ailment(s) you have impact your ability to earn money. No exact listing or threshold exists in NC law for what determines a disability. If you are unable to work at the same job you held down before the accident, you are likely disabled under our law. NC law recognizes both physical and mental disabilities.

Q. Can I draw private disability checks while also receiving workers’ compensation checks for disability?

A. Yes. The terms of your private disability checks are contractual and control whether these payments are pro-rated or changed by the receipt of workers’ compensation checks. NC law requires full payment of workers’ compensation checks regardless of private disability and/or Social Security checks for the same disability.

Q. When am I eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits?

A. Regardless of whether you miss any time from work, you are entitled to have your medical expenses paid by the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier. When your work injury causes you to miss more than one (1) week of work, you are entitled to receive 2/3 of your gross average wages until you are able to return to work. Once you have missed one (1) month of work, you will also be paid for that first week.

Q. How do lawyers get paid for handling WC cases?

A. Generally, lawyers will charge a contingent fee of 25% of the settlement. Contingent fees are payable only if the case is successful. While most fees are set at the settlement of the case, some fees are collected while the claim is pending. Charging legal fees at any time without approval of the NC Industrial Commission is a Class 1 misdemeanor crime in our State. Most lawyers will advance the expenses of a claim with the understanding that these costs will be recovered when the matter is settled.

Q. What if my workers’ compensation doctor assigns a permanent partial impairment (P.I.) rating for my injury?

A. When a doctor releases you from care, a permanent disability rating may be assigned to your injured body part. A rating means that you will never again be 100% healthy in that body part. Whether you can return to work depends on the severity of your injury and how that injury affects your ability to handle the physical demands of your work. If you are able to return to making the same wages as before your work injury, this rating may be your only compensation. However, if you are not able to earn the same pre-injury wages, your rating will not represent your only compensation. Your impairment rating is only one factor the Industrial Commission and NC Law will consider in determining what damages the work injury caused you. NC Law permits you to select the most favorable method or compensating you for the injuries and loss of earning...

Our Video Library is not closed-captioned.  Instead of embedding our videos, we have created posts for them, where full transcripts of can be found.
Click on the links below to view the video and its transcript.

Workers’ Compensation Overview on Vimeo

Workers Compensation Overview

Workers’ Compensation Injuries and the Complex nature of the law on Vimeo

Workers’ Compensation Injuries and the Complex Nature of the Law

Waiting Periods for Workers’ Compensation Benefit Payments

Waiting Periods for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

NC Workers’ Compensation Elements of Settlement

NC Workers’ Compensation Elements of Settlement

Settlements of Workers’ Compensation Claims on Vimeo

Settlement of Workers’ Compensation Claims in North Carolina

Pre Existing Conditions and Work Comp in North Carolina

Pre-existing Conditions and Workers’ Compensation Claims

NC Workers’ Comp Covers Many Different Kinds of Injuries

NC Workers’ Comp Covers Many Different Kinds of Injuries

Reopening Workers’ Compensation Cases

Reopening Workers’ Compensation Cases

Can’t Return To Work After an Injury

Workers’ Compensation Benefits When You Cannot Return to Work

Specific Traumatic Injuries

Specific Traumatic Injuries Under Workers’ Compensation

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