If you were injured on the job and it took years for you to heal from your injury, would it then be too late to ask your former employer to give you retraining for something different, or help you look for a job? The Court of Appeals recently ruled that where an injured worker provides the NC Industrial Commission with credible evidence that he is willing and able to participate in vocational rehabilitation, his former employer needs to pay him weekly workers’ compensation benefits while he receives that service.
In the case, which you can read here, the plaintiff had hurt his back in 1992 while moving furniture. Several years after the injury, the Industrial Commission stopped his benefits because it found that the injured worker had failed to participate in vocational rehabilitation efforts. Many years later, however, the injured worker said that he was ready again to receive vocational rehabilitation services, and the Commission believed him. The employer, the University of North Carolina, had argued that it was too late and the worker should have brought his claim earlier. But the Commission and the Court both held that where the original order stated that benefits were not terminated, but just suspended while the worker refused to participate in vocational rehabilitation, and where the worker’s statements that he now wanted to were credible, the law did not place a time limit on the employer’s duty to pay him workers’ compensation benefits while he looked for other work.
We hope he will be able to find work, since workers’ compensation benefits just pay two-thirds of the salary the injured worker was earning at the time of his injury.