You knew that you were made to operate the machine without proper training which caused a workers comp injury. Or the lifting that was meant for two people had to be done by you, by yourself. Even worse, the company took off the guards on the machine and you got cut because of it. Now you are out on workers’ compensation and the checks are only 2/3 of what you were making. They did you wrong – can’t you go into court and have a jury trial?
The answer to that question is no, you can’t. You are limited to workers’ comp unless the company tries to kill or seriously injure you. The reason that the law only gives workers’ comp remedies to injured workers goes way back to a century ago. But the summary of the history is simple: there was a deal that lawmakers came up with to handle payments and medical treatment with the companies and the workers. Workers’ comp is the deal that was passed into law. As a result, you don’t have to prove that the company was at fault for your injury. And it also doesn’t matter if you were at fault. And you don’t get a jury trial if there is a dispute, you get a hearing in front of a judge, called a deputy commissioner.
Compare workers’ comp injuries to other kinds of injury cases. If you get into a car crash and are injured, you might get more money than you would in workers’ comp. But you also might not get any money at all. The driver might not have enough insurance, or maybe no insurance at all. And in North Carolina, the outdated and awful law of contributory negligence means that if you were at fault, even just a little, you might not get anything at all. Workers’ comp protects against those situations for injuries while you were doing your job.
Are there exceptions to whether you can go to court? Sure, if there was another person or company at fault (the word the courts use is negligent), you can go to court against them. These cases are called third-party cases, and you will need a lawyer to make those cases turn out right. And now and then there are cases where the company actually acted so badly that they really knew that the worker was going to be killed or gravely hurt, like when they put a worker into a trench where the sides aren’t reinforced, and there is a collapse.
Just because you don’t get to have a jury trial doesn’t mean that there is nothing that can be done to punish the company. Sometimes reports must be made to the NC Department of Labor and penalties assessed against the company if they expose workers to unsafe working conditions. If there is bad conduct on the part of the employer, you might be able to get an increase in your workers’ comp payments. We know about those penalties, and we can help with the process.
The end result is that workers’ comp is usually a faster result than going in front of a jury. The law works this way so that injured workers can get income replacement. The whole workers’ compensation system is based on whether or not an injured worker has total or partial inability to work.
Whenever you have issues with your workers’ comp case, we are here to help. Difficult cases are our specialty. We have two board-certified specialists in workers’ comp. Valerie Johnson’s book is used by lawyers across the state of North Carolina. Jennifer Segnere is fluent in Spanish. Call us at 919-240-4098.