INJURY RATINGS IN NC WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES.
There are a number of ways that disability is paid in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases. Generally an employee must be physically restricted from some or all work or be working reduced hours or for reduced wages in order to receive disability payments. This is the case for Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Temporary Partial Disability (TPD), or Permanent Partial Disability (PPD). Certain injuries however are set out in North Carolina General Statute § 97-31 and are presumed to be disabling under the North Carolina Workers Compensation Law.
When an injured workers with one of these particular injuries reaches Maximum Medical Improvement, their authorized treating physician will generally assign a disability “rating” to that body part. This rating is supposed to represent the percentage of disability to the affected body part. The rating, multiplied by the appropriate compensation rate and the number of weeks assigned to the injured body part yields the 97-31 benefit, or the rating payment, for that employee’s injury. So, an injured workers with a back injury could be rated as follows: 10% Rating x 300 weeks (weeks assigned for a back) x $400 (employee’s compensation rate) = $12,000.
Now, a some words of caution about ratings in NC Workers’ Compensation cases. First, the payment of a rating starts the two year deadline clock ticking for for a change in condition under NCGS 97-47. If the employee does not file a notice with the North Carolina Industrial Commission that they have sustained a change in condition to the injured body part within two years of the payment of the rating, the employee may forever lose the right to claim additional disability benefits. Second, accepting the payment of a rating terminates any ongoing payments of disability.
It is very frequently a mistake for a n injured worker to accept payment for their rating. Generally, if no additional medical treatment is anticipated, and if an injured worker has returned to full time work for a year or so, at the same or better wage, with no complications, then accepting the rating may make sense. Injured workers should keep in mind that they have a variety of disability options and that accepting a rating is frequently the wrong one.