Learn how to secure maximum benefits after a catastrophic injury at work
Although no work environment is considered risk-free, most North Carolina workers don’t expect to face life-altering, catastrophic injuries on the job. But the reality is that these devastating injuries can occur in a wide range of workplaces, not just those typically labeled as hazardous, like construction sites or factories.
When these injuries do happen, the consequences are profound, affecting both the injured individual and their entire family. From lost wages to mounting medical bills, the financial and emotional burdens can be overwhelming.
At Wilder Pantazis Law Group, our clients often come to us in this situation asking: How can I be sure I’m getting enough compensation to cover my future medical expenses and lost income if my injury prevents me from returning to work?
One of the keys to any successful work injury settlement is to have a thorough understanding of how much your claim is worth. Unfortunately, these values can be complex to calculate in cases of catastrophic injuries because they need to encompass not only immediate and future medical costs but also lost or reduced earning capacity, potentially for the rest of your life.
The good news is that help is available.
At Wilder Law Group, our skilled work injury attorneys understand the value of catastrophic injury claims, and we’ll fight to ensure you get maximum compensation.
Get started today by scheduling a free consultation.
Did you know?
Every year, millions of U.S workers are injured on the job, and thousands more suffer fatal injuries. In 2021 alone, 2.6 million workers were injured at work, of which 5,190 died from their injuries.
What qualifies as a catastrophic injury?
A catastrophic injury is typically defined as a severe injury that has long-term or permanent consequences, significantly affecting the victim’s quality of life and ability to work. These injuries often require extensive medical treatment and long-term rehabilitation and may result in permanent disability or disfigurement.
Below are some of the most common catastrophic injuries experienced in the workplace:
- Spinal cord injuries. These injuries are catastrophic due to their potential to result in partial or complete paralysis, affecting the person’s ability to move or feel sensations. In a work setting, they’re frequently caused by falls, heavy machinery accidents, or vehicle collisions. The long-term impact often includes extensive medical treatments, rehabilitation, and potentially life-long disability.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs can lead to cognitive impairments, memory loss, and even personality changes. In a workplace, they commonly happen due to falls, being struck by objects, or vehicular accidents. The lifelong consequences can range from continuous medical care to the inability to return to work or perform daily activities.
- Severe burns. Catastrophic due to the intense pain, potential disfigurement, and long healing process, severe burns can occur from electrical accidents, chemical spills or fires. The treatment often involves multiple surgeries and long-term rehabilitation.
- Amputations. Losing a limb is life-altering and affects not only work capacity but also personal independence. In industrial settings, this can occur from machinery malfunctions or accidents involving heavy equipment. An amputation almost always results in the need for prosthetics and extensive physical therapy.
- Multiple bone fractures. Such injuries become catastrophic when they lead to long-term mobility issues or chronic pain. Occurring from falls or being crushed under heavy objects, they often require multiple surgeries and a prolonged period of rehabilitation.
- Chemical exposure. Long-term or intense exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to catastrophic health issues like respiratory failure, cancer, or organ failure. This can happen in industries that deal with hazardous materials, including manufacturing and chemical plants. Lifelong medical treatment and monitoring are often necessary.
- Eye injuries leading to blindness. Loss of vision is considered catastrophic, given its drastic impact on quality of life. These injuries can occur from chemical splashes, flying debris or intense light sources in work environments. The repercussions often include the inability to work in certain fields and significant lifestyle adaptations.
- Severe hearing loss. Often caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise in industrial settings, permanent hearing loss significantly impacts communication abilities and quality of life. Adaptation usually involves learning new skills, such as sign language, and possibly changing professions.
While all of these injuries vary in their potential consequences for the affected worker, each is considered catastrophic due to the severe, long-lasting impact they have on an individual’s ability to perform daily activities, work and maintain a quality of life.
Is PTSD a catastrophic injury?
While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is generally not categorized as a catastrophic injury for the purposes of workers’ compensation, North Carolina law does provide workers’ comp benefits for first responders like police officers, firefighters, 911 dispatchers and paramedics who suffer work-related PTSD, even if no other injury is present.
To qualify, the PTSD must arise from the first responder’s job activities and be characteristic of their specific occupation. The condition must also be diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist who can affirm that the PTSD is a result of work activities. Additionally, the diagnosis must be supported by a preponderance of medical evidence.
If you’re experiencing PTSD after a work-related injury, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine if you qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
What trauma injury is the most frequent cause of death?
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), transportation incidents are the most frequent cause of fatal work-related injuries. In 2021, these incidents accounted for about 38% of all work-related fatalities, totaling 1,982 fatal injuries—an increase of 11.5% from the previous year.
Traumatic injuries from these types of accidents that frequently lead to death include brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal bleeding and organ damage.
Were you injured in a truck accident at work? Our work injury attorneys can help you seek compensation through workers’ compensation and civil litigation.
Which workers are at the greatest risk of catastrophic injuries?
Certain types of workers are at a higher risk of sustaining catastrophic injuries due to the nature of their job tasks and working environments. Below are some workers who are most susceptible to these injuries:
- Agriculture workers. Engaging in physically demanding tasks and operating heavy machinery such as tractors can put agricultural workers at significant risk.
- Drivers. Vehicle accidents pose a serious risk of catastrophic injuries for truck drivers, delivery drivers and rideshare drivers.
- Construction workers. The risks of falls from heights, getting struck by heavy machinery, and electrical accidents make construction sites perilous.
- Manufacturing workers. These jobs often require workers to use powerful machinery and toxic chemicals, elevating their risk of serious injuries.
- Utility workers. Working at heights and dealing with high-voltage electricity makes this a hazardous occupation.
- Fishermen. Working on unstable platforms and being exposed to severe weather conditions make fishing one of the riskier occupations.
- Roofers. With the potential for falls and exposure to extreme weather conditions, roofing is a high-risk profession.
- Loggers and tree trimmers. The use of heavy, sharp cutting equipment and working in difficult terrains often lead to severe injuries among loggers.
- Miners. Due to the risk of cave-ins, exposure to harmful gasses, and the use of explosives, miners are at high risk for catastrophic injuries.
It’s crucial to understand the potential risk factors for catastrophic injuries in your specific industry and adhere to all safety guidelines to minimize your risk.
How could a catastrophic work injury affect my long-term employability?
A catastrophic work injury could have a profound impact on your long-term employability, potentially altering your career trajectory permanently.
Depending on the severity and type of injury, you may be unable to return to your previous job role or industry. Even if you can work, you might face restrictions on the types of tasks you can perform, affecting your earning potential.
In many cases, specialized training or vocational rehabilitation may be necessary for you to transition into a new line of work that accommodates your physical limitations. Additionally, employers may be hesitant to hire someone with a history of significant injury due to perceived limitations or the fear of higher health insurance costs.
Overall, a catastrophic work injury could limit your employment options, decrease your income, and add layers of complexity to your professional life.
How do I ensure all future medical treatments for my catastrophic injury will be covered?
Workers’ compensation offers several types of benefits to cover the various needs arising from catastrophic work injuries. These include the following:
- Medical benefits. These cover your immediate and ongoing medical expenses, including hospital bills, medication, surgeries, and physical therapy. However, you must go through a process to get specific treatments approved, and the policy might have limits on certain types of care.
- Temporary disability benefits. These are wage replacement benefits that kick in if you’re temporarily unable to work or can only work in a limited capacity. These cover two-thirds of your average weekly wages.
- Permanent disability benefits. If your injury leads to permanent impairment that affects your ability to work permanently, you may be eligible for long-term financial benefits. The amount varies depending on the severity of the disability and its impact on your work capacity.
- Vocational rehabilitation. If your injury prevents you from returning to your previous job but you can work in a different capacity, you may be entitled to vocational training to help you transition to a new career.
- Death benefits. In the tragic event of a fatality, your immediate family or dependents could be eligible for death benefits. These usually include compensation for lost income and funeral expenses.
Given the complexity and long-term implications of catastrophic injuries, having a skilled work injury attorney is essential. An attorney can assess the full scope of your future medical needs and argue for a compensation package that genuinely reflects those costs.
They can also negotiate with insurance companies that typically aim to minimize payouts and guide you through an appeals process, should your claim be initially denied. With the high lifetime costs associated with catastrophic injuries, legal representation is critical for ensuring you and your family are financially secure.
Can I sue my employer for negligence in the case of a catastrophic injury?
In most cases, you cannot sue your employer for negligence if you sustain a catastrophic injury at work due to the “no-fault” nature of workers’ compensation laws in the U.S.
Under a no-fault workers’ compensation system, employees are generally entitled to benefits for work-related injuries regardless of who is at fault for the injury. In return for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually forfeit the right to sue their employer in civil court for damages related to the injury.
However, there may be specific circumstances under which you could file a lawsuit, such as if your employer intentionally caused your injury or if your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance.
Additionally, if a third party is responsible for your accident (someone other than your employer), you may be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits and file a lawsuit against a third party. Examples include:
- A manufacturer (in the event that a defective product caused your injury)
- Another driver (in cases of work-related car accidents in which another driver is at fault)
Because the laws can be complex, it’s advisable to consult an experienced work injury attorney to understand your legal options.
Did you suffer a catastrophic injury at work in North Carolina? Get help from Wilder Pantazis Law Group.
If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury while working in North Carolina, it’s vital that you understand your rights and future medical and financial needs before accepting a settlement offer from the insurance company. While this process can feel overwhelming, please know that you don’t have to face it alone.
The knowledgeable work injury attorneys at Wilder Pantazis Law Group in Charlotte are here to ensure you get the compensation you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses today and well into the future.
If you’re grappling with the aftermath of a catastrophic work injury, don’t risk settling for less than you deserve. Reach out to Wilder Pantazis Law Group now for a free consultation.
Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities. (n.d.). www.bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/iif/home.htm
National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2021. (2022). https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf