Learn about your rights and responsibilities when filing a workers comp claim after an
injury at a North Carolina school
Teaching is a profession that, while rewarding, comes with its own set of unique hazards. From the physical risks of classroom management to the mental strain of long hours and high stress, educators face various challenges that can sometimes lead to work-related injuries or illnesses.
Fortunately, in North Carolina, teachers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are designed to support educators who have suffered injuries, illnesses or occupational diseases directly related to their work environment or duties.
This article will explain the types of workers’ comp benefits teachers typically qualify for and the steps to take to increase the chance of a successful claim. If you have any questions about the workers’ comp process, reach out to our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys in Charlotte for a free consultation.
How common are work-related injuries and illnesses among teachers?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, public elementary and secondary schools reported 176,200 work-related injuries and illnesses, marking a 40.9% increase from 2020 but still 21.1% lower than in 2019.
Of these, 10,600 were work-related illnesses, with 6,200 being respiratory illnesses. This category includes cases of work-related COVID-19 infections. The rate of respiratory illnesses in these schools was 12.3 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2021, a significant rise from 2.8 in 2020 and 1.1 in 2019.
What are the most common injuries among teachers?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2015 and 2020, there was a consistent decline in the number and rate of emergency department (ED)-treated workplace injuries among school employees. This trend saw a further drop in 2020, likely due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most common types of injuries experienced by teachers were:
- Injuries to the head or face (69,000 injuries)
- Injuries to the arm, wrist or hand (59,800)
- Injuries to the leg, ankle or foot (58,700)
The leading cause of injury was falls, slips and trips, accounting for 67,700 injuries. While the second most frequent cause of injury was violence and other injuries by persons or animals, contributing to 25% of all injuries (65,600 injuries).
Students were the primary source of these intentional injuries, responsible for 83% (31,200) of the incidents. Specifically, over 25% (8,000) of the ED-treated injuries from intentional student actions occurred while employees were intervening in student fights or restraining combative students.
In addition to these injuries, teachers are also prone to repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive writing or computer use, and eye strain from prolonged screen time or reading.
Do teachers in North Carolina qualify for workers’ compensation?
Yes, teachers in North Carolina do qualify for workers’ compensation. In North Carolina, the Workers’ Compensation Act requires most employers with 3 or more employees, including public school systems, to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. This coverage includes teachers who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.
Under this system, teachers are entitled to benefits for medical expenses and wage replacement if they’re injured or become ill as a direct result of their job duties. This applies to a range of injuries and illnesses, including those sustained in the classroom, during school-sponsored activities, or as a result of violence or other incidents at school.
How does North Carolina workers’ comp work?
North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system provides benefits to employees who are injured or become ill due to their jobs. Here’s a brief overview of how it works:
- Employer coverage. Most employers in North Carolina are required to have workers’ compensation insurance if they employ 3 or more employees. This insurance covers work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Employee injury or illness. If an employee is injured on the job or develops a work-related illness or disease, they’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. This includes injuries sustained while performing work duties or illnesses or diseases directly caused by their work environment.
- Reporting and filing. The injured or ill employee must report their condition to their employer as soon as possible. But just how long do you have to report an injury at work in NC? In most cases, this report must be made within 30 days of the injury or diagnosis to qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
- Seeking medical attention. The employee must seek medical treatment for their injury or illness if they want it to be covered under workers’ comp. For non-emergency care, they may need to see a health care provider approved by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
- Filing a claim. In addition to notifying their employer, the employee must also file a workers’ compensation claim. In North Carolina, this is typically done by submitting Form 18 to the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC).
- Benefits. If the claim is accepted, the employee will receive benefits that cover medical expenses, a portion of lost wages if they are unable to work, and rehabilitation services if needed.
- Dispute resolution. If there are disputes about the claim, such as denial of benefits or disagreement over the extent of the injury, the employee may request a hearing before the NCIC.
The goal of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system is to help the employee recover and return to work. If they can’t return to their previous job due to their injury or illness, vocational rehabilitation services may be offered.
How much does North Carolina workers’ compensation pay?
In North Carolina, workers’ compensation provides several types of benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. The amount of compensation and the type of benefits depend on the nature and severity of the injury, illness or disease.
Below are the main types of benefits:
- Medical benefits. Workers’ compensation covers all necessary medical treatments related to the work injury or illness. This includes hospital and doctor visits, medication, physical therapy, and necessary medical equipment. There is no cap or limit on the amount of medical benefits, as long as they’re deemed reasonable and necessary for the treatment of the injury.
- Indemnity benefits. These benefits are intended to compensate for lost wages due to the inability to work because of the injury or illness. Disability benefits in North Carolina are typically categorized into 4 types:
- Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. If the injury or illness temporarily prevents the employee from working at all, they may receive TTD benefits. These are usually two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage (subject to minimum and maximum limits) and are paid until the worker can return to work or reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI).
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. If the worker can return to work but at a reduced capacity (earning less), TPD benefits make up a portion of the difference between pre-injury and current earnings, usually two-thirds of the difference.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. If the injury results in permanent impairment but does not completely prevent the employee from working, they may receive PPD benefits. The amount depends on the body part affected and the degree of impairment, calculated according to a schedule set by state law.
- Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. If the worker is permanently and totally disabled, they may receive PTD benefits, which are typically two-thirds of the average weekly wage for life.
- Vocational rehabilitation. If the injured worker cannot return to their former employment, they may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, which include training for a new job.
- Death benefits. If a work-related injury or illness results in death, the worker’s dependents may receive death benefits. These benefits include a portion of the worker’s wages and may also cover funeral expenses.
It’s important for affected workers to understand these benefits and seek appropriate guidance from a workers’ compensation attorney to ensure they receive the full compensation they’re entitled to under the law.
Injured working as a teacher in North Carolina? Wilder Pantazis Law Group can help!
At Wilder Pantazis Law Group, we understand the challenges teachers face when filing a workers’ compensation claim, and we’re here to guide you through every step of the process. From ensuring that your injury or illness is properly reported and documented to negotiating with insurance companies, we’re dedicated to securing the benefits you rightfully deserve.
Whether it’s covering medical expenses, recuperating lost wages, or providing assistance with vocational rehabilitation, our goal is to help you focus on your recovery while we handle the legal complexities.