So, you’re at work one day – a day just like thousands of days before – when a pallet of merchandise falls from a shelf ten feet up and lands on you. The merchandise, weighing a couple hundred pounds, breaks your shoulder and your collar bone and ruptures two vertebral discs in your neck.
You are out of work for more than a year because of the severity of your injuries. Because you were injured at work, you have filed a workers’ compensation claim which pays you two-thirds of your wages while you are out. Your employer also has paid your medical bills, including the bill for the disc fusion surgery that you and your doctor hoped would resolve your neck injury because conservative treatment of therapy, injections and medication did not relieve the consistent pain that now runs down your arm to your fingers.
Your wife and children have been very supportive throughout your ordeal even though you can’t play with the children like you used to, don’t sleep much because of your pain and sometimes need help getting dressed. And because you are being paid only two-thirds of your salary, your wife has had to take a part-time job to make ends meet. Later, you and your doctor determine that you can’t, because of your injury and limitations, go back to work in the same position. Because you have been with your employer for many years, your skills are highly specialized, and even without your injuries, it would be tough to find another job doing the same sort of work. Fortunately, North Carolina’s workers’ compensation scheme provides compensation for you as long as you are unable to work because of your work-place injury – at least until now.
House Bill 709 which was introduced recently in the North Carolina legislature would limit the amount of compensation that you can receive to 500 weeks regardless of your ability to work after a crippling injury. Moreover, under this proposal you could lose all your benefits if you employer has any work that you can do. Even though you were a highly skilled employee making a good living, and now can’t do that sort of work because of your injury, your employer could force you to choose between losing your benefits and taking a position that pays much less than you made before your injury. Imagine, your life suddenly turned upside down by an injury at work, and now the legislature seeks to make the worst of a bad situation by limiting the benefits you can receive for an injury you did not cause.
If you believe that it is wrong for the North Carolina Legislature to deprive injured workers of the compensation they need to support their families, call your legislator and tell him or her to oppose House Bill 709. You can contact your legislator by going to this link http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/.