Our workers’ compensation laws entitle you to lifetime medical care if needed. However you need to be realistic and understand that as time goes on the workers’ compensation adjuster is going to be less and less enthused about continuing to pay those medical expenses. You should expect that she will often challenge whether or not your current symptoms are truly related to the workers’ compensation accident a number of years ago. So while the answer is, yes, you have open medicals there is a catch to it. One thing we see quite often is the workers’ compensation adjuster claiming that the need for treatment is due to something other than the original injury. One such example involved a workers’ compensation adjuster who argued that the screw which worked its way loose in a injured man’s back did so when and because that man twisted his knee. Really?! The fact that the orthopedic surgeon who did the fusion insisted that this was nonsense didn’t prevent the adjuster from sticking to her position. Only after a workers’ compensation lawyer took the case to a hearing did the the adjuster authorize the medical treatment. And it took a hearing and an order from the Industrial Commission to accomplish this.
In terms of your paychecks the current workers’ compensation laws say the adjuster is limited to paying for only 500 weeks from the date of the injury. We think this change to the workers’ compensation law is quite unfair – if you are still experiencing a financial disability – the inability to earn as much as you did before you were injured – we think that you should receive treatment or weekly workers’ compensation checks for that. In our minds this is no different than saying your medicine will be cut off after 500 weeks just because most people would be better by then. It doesn’t really matter if we are right… the workers’ compensation law is clear on this. The legislators in Raleigh deliberately intended to make this change. There is a very limited exception in the workers’ compensation law for people who can establish that they are capable of no work at all — not even part-time, minimum wage jobs like being an attendant at a parking lot. But this exception applies to a pretty small number of people.
As long as you are receiving either weekly checks or medical treatment the workers’ compensation adjuster cannot close your file. Under our workers’ compensation laws a file isn’t closed until the North Carolina Industrial Commission says it is closed. Yet you may very well have an adjuster who will tell you that your file is closed. While it is improper to do so many workers’ adjusters will close files on a whim. Far too often the injured worker doesn’t know better, doesn’t call an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for advice, and goes away… letting the adjuster get away with this.