Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon, welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker and I have with me as my guest attorney David Daggett of Daggett Shuler, Attorneys at Law.
David, thanks for being with us.
David Daggett: Hi Cindy, good to be with you today.
Cindy Speaker: Always good to see you.
David Daggett: Yes, yes, I think the cold weather’s behind us.
Cindy Speaker: I hope so.
Well we’re gonna talk about workers compensation and navigating the system. So what I wanna do to start out … I mean it’s a complicated system, and the first question is if you’re injured at work how do you even know if your injury is covered?
David Daggett: Well injuries at work are covered under the workers compensation system, and it basically … you have to be employed by an employer who has three or more employees, and you have to have an injury by accident. An accident means a fall, a trip, a hit, something like that. So it’s gotta be an accident. Or if you have … There’s some exceptions, like for your back or if you have a hernia, there has to be a specific traumatic event that you can point your finger to. There’s a few other exceptions, I actually took one to the supreme court 30 years ago and won on an exception.
But there are some exceptions, but basically you have to be injured by accident. The big exception that applies most often is a back, and on that there has to be a specific traumatic event. Basically meaning you have to be able to point to a specific point in time when you hurt your back. It can’t just start aching and build up over time.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. But basically anybody injured that is working through a legitimate employer that has workers compensation insurance is covered no matter what that injury is, is that correct?
David Daggett: That’s correct, and they’re covered even if they don’t have workers compensation insurance if they have three or more employees.
Cindy Speaker: Oh okay, very good.
David Daggett: That adds an additional fight. But yes.
Cindy Speaker: Okay no what about the doctor? Do you go to your own doctor or do you have to go to their doctor? How does that work?
David Daggett: Well here’s the problem with the workers compensation system. For most workers that have never been through anything like this before, it’s a very tricky and complicated system to navigate. One of the tricky parts of it is the employer gets to choose your doctor and you have to go to the employer’s doctor. And so the system is stacked against the worker. And this is where if you have a serious case … So something little, if you cut your finger at work and you’ve gotta go to the doctor and it may be a couple of stitches and you’re fine and there’s no disability and you go on just fine, that’s handled through workers compensation, that’s probably not a big deal.
But in any situation where you’re out of work for a significant period of time, where you have a surgery or you have ongoing limitations or you have ongoing pain, or most importantly where it affects your future employability or your ability to do this job, you definitely are gonna need help just working your way through the system. Because it’s tricky, it’s complicated, and quite frankly the outside political forces, the change in the statutes that have happened over the past couple years, they’ve made it rough on our good hardworking people in our community. I think that’s unfair. But our good hardworking people in our community, when they’re hurt at work, they deserve to get those benefits that they’re entitled to.
Cindy Speaker: Absolutely.
David Daggett: And sometimes you gotta fight for them.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah and speaking of that, when you’re getting your benefits, they come I guess on a weekly basis or biweekly, what if those checks stop, what do you do? And does that happen?
David Daggett: The checks stopping, that’s a signal that you got a problem and you need to consult legal representation. A lot of people are hesitant to seek legal representation because a lot of us … I mean we love our employer, we’ve worked for our employer for a long time. Remember, your case usually is not against your employer, it’s against their workers compensation insurance company. That is a very very different thing. Don’t confuse, you get hurt at work and your boss is nice to you – to the insurance company cutting off your checks. Those are two very very different things. When the insurance company cuts off your checks you better talk to a lawyer.
Cindy Speaker: Well that’s a good point, and along those lines also, what about if you get fired? You’re injured. Can that happen and what recourse?
David Daggett: Sure it can happen. So there’s a specific statute that your employer can’t fire you because you have a workers compensation claim. However, in North Carolina, we’re an employment at will state, which basically means unless it’s some form of discrimination your employer can discharge you for whatever reason they want to discharge you. Again, if you get hurt at work and your employer fires you, that’s a pretty good signal that your workers compensation claim is gonna be pretty rough and you better get some help.
Unfortunately that happens.
Cindy Speaker: That’s a shame.
David Daggett: Not only is it a shame, it’s kicking somebody when they’re down. It’s more than a shame, it’s wrong.
Cindy Speaker: Are there actually situations, and there probably are, where the person is out of work because of the work injury and they get fired when they’re out of work, or is it when they come back and then they get fired? What scenario do you usually see?
David Daggett: Both.
Cindy Speaker: Both, wow.
David Daggett: And you know, sometimes they let you come back to work and then they look for a way to terminate your job. So in those situations, and typically again you’re dealing with those situations where the injury is more serious. The more serious the injury, the more the need to have an attorney help you.
Cindy Speaker: And how do you know that you’re getting all the benefits that you are entitled to?
David Daggett: Well unfortunately you don’t, because the system is very complicated, particularly your benefits for future benefits. So those are when you have permanent disability, permanent scarring, permanent loss of a bodily function, a permanent aptitude changes. That’s meaning mental, psychological, whatever, brain injury, whatever the case may be. Any of those situations, those are the situations where you need outside help.
The good news is most quality workers compensation lawyers will give a free consultation, and we tell folks … Sometimes they don’t need us, and we say, “Look you don’t need a lawyer in this situation, here’s what you do. Best wishes to you. If anything changes give us a call.” Sometimes we say, “You need somebody now and we’d be happy to help you.”
Cindy Speaker: And it sounds like for any type of serious injury you really have to have an attorney.
David Daggett: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m so proud of our worker’s compensation team here at Daggett Shuler, they take great care of the clients. It’s almost uniformly they give us glowing reviews at the end of our cases. Our folks take it personally because we understand that this is your livelihood, and that doesn’t … for most of us that doesn’t just affect us, it affects our spouse, our families, our children, and it’s important. And so it’s important to us too.
Cindy Speaker: Well David, and I’ve known you for quite a few years but you truly are a community law firm. I mean people that deal with your firm, I see the reviews, I see the comments. You are loved. I mean people feel like they’re part of the family.
David Daggett: Well we do, we have a great great team, and they are part of the family. My kids, when they were little, they’d ask what I do at work and I’d half-jokingly say, “Well I spend a lot of time in the lobby just hugging people.” Because they are, they’re part of our family, we care about them an awful lot. And I’m so proud of our team and just the good job they do in helping people who are many times going through the very worst thing they’ve ever gone through in their lives. And we’re there for them. We understand how meaningful that responsibility is and we take that very seriously.
Cindy Speaker: David, how can someone reach you if they have questions?
David Daggett: So lots of information on our website, DaggettShulerLaw.com or can call us at 336 724 1234. And again, our team would be happy to help or give direction where we can.
Cindy Speaker: Very good. Thanks for your time today.
David Daggett: Yeah thanks for having me today.
Cindy Speaker: Absolutely. To those of you watching, if you have questions or comments you can leave it on this page. We’ll get your questions answered and we’d love to hear from you. Thanks everybody. Have a great day.