What is Total and Permanent Disability?

EKG ChartIf you have suffered a workers’ compensation injury, the impact on you and your family can be financially and emotionally devastating.  When the injury results in total and permanent disability, the impact is more profound.  Not only is there the trauma from the injury but there is one less wage earner in the family.

Total and permanent disability is defined by North Carolina General Statute §97-31(17) as “The loss of both hands, or both arms, or both feet, or both legs, or both eyes, or any two thereof, shall constitute total and permanent disability…”  As a result, a paraplegic, quadriplegic or double amputee is automatically determined to be totally and permanently disabled.   An individual with these injuries may return to work and earn wages while still being eligible for total and permanent disability benefits.  For example, an employee who loses both legs in an accident may be able to obtain a job as a clerk or computer programmer that is a more sedentary job.  The injured worker is still entitled to compensation under total and permanent disability.

There are other cases, as outlined in North Carolina General Statute §97-29(d), where an employee may have an injury so severe that the employee is unable to return to work and earn wages in any capacity given the severity of the injury that was sustained.  Often this is the case for a traumatic brain injury or a burn victim.  Although the injury does not comply with the North Carolina Statute §97-31(17), the worker no longer has the capacity to earn a living regardless of the training that is provided.  It is important to note that the employee or plaintiff has the responsibility or burden of proving total and permanent disability.

For an injury determined to be a “total” and “permanent” disability, the injured worker is entitled to weekly benefits and compensation of medical expenses for the rest of his or her life.   The weekly benefits are calculated by

Multiplying          Employee’s Weekly Wage ($862 is maximum weekly wage for 2012)

Times                      66.67%

Times                      52 Weeks

Times                      Anticipated Years Remaining in Employee’s Lifetime

If you or a loved one has been injured in a workers’ compensation accident and suffered a total and permanent disability, contact Duncan Law for a free consultation.

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