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When do my workers' compensation benefits stop?

As an employee who was previously injured and receiving worker's compensation benefits, it is helpful to know that you may stop receiving benefits in certain circumstances.

The primary goal of the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act is to rehabilitate injured employees and put them back in the workplace.  Once an employee is able to work again, the idea is that the employer has completed its role in rehabilitating the employee.

Therefore, in North Carolina, your disability benefits will terminate in three situations: (1) you return to work; (2) you refuse suitable employment; and (3) you constructively refuse suitable employment.

Return to the Workplace

As a general rule, you will no longer receives benefits once you return to the workplace. This is so if you return to the same job or employer, or if you start a new job with a new employer. Since you have the capacity to earn wages again, your employer is no longer required to compensate you for your inability to work.  

Refusal of Suitable Employment

Your benefits may also terminate if you turn down an available job opportunity. The job must, however, be within your ability to perform, considering your physical limitations, vocational skills, education and experience.

If the Industrial Commission decides your job refusal was justified, you will still be entitled to receive benefits. For example, a job opportunity as a mechanical engineer would probably not be suitable employment for someone who has been employed as a chef for the past 15 years.

Constructive Refusal of Suitable Employment

The final manner in which disability benefits may end is if you constructively refuse employment after returning to work. This can happen in two ways: you voluntarily quit a job of suitable employment or you are fired for cause.

"For cause" firing is termination based on employee misconduct. To stop your disability benefits, the employer must show you were fired for reasons unrelated to the injury, and that a non-injured employee would have been fired for the same reasons. For example, violation of a strictly-enforced attendance policy, failed drug tests, or poor job performance may be fireable offenses.

If the employer successfully proves the termination was for cause, you may still be entitled to benefits if you can prove your inability to earn wages is due to the work-related injury. To establish this, you may prove that you could not perform the duties of your position.

At Miller Law Firm, PLLC, we are well-versed in Worker's Compensation, and will fight for your rights at every step of the process. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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