North Carolina Appellate Court Issues Ruling in Case Involving a Workers’ Compensation Claim and Car Accident Based on the Same Set of Facts

It is not unusual for someone to be involved in multiple injury accidents within a short timeframe. While one claim for compensation is usually overwhelming enough for the victim, two claims can be incredibly confusing. If one of your claims involves a workers’ compensation injury and the other is a civil injury, you may need to follow specific rules regarding how the two claims are related. At Maurer Law, our competent team of diligent Asheville personal injury lawyers is ready to help you ensure that you handle your injury claims correctly and that you receive the compensation that you deserve.

A recent appellate opinion highlights the unique issues that can arise when someone suffers multiple injury accidents in the same timeframe in North Carolina. The plaintiff suffered a work-related accident in June 2009 and he promptly filed a workers’ compensation claim. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving to his doctor’s office to pick up a note indicating that he was unable to work due to the pain from the work-related injury.

The plaintiff hired an attorney to represent him in seeking compensation from the driver who caused the car accident, which caused him to suffer a traumatic brain injury. He later settled his personal injury claim for roughly $45,000 and received net proceeds of $16,000 after paying attorney fees, costs, and medical expenses. These proceeds were distributed without reimbursing the employer for its workers’ compensation lien and without an order from the Industrial Commission allowing distribution of the funds. The plaintiff’s attorney learned about the car accident during a mediation involving the work injury and claimed that the injuries from the car accident should have been covered under the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy because the plaintiff was driving to the doctor’s office to obtain a work release note.

The defendant employer rejected this argument on a number of theories including the fact that the settlement proceeds from the car accident had already been disbursed. A commissioner agreed with the employer and did not allow the plaintiff to seek workers’ compensation benefits. The plaintiff appealed and the reviewing commissioners concluded that the car accident was causally related to the work injury. It also concluded that the defendant employer had enough notice about the car accident and that the plaintiff could seek benefits under the workers’ compensation act for injuries related to the car accident.

The defendant appealed and the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed finding that the plaintiff was barred from claiming entitlement to compensation under the workers’ compensation laws after having settled his claim with the party who caused the car accident without first obtaining written consent from his employer under N.C. Gen. State Section 97-10.2.

If you were injured in a complicated situation involving numerous claims or suffered two injuries in close timing, you should speak to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to explore your legal options and rights. At Maurer Law, we offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and whether we may be able to assist you. Contact our office now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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