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Vision Loss in North Carolina Workers Compensation

Some work injures are much worse than others. Many injuries such as broken bones do heal over time. Some injuries may slow the worker down but don’t prevent the worker from working entirely. Unfortunately, there are some workplace injuries that tragically alter an employee’s life forever. Loss of vision is one of those catastrophic injuries.

Because vision loss is so life-changing, North Carolina treats these workplace or occupational illnesses differently than standard injuries.

Types of accidents that can loss of vision

Workers may suffer the loss of one or both eyes or retinal detachment for the following reasons:

  • Being hit with some type of projectile object such as wood splinters, glass shards, and other tiny items that cause a scratched cornea or cause irritation. The danger of projectiles is one reason many workers wear goggles.
  • Exposures to minute items of sawdust, silica or sparks;
  • Radiation due to ultraviolet or other radiation. Fluorescent lights, lasers and even natural light often have much more light than is needed to do the job. The excess light can result in a loss of vision. Of course that would be more of an occupational disease claim and harder to prove.
  • A slip and fall to the head cause traumatic brain injury and loss of vision
  • Some other type of head trauma. Slips and falls, vehicle crashes, assaults by other workers are just a few reasons head trauma can occur.
  • An explosion due to a faulty appliance or piece of equipment
  • Chemical burns caused by splashes can cause blindness or serious injury
  • Excessive exposure to bright light such as in welding.
  • Tools including nails, wires, saws, and staples, can enter the eye causing damage. Blunt force trauma
  • Computer usage. Some workers rely on the backlight of computers to see instead of proper overhead light. In addition, constantly looking at computer screens without taking necessary breaks can cause eye problems and other problems such as migraines and nausea. But again, anything that occurs over time would be more in the nature of an occupational disease claim and far more difficult to prove than a trauma.

Benefits for vision loss

All North Carolina workers are entitled to compensation for any medical surgeries or doctor visits that are reasonably necessary to help improve an injured employee’s health. There may be surgical procedures that can help a person who suffers loss of vision. A lens transplant, for example, may be a possible way to improve eyesight. An experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney such as Joe Miller will work with your eye doctors to determine your diagnosis and whether any treatment is possible. If the eye injury is compensable, he will argue that any surgery that might reasonably improve the worker’s eyesight should be paid for by the employer’s insurance company.

All workers are entitled to 2/3rds of their lost wages until they return to work or until a maximum period of 500 weeks has elapsed.

If an injured worker returns to work, he or she may still be entitled to additional compensation of 2/3rds of their average weekly wages for an additional period if their vision loss is permanent. For eye loss, the schedule is as follows:

Loss of one eye. Maximum (other than pay for being out of work):  120 weeks. If the use of the eye is total or the loss of vision is total, the injured worker is considered to have a loss of an eye and is thus eligible for the 120 weeks of compensation. Partial eye loss is handled somewhat differently. For partial loss, the employee seeks a review by an ophthalmologist who, after a full examination, places a percentage of eye loss or vision loss on the injury. For example, the eye doctor can say the eye loss is 10%, 50%, 70%, 85%, or 95%. If the percentage is 85% or higher, loss is treated as a full loss and the employee gets the full 120 weeks’ compensation. Otherwise the percentage of benefits will correspond to the percentage of loss. For example, a 10% loss means the worker gets 10% of 120 weeks or 12 weeks for the eye. A 50% loss means ½ of 120 weeks or 60 weeks.

Loss of both eyes. If there is vision loss in both eyes, that may be considered a total and permanent disability, which means the claim is not limited to the 500 week maximum. Rather, the injured employee may be entitled to lifetime compensation benefits at 2/3rds of the average weekly wage. In such case, the 120 week scheduled benefit becomes irrelevant. It would be up to the Industrial Commission to determine if the employee qualifies.

If the employer can show that the employee is capable of return to suitable employment, despite the loss of vision in both eyes, then the employee would not be entitled to lifetime compensation.


Sometimes, tragically, the loss of the eye is accompanied by severe disfigurement. If the workers’ face or head is disfigured along with the loss of vision, then the worker may be entitled up to an additional sum not to be more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00). For example if there is extremely noticeable scarring elsewhere on the face, that would be something the Industrial Commission would consider awarding an additional sum of $10,000.00 for.

Vocational rehabilitation

In addition to medical, wage loss, eye loss and disfigurement compensation; an injured worker who becomes blind or loses vision may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation so they can learn a new job skill. There are schools for the blind and those with vision loss to enable the worker to communicate and use his/her skills. This right to vocational rehabilitation is more likely to apply for educated workers, office workers, and others who didn’t rely on their eyes to do manual labor.

Today, computer technology can also help the worker who suffers vision loss. The employer’s insurance carrier may also be required to pay for this new technology. The carrier may also need to pay for seeing eye dogs, transportation, and other services or tools that help the worker get to work and do his/her job.

Speak with a skilled North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible
If anyone you know suffers from vision loss due to a workplace accident, they may have a strong recovery coming to them. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of North Carolina and Virginia workers get their full workers’ compensation benefits. He has been helping injured workers for over a quarter of a century. Vision loss can often be traced to a workplace accident. For answers to your questions and caring counsel, please call lawyer Joe Miller at (888) 694-1671 to schedule an appointment.

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5500-B Greenwich Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

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507 E Main St #K
Elizabeth City, NC 27907

If you are looking at this site, you or a loved one has probably been hurt. If that's true, you've come to the right place. Helping people who have been hurt is what we do. In fact, it is all we do. Joe Miller Law is a law firm concentrating exclusively on representing people who are injured by the carelessness of others or those hurt on the job. We provide the highest quality legal services to people who have been seriously injured. We practice Personal Injury law and Workmens' Compensation law in both Virginia and North Carolina.