Back to the Basics… Do I Have a Workers’ Comp Case?
In North Carolina, many work-related injuries are covered by workers’ comp, but many are not. How do you know the difference? Every case is different, and a specialist workers’ compensation attorney can advise you on your unique situation, but here is a quick primer:
1. Injuries due to “accident”
For an injury to be covered under workers’ comp in North Carolina, it must be due to an “accident,” unless it involves the back or a hernia. An “accident” is an unexpected event that leads to an injury. This means that employees injured while doing their normal job in the normal way may NOT be covered under workers’ comp. However, in those situations, the employee may still have valid legal claims against third parties if the injury was due to negligence.
2. Injuries due to “specific traumatic incident”
The big exception to the above rule is injuries to the back (including neck, middle, and lower back) and hernias, because in those cases, the employee does NOT need to show that an accident occurred. If the injury involves a hernia or the back, the employee only must show a “specific traumatic incident” when the injury occurred. Examples of injuries covered under this test include herniated discs or back sprains felt while lifting a normal object during a regular shift at work. For this type of claim, it is helpful for the injured worker to be able to point to an exact time and place where the pain or popping occurred.
3. “Course and scope” of employment
To be covered under workers’ compensation in North Carolina, the injury must have occurred during the “course and scope” of employment. Thousands of pages of rules, statutes, and court cases define exactly what “course and scope” means under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, but generally, it means an activity that is related to work and that also benefits the employer. For example, if someone sprains a wrist at work while playing solitaire, most likely it would not be considered “course and scope,” because playing solitaire does not benefit the employer. However, if that same employee sprained his wrist while shuffling papers for a work presentation, it most likely WOULD count as arising in the “course and scope.”
In addition to injuries, workers may receive workers’ compensation benefits for occupational diseases after exposure to certain health risks on the job. If diagnosed with one of the common occupational diseases listed in the Workers’ Compensation Act, the employee only needs to show that his or her employment caused or substantially contributed to the condition. For a disease not listed, the employee also must show that the job placed the employee at an increased risk as compared to the general public for developing the condition. Unlike in accident claims, many affected workers do not find out about their condition until well after the exposure or the employment has ended, so there are special rules allowing for delayed claim filing.
Workers’ Comp in North Carolina is complex and nuanced. If you believe you have suffered an injury, incident, or disease due to work, contact an attorney at Ricci Law Firm.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh
I’m Brian Ricci, a workers’ compensation lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury at work, please call me at (252) 752-7785 or 800-387-6406 for free, friendly advice.
I am a longtime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Founder of the leading personal injury website: http://www.riccilawnc.com/personal-injury/