Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina: Getting What You’re Owed
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees who were injured on the job. At Mulligan Epstein Attorneys, we understand that the ability to work is vital to your comfort and wellbeing. Our attorneys can help you minimize the impacts of a job injury and assist you in navigating North Carolina workers’ compensation laws.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
In North Carolina, we have the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, which requires all businesses with three or more employees to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This requirement applies to businesses operating as corporations, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and partnerships.
You still may be covered under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act even if you’ve been issued a 1099 form for tax purposes. Just because your employer calls you an independent contractor does not necessarily mean you do not have workers’ compensation coverage. If your employer controls your work, your hours, your method of pay, or other aspects of the job, you still may be an “employee” under the Act and qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Workers’ compensation covers: (1) Injury; (2) injury by accident; (3) injury that occurs in the course and scope of your employment. If you’re not sure whether your injury falls under those parameters, here’s a more detailed explanation:
An injury can be a traumatic injury, such as a broken bone or torn ligaments, or the development of a disease related to your job. Even if you had a pre-existing condition, if your job aggravates that condition you are still covered. Other conditions that are a “direct and natural” consequence of the initial injury are also covered. For example, when a foot injury results in knee problems from favoring the injured foot, both injuries are covered. For occupational diseases, the job must substantially contribute to the development of the disease.
Only injuries “by accident” are covered under the NC workers’ comp system. An accident means some identifiable cause of the injury that is outside of the regular work routine. A worker who is injured while doing his or her regular job in the regular way may be denied. Back injuries are an exception to the “by accident” rule and are covered if they are the result of a “specific traumatic incident,” whether there is an accident or not. The employee must be able to show a point in time when they know the back injury occurred.
Course and Scope of Your Employment
The injured worker must be doing the business of his or her employer at the time of the injury. Occupational diseases like brown lung, certain cancers and carpal tunnel syndrome may be covered by the N.C. workers’ comp system if: 1) the employee was at an increased risk of contracting the disease compared to the general public, and 2) the hazardous working conditions substantially contributed to the disease. Accidents that occur while going to and coming from work are usually not covered but there are a number of exceptions.
What If the Injury is Your Fault?
Many employees don’t file for workers’ compensation because they feel their injury was at least partly their fault. However, North Carolina workers’ compensation is a no-fault system so you still qualify for benefits even if you contributed to or caused your own injury.
Have You Been Injured on the Job?
There is no shame in filing for workers’ compensation benefits if you have been injured while working. In most cases, you are not recovering benefits directly from your employer, but rather from an insurance company that your employer has paid to provide benefits to injured workers. If you still feel uncertain about the laws or the process, Mulligan Epstein Attorneys can help. You can schedule a consultation with Mulligan Epstein today. Our Wilmington, NC workers’ compensation lawyers can help you get the benefits you need so you can concentrate on getting better.