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North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act FAQs

NOTE: Many individuals will qualify for workers’ compensation under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act. All questions except the first discuss workers’ compensation under this state Act.

What Does Workers’ Comp Do Exactly?

The NC Workers’ Compensation Act, adopted in the 1930s, aims to compensate employees who are injured by accidents at work and occupational disease. Workers’ comp aims to make “industry pay for its own wreckage,” in the words of the court. It strikes a balance between employers and their employees.

  • For employers, workers’ comp provides the benefit of reduced liability expenses because it:
    • 1) Sets full disability compensation rates at two thirds of the employee’s average weekly pay instead of 100 percent
    • 2) Excludes employee compensation for pain and suffering
    • 3) Is the “exclusive remedy” for employees. This means an employee cannot usually sue their employer in a personal injury suit for workers’ comp injuries.
  • For employees, workers’ comp provides the following in accepted cases:
    • Medical care at no cost to the employee
    • Prompt temporary full or partial disability payments that continue weekly as the case goes on.
      • By contrast, in standard personal injury cases, the insurance company or other defendant does not have to pay for medical bills or lost wages until the case settles or trial concludes.
    • Permanent disability benefits if applicable
    • Contributory negligence is eliminated as a defense. North Carolina is one of two states that still use a contributory negligence model in injury cases. This means that if a person’s own actions contributed in any direct amount to their injuries, they cannot sue to recover against the person that caused the majority of the injury. For example, a driver that was found to be 10 percent at fault in a car accident could not recover in damages from the driver who was 90 percent at fault. Eliminating contributory negligence as a defense in workers’ comp means that an employee’s contributory negligence will not be a bar to them receiving workers’ comp benefits.
How Do I Know What Workers’ Compensation Act Applies to Me?

If you are injured on the job, in most cases you may be entitled to make a claim for workers’ compensation insurance benefits. Depending on your employer, you may need to file a federal or state claim for workers’ compensation. If you are a veteran, there are further resources available to help you file your claim.

  • Federal employees: The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) gives compensation benefits to civilian employees of the United States federal government who sustain a personal injury or disease related to performing their job duties. The FECA can also provide the payment of benefits to the injured employee’s dependents if the injury or disease results in the employee’ death. The online guide to FECA resources can be found here.
  • Private or state employees in NC: The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires almost all employers that regularly employ three or more employees to either carry workers’ compensation insurance or qualify with the North Carolina Department of Insurance as a self-insured employer. The North Carolina Industrial Commission’s online guide to filing a claim under the NC Workers’ Comp Act can be found here.
  • Veterans of the United States Armed Services: The Veterans Health Administration’s National Workers’ Compensation Program provides staff, support and resources to help members and veterans of our nation’s armed services apply for and obtain the workers’ compensation to which they are entitled under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. Although this is the same federal act that applies to other federal workers, the VHA’s Workers’ Comp staff are much more suited to helping individuals file non-civilian claims. Find the VHA’s guide to Workers’ Compensation here.
Does the NC Workers’ Comp Act Apply to My Accident?

Not all “on the job” injuries are covered by North Carolina workers’ compensation. An injury must result from an unexpected accident that happens while the employee is acting within the “course and scope” of his or her employment.

  • “Course and scope” of employment means that the employee is acting within the time, place and circumstances of what they are employed to do at the time of the accident. This inquiry generally looks at the following questions:
    • Was the employee in the place they usually perform their work?
    • Did the accident occur at a time the employee usually performs work?
    • Was the employee performing the work for which they are hired when the accident occurred?

If the accident causing injury is too far removed from the employee’s course and scope of employment, it will not be considered a valid workers’ comp claim. However, if you think you may have a workers’ comp claim or are not sure, speak to one of the workers’ compensation attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC to ensure that you don’t miss out on a potential claim.

Does the NC Workers’ Compensation Act Apply to My Employer?

The NC Workers’ Compensation Act requires almost all employers that regularly employ three or more regular employees to either carry workers’ compensation insurance. Under the Act, it does not matter whether the employees are full or part time, seasonal workers, or family members. In addition, most temporary workers are considered employees under NC workers’ comp law.

Workers’ comp cannot be waived for a qualified employer in North Carolina even with a written agreement.

  • Independent contractors: An independent contractor is a person in an independent profession or trade who provides work pursuant to an oral or written agreement. Employers are not usually required to give workers’ comp insurance to independent contractors, although there are some exceptions. Whether or not a person counts as an independent contractor or an employee under North Carolina’s workers comp law depends on a number of factors, but usually comes down to the level of control the employer exercises over the person’s work. Sometimes an employer will misclassify their employees as independent contractors so as to avoid paying workers’ comp and payroll taxes. In this case and many others, it is important to speak with an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can help fight for your right to receive compensation.

Contact the experienced and passionate attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for an initial consultation about your claim.

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