North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Laws – The Basics
History & Regulation of NC Workers Comp laws
North Carolina Workers’ compensation laws were enacted by statute in 1929. As a general rule, each business that has more than three employees must be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. The system is governed by a state agency called the Industrial Commission.
NC Workers’ Compensation Act
The North Carolina Workers Compensation Act aims to provide compensation to employees if they get injured and as a result, can no longer work. The employer should have what’s called worker’s compensation coverage in the form of insurance or be authorized as a “self-insured” employer.
An employee must give notice to his or her employer of an injury on the job by filing a written notice. This notice of accident should be filed within 30 days of the date of the accident. Your lawyer will discuss this requirement with you if you have not already filed such a form. The absolute limit for filing a written notice is two years.
Sole Remedy & No-Fault
Workers’ compensation is generally an injured employee’s sole remedy. This means that, but for some narrow and rare exceptions, an injured employee is entitled only to workers’ compensation benefits and nothing else in North Carolina. A workers’ compensation claim is thus entirely different from a claim for negligence such as in an auto accident. In fact, the negligence of the employer in causing the accident is not even an issue in North Carolina workers’ compensation claims.
As strange as this may sound, this often works to the employee’s benefit because in most cases it is far more difficult to prove the negligence of the employer and the lack of negligence of the employee than it is to prove merely that the employee was injured on the job. Furthermore, many injuries on the job are not caused by anyone’s negligence. In the system that was in place before the NC Workers’ Compensation Act was enacted, this would have meant that those employees would have not recovered anything. Under the old system, the employer also had many defenses, such as contributory negligence, that shielded them from liability.
Limited Benefits – Medical Bills & Disability
Under the current system, in exchange for the relative ease of making the employer liable, the legislature limited the benefits the employee could receive. North Carolina Workers’ compensation laws provide two main benefits to the injured employee. First, all injury-related medical bills are paid by the insurance company. This includes medical prescriptions. To a great extent, the insurance company directs the medical providers you see. However, you do have the right to request a second opinion and also to request a change of physician. If the insurance carrier refuses, your attorney can then make a motion to the Industrial Commission for approval of your choice of physician.
Secondly, the insurance company will pay disability benefits. Disability payments consist of two-thirds (66.66%) of an employee’s gross average weekly wage. This workers’ compensation payment is nontaxable. If an injured employee is out of work due to an injury for more than seven days, then the insurance company will begin to pay temporary total disability payments for every day thereafter so long as the doctor keeps the employee out of work on a written excuse. The employee is not entitled to payment for the first seven days unless he or she is subsequently out for more than 21 days.
If an employee has a permanent injury to a particular part of the body, then the employee is entitled to further compensation under the act that is called permanent partial disability. Furthermore, if an employee is determined to be totally and permanently disabled, then he or she is entitled to lifetime benefits which include future medical expenses and disability payments. If either of the last two kinds of disability should be the case in your claim, your attorney will discuss the benefits available in greater detail.
Workers’ compensation does not award a claim for pain and suffering in North Carolina.