Understanding Workers' Compensation Law - Part I

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Trying to understand your rights as an employee under the Workers' Compensation Act can be difficult and confusing. We'll break down the law in two parts, Part I discusses injuries and occupational diseases covered in the Act and liability.

INJURY BY ACCIDENT

  • Injury by Accident Defined: an accident involves the interruption of the work routine, which introduces unusual conditions likely to result in unexpected consequences.
  • Back Injuries/Specific Traumatic Incident : There need not be unusual conditions or a departure from the work routine. It is sufficient if the injury is the result of a "specific traumatic incident."
  • Arising out of the Employment: The accident must be the result of a risk involved in, or incident to the employment or the conditions under which the employment is required to be performed. There should be a causal relationship between the accident and the employment, although the employment need not be the sole causal force.
  • In the Course of the Employment: Generally, this requirement refers to the time, place, and circumstances under which the injury occurs.
    • The time includes reasonable periods before work begins, after work ends, and for rest and refreshment
    • The place includes the premises of the employer and other locations where the employee is situated at the direct of and for the benefit of the employer.
    • The circumstances include actions of the employee which he is authorized to undertake and which are calculated to further the employer's business, directly or indirectly.

OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES:

For diseases specifically listed in N.C. Gen. Stat §97-53, only a causal connection to the employment must be proven. For all other conditions, the employee must establish the following:

  1. a causal connection between the disease and the employment;
  2. the disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the public is equally exposed; and
  3. the disease is characteristic of persons engaged in a particular trade or occupation.

LIABILITY:

The employer in whose employment the employee was last injuriously exposed to the hazards of the disease is wholly liable for the benefits owed.