A Raleigh News & Observer story from late December should be essential reading if you are a worker in North Carolina. The story begins with the account of a retail worker who sustained a shoulder injury while moving a box at work. It ends with an alarming observation: North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system may make jobs more dangerous.
To be eligible for workers’ compensation, most on-the-job injuries must occur during some type of accident. That is, with a few exceptions, the injury must have happened outside an individual’s normal work routine. Therefore, an injury that occurs when you are performing your job duties in the usual and customary manner does not qualify for benefits under North Carolina’s worker’s compensation system.
You probably do not want your employer to think you were not exercising care at work. Accordingly, it may be tempting to say everything was normal until you noticed a sudden pain or heard a pop.
This approach, however, may complicate your workers’ compensation claim. Employers across the Tar Heel State are familiar with the injury-by-accident rule. As such, if you sustain an injury at work, you can expect your employer to try to get you to say you were just doing your normal job duties when the injury occurred.
Critics of North Carolina’s injury-by-accident rule claim it endangers workers. That is, employers may be hesitant to make jobs safer, as qualifying accidents may be more common in places with safer working conditions. Put simply, you should recognize that the North Carolina workers’ compensation system may make your job more dangerous than it needs to be.
Fairness suggests that if you suffer a job-related injury, you should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, though, claim denials happen all the time because of the injury-by-accident rule. Therefore, you must be careful about how you describe the workplace incident that resulted in your injury.