If you have been injured on the job, you may have the right to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job or who have an illness, disease, or disability caused or made worse by workplace conditions. In North Carolina, every employer with three or more employees must have workers’ compensation insurance, with a few exceptions. All workers, including minors and undocumented workers, are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

If I am injured on the job, can I choose between workers’ compensation and suing my employer?
Usually, workers’ compensation is the only remedy for injured workers. An employee covered by workers’ compensation normally cannot sue the employer for causing the injury.

What if the injury was my fault?
Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault system.” Generally, the employer must provide workers’ compensation even if the injury was your fault.

What types of injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?

  • Specific traumatic injuries— These include injuries such as sprains, fractures, cuts or concussions. These can also include injuries caused by a traumatic event such as a fire, chemical spill, or fall.
  • Cumulative traumatic injuries – These are injuries that occur over time. For example, you may develop an injury over weeks or months by doing the same movement over and over again all day at work. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one kind of cumulative traumatic injury.
  • Occupational diseases – These include diseases affecting the respiratory system, skin, hearing or other body systems. Illness caused by exposure to asbestos is one example. These diseases usually occur over time.

Injuries normally not covered by workers’ compensation include:

  • Injuries caused by drugs or intoxication
  • Purposefully self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries occurring on personal time.

Is my injury covered under workers’ compensation?
To be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must be an employee – not an independent contractor, guest, visitor, customer or anything else. However, employers sometimes misclassify workers as independent contractors. If your employer can exercise control over the manner in which you perform your work, then you may be an “employee” and not an “independent contractor” for the purposes of workers’ compensation.

An injury which is the result of an accident must have arisen out of your employment and occurred in the course of your employment. Back injuries, cumulative traumatic injuries, and occupational diseases can be particularly difficult workers’ compensation situations. In any case, you may want to consult an attorney for help.