Injury by accident rule may create roadblocks for injured workers

The North Carolina Industrial Commission handles workers’ compensation benefits. For employees injured on the job, these benefits may help pay medical bills and cover lost wages. 

Employees may receive benefits when an accident causes an injury at work. 

State law says what “accident” means 

An “accident” happens when an unusual or unexpected event causes a disruption in the employee’s normal work routine. An injury by itself is not considered an unusual or unexpected event. For most employees, this “injury by accident” rule may make it hard to get workers’ compensation. 

Employees may not get benefits for everyday tasks 

According to The News & Observer, the state often turns down claims made by workers injured while doing their normal job duties. The newspaper talked to employees who suffered injuries doing everyday tasks: 

  • A worker stocking shelves at a big box store hurt her shoulder as she tried to catch a falling 30-pound box of nails. 
  • A correctional officer injured his shoulder during a routine practice drill. 
  • A machine operator at a factory hurt his arm and shoulder doing normal lifting and pulling tasks. 

The workers in these stories did not get workers’ comp payments. 

Workers’ comp may cover employees who suffer a neck injury, back injury or hernia while performing regular work activities. Under these rules, furniture movers doing their jobs may get benefits if they hurt their backs but not if they hurt their knees. Workers may also get benefits for a fall, slip or trip because of an unexpected event outside of their regular job responsibilities. 

Other states also have rules requiring that an injury arise from an accident. Some of those states consider an injury itself to be an accident. 

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