This blog post addresses occupational disease and North Carolina Workers’ Compensation. The Bishop Law Firm represents injured employees in North Carolina and we do not get paid unless you win. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.
NC Workers’ Compensation Law
Employees in North Carolina who have been injured during a workplace accident or acquired a occupational illness are eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Undocumented workers are also eligible for benefits. However, independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) governs injured workers’ comp claims in NC. If a dispute arises between the injured employee and their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, an Deputy Commissioner with the NCIC will make the final decision.
Injury by accident and occupational disease are both compensable injuries. Injury by accident, just as it sounds, results from an accident at work. Unfortunately, construction, manufacturing and healthcare workers are simply at increased risk for injury due to the dangerous nature of their work.
Occupational diseases can be caused by exposure to chemicals, lead poisoning, exposure to asbestos, and can even include physical injuries that come from repetitive stress work, like carpal tunnel syndrome. In some very narrow situations, certain mental illnesses can also be considered an occupational disease.
In North Carolina, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides medical compensation and wage (indemnity) benefits for non-fatal injuries and death benefits for fatal injuries. Medical compensation includes medical treatment and mileage reimbursement for treatment of your on the job injury.
Wage benefits provide monetary compensation due to your inability to earn wages because of your on the job injury. This benefit provides compensation based on the physical impairment of the injured body part as well. Also read Types of NC Workers’ Compensation Wage Benefits
Occupational Disease and NC Workers’ Compensation
The most common types of occupational diseases are listed in NC General Statute 97-53. Listed examples include poisoning, silicosis, hearing loss, bursitis, synovitis and tenosynovitis. You will notice that many of the listed illnesses involve lung disease.
Some unlisted diseases are also considered under NC Worker’s Compensation but there are additional steps to proving your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.
When making a NC Workers’ Compensation claim based on your occupational disease, you must be able to prove the existence of an employment relationship between you and the employer where you were last exposed to the hazards of your disease. You also need specific and competent medical evidence to show that you were exposed for a long enough time to cause the disease you have.
With respect to unlisted diseases, you have an additional burden of showing that you were at an increased risk of exposure to the disease at work which was more than the general public.
As with all claims in NC Workers’ Compensation, you have to give notice to your employer of your disease within a set time. In the case of all diseases but asbestosis, silicosis, and lead poisoning, that time is 30 days from when a competent doctor lets you know you have the disease and you have to file a claim within two years of when you first knew that you had this disease from work. The rules for asbestosis and silicosis can be found here.
Do you need a NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Occupational diseases are another way an injured worker can be compensated in North Carolina. Because of the medical evidence needed to prove your case, it is important to talk to a NC Workers’ Compensation attorney as soon as you feel you’ve been exposed and might have a disease from your work place.
Occupational disease claims can be harder to win than injury by accident. This can be especially true for illnesses that are not specifically mentioned in 97-53 due to the additional burden regarding increased risk of exposure.
The Bishop Law Firm represents injured workers and their families in Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Fayetteville, Rocky Mount, Roanoke Rapids, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Wilson, North Carolina and surrounding areas. Call us today for a free case evaluation, (919) 615-3095.