Know Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Laws


It is important to understand how North Carolina workers’ compensation rules apply if you have been injured in a workplace accident.

In North Carolina, any business with three or more employees, whether they’re corporations, sole proprietorships, LLCs, or partnerships, must either get workers’ compensation insurance or be approved as self-insured to provide workers’ compensation benefits to their staff. But questions often arise as to whether an injured individual is an employee who qualifies for benefits or is an independent contractor who is not covered, whether the accident was properly reported and what benefits the worker is eligible to receive.

Let’s briefly discuss some important workers’ compensation requirements and rules spelled out in the North Carolina general statutes (NCGS).

NCGS 97-2 defines the terms “employee” and “employment” for the purposes of determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Employee means every person engaged in employment under any appoint, oral or written contract of hire or apprenticeship including aliens and minors. It covers members of the North Carolina National Guard and North Carolina State Militia who are on state active duty under orders of the governor.

It’s important to point out that an injured worker may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, even if the employer refers to that worker as an independent contractor. Some independent contractors whose work schedules and work are controlled by the employer meet the legal definition of an employee, under NC workers’ compensation rules.

NCGS 97-19 discusses the criteria for determining whether a licensed commercial truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor for the purposes of qualifying for workers’ compensation and the legal test for determining employment status. Commercial truck drivers who drive tractor trailers may be employees of a commercial carrier or the driver may be an independent contractor.

NCGS 97-22 spells out the employer notification requirements after a workplace accident. An injured employee or a representative of the employee shall notify the employer in writing as soon as possible after the work-related accident. The law requires that the written notification be made within 30 days of the accident. Commercial truck drivers who drive tractor trailers may be employees of a commercial carrier or the driver may be an independent contractor.

NCGS 97-18 explains when an injured worker should expect to receive workers’ compensation payment after the employer or the insurance administrator has approved the claim. The statute states that first payment of benefits is due to be made on the fourteenth day after the employer has received notice of the injury or death. After the initial payment, compensation will be paid in weekly installments.

North Carolina’s workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Injured employees in North Carolina are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits regardless of who caused the accident. However, there are some situations that disqualify employees from collecting worker’s comp benefits.

NCGS 97-27 states that an employer will pay for medical treatment for an injured employee.

NCGS 97-12 addresses accidents involving employees who were injured on the job as a result of being intoxicated or impaired by a drug that was not medically prescribed to the worker. The law says that no compensation shall be paid if the workplace injury or death was caused by a worker’s intoxication, impairment by a controlled substance that was not prescribed or intentional attempt to injury or kill himself or herself.

The statute defines intoxication or impairment as the consumption of a sufficient quantity of an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance to cause the employee to lose normal control of his or her physical and mental faculties.

However, an injured worker who was intoxicated may still qualify for workers’ comp benefits if the alcohol was provided by the employer or supervisor.

This section of law also specifies that if a workplace injury or death is caused by an employee’s deliberate failure to use a safety device or perform a required duty, any compensation awarded will be reduced by 10 percent.

NCGS 97-30 covers compensation for injuries involving partial incapacity. When a work-related injury reduces an employee’s ability to work and earn wages, the injured employee is entitled to receive weekly compensation based on the difference between the average weekly wage before the injury and the average weekly wage that the employee is able to earn afterward. The employee may be eligible to receive payments for partial incapacity for up to 500 weeks.

NCGS 97-31 lists the payment schedule for employees who suffer an amputation injury, loss of vision, loss of hearing, permanent injury to any important organ, or serious disfigurement of the face or body in a workplace accident.

Not every workers’ compensation claim requires a lawyer. But North Carolina workers’ compensation law is complex and there are many exceptions written into the workers’ compensation rules. If you have specific questions about whether your injury qualifies you for workers’ comp benefits, our attorneys would like to hear from you.

Consult a Raleigh Attorney Who Knows N.C. Workers Comp Rules

If you have questions about the law, you should consult with a lawyer. If you are having difficulty obtaining worker’s compensation benefits after a work-related injury, then contact a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney at Hardison & Cochran for a free discussion of your legal rights and the steps you can take.

Hardison & Cochran has two attorneys who are board-certified specialists in North Carolina workers’ compensation law. Our experienced lawyers know workers’ compensation law and can explain how it applies to your specific situation. We focus on helping injured workers pursue the benefits they are entitled to by law. We can guide you through the process of seeking workers’ compensation benefits or appealing a denied claim. We serve clients in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Wilmington and throughout North Carolina. Call or contact our office online today to see how we can help you.  The initial consultation is free and has no obligation.

About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.