The short answer is this: Most of the time, injuries to the back or neck can be covered under NC Workers' Compensation law. Many workers in NC endure injured backs and necks that they suffered at work. In NC, the back and the neck are referred to as the "spine" in the workers' compensation law. Workers often injure their lower backs when engaged in heavy lifting, bending, crawling, reaching, or in a fall. Neck injuries often occur in the same situations, and can occur if something falls and lands on the worker's head. Doctors tell us that "twisting while lifting or bending" can often cause a potentially serious and long-term injury to the lower back known as a "herniated disk" or "ruptured disk." This same disk injury can occur in the neck if the head is placed in an awkward position while the worker is pushing, pulling or lifting. Disk injuries can be treated "conservatively" with therapy, injections, medications, and time, but sometimes workers end up having to go through surgery to get relief from disk injuries. In North Carolina, the legal standard for proving that you hurt your spine at work is more worker-friendly than the legal standard for proving most other injuries. Spine injuries are "compensable" (or covered) if you hurt your spine in an "injury by accident" scenario, or if you do it in a "specific traumatic incident of the work assigned" situation. An "injury by accident" requires you to have an unusual condition of work or an unusual event that causes the injury. An "accident" can be a "slip, trip or fall" as the insurance adjusters are fond of saying. However, an accident can be anything out of the ordinary routine of your work. Starting new job duties (that cause an injury) can be an "accident" under our law. Overexertion can be an "accident." A "specific traumatic incident" does not have to be an unusual event. If you normally lift heavy items at work, then heavy lifting is part of your normal duties, so getting hurt while lifting a heavy item in not normally going to be an "injury by accident." (But there are some exceptions to this general statement). However, if you normally lift heavy items, and then at a certain time you lift a heavy item in the normal fashion, but you feel an unusual sensation in your lower back than becomes painful a little later, then you have probably suffered a "specific traumatic incident." If the doctor says that this incident caused a spine injury, then you should be covered under our Workers' Compensation law. But the insurance adjuster will probably still deny the claim. If that happens you will need to get a lawyer to help you. A Certified Specialist in Workers' Compensation Law will likely be able to help you obtain justice for your back injury. We are always offer free workers' compensation consultations at our firm, so do not hesitate to contact me for a discussion of your particular situation.
Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about personal injury law.