The Workers' Compensation Act defines an injury by accident as: "An injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment." The employee must have been "about the business of the employer" at the time of the injury. This includes employees who travel as part of their job. Lunch, smoke and bathroom breaks are covered, but parking lots are "iffy" because of who controls the lot. Because an employee was injured at work does not automatically make it a workers' compensation claim. Specifically, there must have been something odd or different about the day that caused the employee to be injured. Adjusters are trained to get the employee to say they were just doing their normal job when they were injured, which is why we counsel our clients to never give recorded statements. If the employee has not been at the job long enough for the activities of the job to have become a part of the "customary and normal activities" of the job, he does not have to show an "accident."
Specific Traumatic Event
The term, "Specific Traumatic Event," applies to back injuries only. The Workers' Compensation Act defines this as: "Where injury to the back arises out of and in the course of the employment and is the direct result of a specific traumatic incident of the work assigned, "injury by accident" shall be construed to include any disabling physical injury to the back arising out of and causally related to such incident." The statute does not require a showing of an event or particular timing of an incident, however a worker who complains of increasing back pain over a period of time without a "specific traumatic event," is unlikely to prevail. North Carolina does accept an "acceleration or exacerbation" theory for pre-existing conditions.
An occupational disease is an "injury" or condition that arises out of the course and scope of the employee's job duties, but does not have a specific date of injury. There are 15 conditions listed in the Workers' Compensation Act that qualify as an occupational disease, however the most common occupational disease claims we handle are those of repetitive motion-type injuries. To prove an occupational disease, the job hazards must put the employee at a greater risk than the general public of contracting the disease. The type, length and intensity of exposure to the job hazard will be significant.
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