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The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently reversed a decision by the North Carolina Industrial Commission (“IC”), in which the IC found that an employee’s injury was not compensable because it did not result “from a fortuitous event, an interruption of his work routine, or an unusual task.” The Court of Appeals reversed the decision, highlighting the nuances of the injury by accident requirement for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claims.
In North Carolina, workers’ compensation benefits are limited to employees who: (1) have suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, or (2) have an occupational disease. If you want to learn more about the injury by accident requirement, check out this blog post: Injuries by Accident and Occupational Diseases.
In Barnette v. Lowe’s Homes Center Inc., the employee–a delivery driver for Lowe’s Homes Center who had a pre-existing back condition–lost all feeling in his right hand and forearm when attempting to deliver a refrigerator in unusually difficult circumstances up a narrow set of stairs. The employer denied the claim and the employee filed a Form 33, contesting the denial. Ultimately the IC found that the injury did not arise by accident, thereby affirming the denial of the employee’s claim.
Citing Gunter v. Dayco Corp., the Court of Appeals noted that “An accidental cause will be inferred . . . when an interruption of the work routine and the introduction thereby of unusual conditions likely to result in unexpected consequences occurs.” Because the staircase was not a standard staircase and was unusually tight, the Court of Appeals found that unusual conditions were present and reversed the IC’s decision. For the employee, this means he will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
This case demonstrates the complexity of North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claims. If you’ve been injured at work, you don’t have to manage your claim alone. Contact Bowman Law PLLC today for a free consultation.