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In the United States, the beginning of the twentieth century was characterized by large-scale, grassroots reform efforts. Protecting workers' rights was among those efforts, sparked largely by Upton Sinclair's work The Jungle. Borrowing from earlier European laws, Wisconsin was the first state to pass a comprehensive workers' compensation law in 1911. Forty-five other states followed suit shortly thereafter, with the last state (Mississippi) adopting workers' compensation in 1948.
Prior to the passage of workers' compensation acts, injured workers were afforded little protection. In order to recover, workers had to file tort1 actions against their employers. While case law typically favored the employer, the advent of the reform-minded public gave rise to inconsistent jury decisions, making employers uncomfortable with quantifying and managing risk.
With the advent of these new laws, the United States moved to a no-fault system. This means that regardless of whether the worker or the employer were negligent in some respect, the worker is entitled to compensation for their injuries.
Why Does Workers' Compensation Exist?
By 1910, employers were generally in favor of workers' compensation due to their increased exposure to accident liability. By preventing workers from bringing tort actions, workers' compensation allowed employers to quantify risk and pass that risk on to their workers' compensation insurance carrier. The worker also received assurance regarding their rights upon injury.
Workers' compensation can therefore be thought of a compromise between the employer and employee. While there is a limit on the amount the employee can recover, the employee is not required to sue the employer in order to recover.
When you think about it, workers' compensation just makes sense. As an employee you are working to further the venture of your employer. If in doing so, you are harmed it only seems fair that the employer would pay to make you whole again. You can think about it like this: If your employer's bulldozer brakes, the employer is going to have to pay to fix it. It wouldn't be fair if the employer asked YOU to pay to fix the bulldozer. In the same regard, when you are working to make money for your employer and you are injured, it would not be fair for the employer to pass those medical costs on to you.
How Does the System Work?
While every state has its own workers' compensation laws, generally speaking a state agency administers workers' compensation claims. In North Carolina, the North Carolina Industrial Commission administers claims.
Typically injured workers are required to begin the claims process by filling out a form and submitting that form to the appropriate state agency. The employer is often required to submit a form as well. The process is highly administrative in nature, and there can be numerous form filing requirements. This is why it is important to hire an experienced workers' compensation attorney to help you obtain medical treatment and compensation.
Note: There is a Federal workers' compensation act that covers federal employees.
North Carolina law, like most states, limits workers’ compensation benefits 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.
Simply put, in order to qualify for benefits, you need to be:
1. An employee,
2. Who was injured by accident or has a qualifying occupational disease, and
3. That injury must arise out of and in the course of employment
What Should I Do if I've Been Injured at Work?
Contacting an experienced workers' compensation attorney is a great first step. Most workers' compensation attorneys provide a free initial consultation and work on a contingency basis. This means that they typically don't get paid unless you do. If you would rather handle the matter yourself, we recommend reviewing blogs like this one as well as the legal resources available on this and other websites. It's important to file your state's initial claim form with the appropriate agency as soon as possible. This may help to ensure your claim is not time barred. Keep in mind that what you write on these forms is very important. Failing to include the appropriate information may result in your claim not being compensable.
If you found this information helpful, please follow our blog CarolinaCompensation™. If you are a North Carolina resident or worker and in need of legal assistance, please Contact Bowman Law PLLC for a free case uation, or call (336) 470-0177 to speak to Attorney Joe Bowman directly.
1 A tort is a wrongful act or omission that is grounds for bringing a civil action in a court of law.