Trying to understand your rights as an employee under the Workers’ Compensation Act can be difficult and confusing. We’ll break down the law in two parts, Part I discusses injuries and occupational diseases covered in the Act and liability.


  • Injury by Accident Defined: an accident involves the interruption of the work routine, which introduces unusual conditions likely to result in unexpected consequences.
  • Back Injuries/Specific Traumatic Incident : There need not be unusual conditions or a departure from the work routine. It is sufficient if the injury is the result of a “specific traumatic incident.”
  • Arising out of the Employment: The accident must be the result of a risk involved in, or incident to the employment or the conditions under which the employment is required to be performed. There should be a causal relationship between the accident and the employment, although the employment need not be the sole causal force.
  • In the Course of the Employment: Generally, this requirement refers to the time, place, and circumstances under which the injury occurs.
    • The time includes reasonable periods before work begins, after work ends, and for rest and refreshment
    • The place includes the premises of the employer and other locations where the employee is situated at the direct of and for the benefit of the employer.
    • The circumstances include actions of the employee which he is authorized to undertake and which are calculated to further the employer’s business, directly or indirectly.


For diseases specifically listed in N.C. Gen. Stat §97-53, only a causal connection to the employment must be proven. For all other conditions, the employee must establish the following:

  1. a causal connection between the disease and the employment;
  2. the disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the public is equally exposed; and
  3. the disease is characteristic of persons engaged in a particular trade or occupation.


The employer in whose employment the employee was last injuriously exposed to the hazards of the disease is wholly liable for the benefits owed.