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Step 1 for Workers’ Comp.

Just abut every legal remedy has time limits called “statutes of limitation.”  Normally, lawyers say that the “statute begins to run” (that is, the clock begins to tick on the time to bring a claim ) when the person who wants to bring a claim is injured, or in some cases when they discover they are injured.  Workers comp is an interesting animal in that it has what I will call one-and-a-half statutes of limitation.   What do I mean by this?

First, in North Carolina, the absolute statute of limitations for a comp claim is two (2) years.  This means that the claimant must file their claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission or be barred from ever pursuing the claim.  However, there is another time limit (the “half” part of my description) called the “notice” requirement.  The  notice requirement says that a claimant must give written notice of their injury as soon as possible, but no later than thirty days after the injury.  The Industrial Commission likes to use forms, and there is a notice and claim form (called Form 18) that the injured person may download and fill out.  Once the injured person gives a copy of the Form 18 to their employer within thirty days, and at the same time sends the original to the the Industrial Commission, they have met both the notice and statute of limitations requirements.

For occupational diseases, the 30-day notice period and two-year statute of limitations begin to run when a claimant discovers they have an occupational disease.  That normally is the date the claimant’s doctor tells them that they have an occupational disease.   So, if your doctor informs you that the elbow pain you’ve had for the past six months is actually a case of “tennis elbow” caused by the constant motion you have to do for your job, you have thirty days from the time the doctor tells you that to do the Form 18.

If you would like to read what the Industrial Commission has to say about filing a claim, click here.

 

What about “occupational diseases?”

Workers’ compensation claims also may be the result of “occupational diseases.” North Carolina’s Act contains a whole list of diseases that are covered at N.C.G.S. Section 97-53. The list includes the “traditional” industrial diseases, such as asbestosis and silicosis and hearing loss, plus a “catch-all” section that includes any disease caused by conditions peculiar to a particular trade or job.

The “catch-all” section specifically excludes the “ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed.” So, that nasty case of the flu you got at work is not likely to be covered — but that case of carpal tunnel syndrome may be!