The basics of North Carolina workers’ compensation law

Workers injured in a workplace accident or who suffer a work-related illness are entitled to workers’ compensation. The process may be complicated, however, and workers must comply with procedural requirements.


All businesses with at least three employees must have workers’ comp. insurance under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. This includes corporations, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and partnerships.

All employees are covered. Covered employees also include unlawfully employed persons, temporary employees, part-time employees, and seasonal workers. Independent contractors may be entitled to coverage depending on the amount of control the business has over their work. Employers can be liable for subcontractor worker injuries if the subcontractor does not have workers’ compensation insurance.


Sole proprietors, members of an LLC and business partners are not covered employees. They may, however, elect coverage if they meet specific requirements.

These employees are also exempt from coverage:

  • Casual employees who do not work in a regular business or trade, do not work regular hours and who may leave their job without notice.
  • Domestic and household employees.
  • Farm workers if there are less than 10 employees.
  • Railroad workers.
  • Corporate officers who elect for exclusion from coverage, but they still count as employees to determine whether the employer has at least three employees.

Workers’ compensation benefits

Workers’ compensation provides numerous benefits for workers who suffered a work-place injury or illness. These include:

  • Medical costs for a work-place injury.
  • Ongoing care for an injury or illness such as physical therapy or rehabilitation services.
  • Missed wages during recovery from an injury or illness.
  • Medical benefits for exposure to harmful chemical chemicals or allergens at work that caused illness.
  • Funeral costs if a work-related injury was fatal.
  • Repetitive workplace injuries.
  • Medical bills and lost wages for an employee with a disability who cannot return to work or works in a different capacity because of their workplace injury.


Injured workers must act quickly and report the accident to their employer within 30 days. Within two years of their injury or disease, they should file a claim on a Form 18 with the state Industrial Commission.

While filing a claim, workers must show that their job caused their injury or illness, an employment relationship with their employer and that their injury or illness caused losses covered under the NCWCA.

Employers can contest benefits and there may be legal proceedings. Legal assistance can help assure that injured workers do not unintentionally surrender their rights and navigate this process.

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