If I collect workers’ compensation in North Carolina, can I sue my employer or someone else for my injury?

George Francisco

Answered by:
George Francisco

Located in Winston-Salem, NC
George Francisco Law

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The circumstances surrounding a work injury can be complicated. Under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act, most employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance benefits to an injured employee. Benefits include medical coverage and salary at two-thirds your normal income (but it is tax free so the amount is close to regular income). North Carolina’s no-fault system of workers’ compensation is designed to provide speedy and certain benefits to an injured worker; however, the worker who receives workers’ compensation forfeits the right to sue his or her employer for personal injury. Yet, there are exceptions and, in some cases, an employee with a work-related injury may sue an employer.

If your injury is the result of an employer’s intentional action, you have the right to refuse workers’ compensation and sue your employer in civil court. One example of inflicting intentional harm is if an employer exposes a worker to chemicals or work conditions that they know have harmed other workers. This is often referred to as a Woodson claim, named after the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in Woodson v. Rowland (1991).

Separate from these instances, however, is the possibility of suing a third party for your injury. This party may be a contractor, supplier or co-worker whose negligence or recklessness was the direct cause of or contributed to your injury. If your third-party lawsuit is successful, you may be required to reimburse your employer for a portion of the workers’ compensation benefits. Keep in mind though that the reward is likely to be significantly more than the workers’ compensation benefits.

While each work injury situation is different, know that your acceptance of worker’s compensation can limit your ability to pursue a lawsuit. If you are injured on the job, it is in your best interest to immediately consult with a lawyer who is well-versed in workers’ compensation law and has experience with personal injury cases.

I am a board-certified specialist in workers’ compensation law and civil trial law who has served Winston-Salem and surrounding areas since 1983. I’m dedicated to the victims of work accidents and other personal injury. For a free initial consultation for your workers’ compensation case, please visit my website at or call me at 336-722-5088.


Answered 05/14/2014

Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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