Worker Compensation and Statute of Limitations

On-the-job injuries in North Carolina are generally grounds for a workers’ compensation claims to help workers cope with medical expenses and lost wages.
However, anyone needing to file a workers’ compensation claim in Winston-Salem should understand the narrow time frame during which they must act. This is called a statute of limitations, and in North Carolina, that limit is two years.

That is 24 months from the date of the injury or illness. In some situations, that’s a very straightforward matter. For example, if you slip and fall at a construction site and break your back, you have exactly two years from the date of that incident in which to file your claim.

Cases of occupational illness and disease can be a bit more complex, as the exposure that caused the illness might not be recognized for some time. In these situations, case law has generally held that the clock on the statute of limitations begins ticking as soon as you are notified by a competent medical authority that you have a disease and that it is most likely work-related. Even if you have been notified of a work-related disease, the statute of limitations may not begin running until you begin to suffer a degree of disability from it.

Regardless, we don’t suggest waiting. You can expect the employer or insurance firm to fight your claim, and if those entities can raise the argument that your complaint wasn’t filed in a timely manner, you can bet they will.

There is also the possibility that other unforeseeable issues may arise.

Such was the case recently for a plaintiff in Missouri. The plaintiff had filed a timely claim for workers’ compensation insurance, only to later learn that he wasn’t actually covered because, as he alleged, his company had failed to maintain proper workers’ compensation coverage.

Unfortunately, his claim against his former employer for negligence in this regard wasn’t filed according to the state’s five-year statute of limitations.

The case, Brown v. CRST Malone, was recently reviewed at the federal level by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The appellate court upheld the earlier ruling by the district court.

According to court records, the plaintiff was contracted to work as a truck driver when he was injured while make a delivery. This injury, he contended, rendered him permanently disabled. He was awarded workers’ compensation benefits and began receiving biweekly checks to compensate for his injuries.

However, the following year, a representative for the company notified the plaintiff that the benefits would be cut off because his restrictions weren’t related to his work injury. When his attorney began to further explore the issue, he learned there might be an even bigger problem, as it did not appear the employee had a valid insurance policy at the time of his injury.

The company had contracted with an insurance firm to provide group workers’ compensation coverage, which would have included this worker, and premiums were even deducted from the worker’s paycheck. However, the policy was later canceled following a dispute between two insurers. Still, the company continued to take deductions from the workers’ paycheck – even though those payments didn’t actually reach the insurance provider.

Three years later, an administrative law judge ruled that the plaintiff was not insured by a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy at the time he was hurt.

The worker then filed the negligence lawsuit against his employer. However, the district court granted a summary judgment in favor of the employer on the grounds that the complaint had exceeded the statute of limitations for such claims.

If you have been injured at work in Winston-Salem, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Brown v. CRST Malone, Jan. 3, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth cuit

More Blog Entries
Work Accident Reporting Critical to On-the-Job Safety, Dec. 1, 2013, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

Contact Information