Under North Carolina law, most employees are covered by the Workers’ Compensation system (except for those working for employers who regularly employ fewer than three employees in one business, or, in the case of agricultural employers, fewer than 10 non-seasonal full-time employees). However, independent contractors are not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, and neither are “casual” employees, according to the Workers’ Compensation Act. Do you know whether you qualify as an employee or an independent contractor, or whether you are a “casual” employee?
If you have suffered a work-related injury, or if you feel that your work environment has placed you at an increased risk of getting a work-related illness and has in fact caused you to develop that disease, you should contact an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney for a detailed evaluation of your case. Don’t jump to the conclusion that you are not an “official” employee. You should discuss your case with an attorney even if you have signed a contract that describes you as an “independent contractor.” What determines your status is not the terminology of the agreement, but the real conditions of the employment relationship that existed between you and your employer at the time when the injury occurred. If an employer exercised a sufficient degree of control over the way in which you did your job, you may not be an independent contractor. If the employer provided you with the tools required for your work, set your hours, trained you, or required you to work at the employer’s facilities, you may in fact be considered an employee for workers’ compensation purposes.
You might also think that you are not an “official” employee because you don’t have a written contract with your employer. However, oral employment contracts, if properly proven, are as effective as written ones when it comes to workers’ compensation rights. If you had an oral agreement with your employer, consider any actions taken by the employer that might prove the terms of that agreement, and discuss your situation with an attorney.