If the employer and the injured employee or their dependents fail to reach an agreement regarding an application for workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina, either party may apply to the Industrial Commission for a hearing. This application should be on a Form 33.
This hearing shall be held as quickly as possible and will be held in the city or county where the injury occurred unless the Industrial Commission decides otherwise.
The Industrial Commission will usually assign a deputy industrial commissioner to hear the case. A hearing before a deputy industrial commissioner is much like a trial in civil court except that there is no jury. The deputy industrial commissioner sits as a judge and also decides the factual issues in question.
How long will it take for a decision to be made? The law requires the deputy commissioner to decide the case within 180 days of the close of the hearing unless it extends time for good cause.
If either party is dissatisfied with the ruling of the deputy commissioner, they may file an appeal to the full Industrial Commission which shall review the award.
New evidence is usually not presented at the appeal hearing to the full Industrial Commission. The full Industrial Commission has the authority to issue a completely new decision and make new findings of fact and may make findings of fact contrary to the facts found by the deputy commissioner.
An appeal from the full Industrial Commission can be made to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. However, for this appeal, only issues of law would be decided. The Court of Appeals will uphold any factual issue decided by the Industrial Commission if there is any evidence to support that finding.
The injured worker should be represented by an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer during all hearings, informal or otherwise, before the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Usually very serious and critical issues are decided by the Industrial Commission and it is important that the worker’s rights are protected. Learn more about workers' comp trials and how court costs are evaluated.