To state that a worker must be injured while at work in order to recover North Carolina workers’ compensation seems too obvious a statement. However, many cases rise and fall upon whether the injured worker was “at work” at the time of the injury.
The legal term for this requirement is that the accident in which the worker was injured must “arise out of and in the course of employment.” The employee must be engaged in some activity or duty which they are authorized to undertake, and which is calculated to further, directly or indirectly, the employer’s business.
While this requirement seems obvious, there are many factual occurrences which make it difficult to determine whether the accident meets the legal requirement of being “out of and in the course of employment.” If it does not meet the legal requirement, the worker cannot recover--no matter how severe the injury.
To be payable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, an injury must arise out of and be received in the course of employment. Two ideas are involved here. The words, “in the course of” refer to the time, place and circumstances surrounding the accident, while the words “arising out of” have reference to the causal connection between the injury and the employment. The courts have said the manner in which the injury occurred or the phrase “arising out of and in the course of employment” encompass two separate and distinct concepts “out of” and “in the course of,” both of which must be satisfied in order for particular injuries to be held payable under the Act.
An injury arises out of employment when it is a natural and probable consequence of the employment and the natural result of risks inherent with such employment, so that there is some causal relationship between the employment and the injury.
A cocktail waitress’ injuries sustained when she tried to escape from a guest of the resort who had kidnapped and sexually assaulted her, arose out of and in the course and scope of her employment, even though the attack occurred after the employee’s workday ended when she stopped on a resort road to assist a guest, who she assumed had car trouble.
When an employee was injured by accident while riding in a truck on a vacation pleasure trip which was provided and paid for by his employer as a matter of good will and personnel relations among employees, that injury is held not to be within the course and scope of the employment and therefore not payable.
When an employee was injured while attending a good will picnic at the invitation of the employer, the court held that that injury was not payable, where the employee did no work and was not paid for attendance, nor penalized for nonattendance. On the other hand, in another case where an employee injured her ankle while dancing at an annual Christmas party sponsored and paid for by her employer, where wages were paid for the time the employee spent at the party, and where the plant manager considered the party an employee fringe benefit, the court held that that injury was payable.
Learn about accidents that develop as a result of an employer supplying alcohol to employees.