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Fatal Workplace Injuries in North Carolina: Common Causes

A fatal workplace injury scars it forever. North Carolina employers are responsible for keeping the work environment safe for workers. Employees, on their part, have to follow the best safety practices of their industry. Unfortunately, however, being careful does not stop accidents from happening, and sometimes they end fatally.

This article looks at the common causes of fatal workplace injuries in North Carolina. Our workers’ compensation lawyers also discuss death benefits and who can file. Contact Waple and Houk if a loved one dies in a workplace accident.

What Are the Common Causes of North Carolina Workers’ Death?

In 2020, North Carolina recorded its deadliest year for fatal workplace injuries. There were 91 deaths, including 26 from COVID-19. Below we look at some of the common causes of these fatalities.

Falls From Elevation 

Falls are one of the leading causes of occupational deaths. In 2019, 880 workers died from falls, and 244,000 were injured badly enough to require days off of work. This accident is common in the construction industry and among electricians and firefighters. Essentially, it affects workers whose duties need them to work from a height. Falls are preventable if employees wear the proper safety harness when working from an elevated platform.

Struck-By Accidents 

Struck-by accident wounds are injuries produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment. The impact of the object is the cause of the wound. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four types of struck-by hazards:

  • Struck by a flying object
  • Struck by a falling object
  • Struck by a swinging object
  • Struck by a rolling object

Workers can prevent this accident by staying vigilant around heavy machinery and construction materials.

Caught-In or Between Objects and Machinery 

According to OSHA, caught-in or between hazards are injuries resulting from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or between parts of an object. This includes getting caught or crushed in operating equipment, between other mashing objects, between a moving and stationary object, or between two or more moving equipment.

Events classified as caught-in or between accidents include:

  • Cave-ins (trenching)
  • Being pulled into or caught in machinery and equipment (for example, strangulation as a result of clothing getting caught in running machinery and equipment)
  • Being compressed or crushed between rolling, sliding, or shifting objects like semi-trailers and a dock wall, or between a truck frame and a hydraulic bed that is lowering.

Employees can reduce the risk of these occurrences by paying attention to safety instructions. Also, be mindful about loose clothing or hair, and turn off machinery when not in use.


Electrical accidents mainly occur because of unsafe and unmonitored working conditions. In some instances, electrocution occurs due to faulty electrical equipment. But electrocution in the workplace often happens due to inadequate training, negligence, and lack of supervision from the management. Therefore, crane operators and people working on scaffolds near power lines must exercise caution and wear proper safety gear.

When Is a Fatal Workplace Injury Compensable in North Carolina? 

In North Carolina, for a work-related death to be compensable, it must meet two criteria. First, it must be related to a compensable injury or disease, and second, it must have occurred within a specified period. Therefore, the person claiming death benefits must show that the deceased worker’s death was connected to an accidental injury or occupational disease.

However, the injury or disease does not have to be the sole cause of death. The law allows a work comp claim where the covered injury or illness significantly contributed to the demise, even if there were other factors. Similarly, if the wound or disease aggravated a pre-existing condition and resulted in death, the decedent’s beneficiary can claim workers’ compensation.

Suppose the accident happened during the employee’s work, but the primary cause of death is unknown. The deceased’s beneficiary is still entitled to work comp benefits. North Carolina law refers to this as the Pickrell Presumption. The latter also applies where the circumstances of the accident are unexplained.

Furthermore, for a death to be compensable, it must have happened within:

  • The latter of six years from the injury date or the onset of a disability if an occupational disease; or
  • Two years from a “final determination of disability.”

Finally, a fatal workplace injury under North Carolina law is not compensable if it resulted from suicide or an employee’s intentional effort to hurt themselves.

Contact Us Today!

Did you lose a loved one to a workplace accident and can’t determine if you are entitled to compensation? Our North Carolina work comp lawyer can help you determine your eligibility and get maximum benefits. Contact Waple and Houk today for a free case review.