FAQ: Retention of Workers’ Compensation Records

When I am asked a records retention question I, like you, hope to find a simple, straightforward disposition instruction. As any of you who work in human resources might expect, this is not the case when it comes to workers’ compensation records. This is in part because the nature of claims resulting from workplace injuries are complicated and often awkward (to say the least).

In North Carolina, workers’ right to compensation in the light of accidental injuries or illnesses suffered on the job is delineated in General Statute 97, the Workers’ Compensation Act. G.S. §97 also sets the retention requirements for the records associated with workers’ compensation claims. If the claim occurred before July 5, 1994, you have to keep these records forever. If the claim was after this date and involved Form 18M, you have to keep the records forever. However, if the claim occurred after July 5, 1994 and did not involve Form 18M, then you can destroy the records 5 years after the case is settled.

Here is what these retention requirements look like in the State Agency General Schedule:


And here is what this information looks like if you work for a local government agency:


Be sure to transfer the official copy of claim records to the Industrial
Commission in compliance with G.S. 97-92(a). Also, bear in mind that these records are confidential, per the following rules from the Industrial Commission:

“The Industrial Commission’s Rule requires that information in workers’ compensation files will be released only to the: 1) Claimant, upon proving identity and signing a release form; 2) Executor or administrator of a deceased claimant who provides authorization and signs a release form; 3) Claimant’s employer and/or insurance carrier or self-insured adjuster; and, 4) Lawyer representing any of the above parties. Industrial Commission Rule, promulgated pursuant to G.S. §97-25, June 15, 1990.

Records of the Commission that refer to accidents, injuries and settlements shall not be open to the public. G.S. §97-92.”

For more information on confidential public records, please see our resource, Laws Relating to Confidential Records Held by North Carolina Government.