When workers get hurt on the job, they can rack up thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages. Reputable employers carry insurance to cover their employees’ work-related costs. In fact, workers’ compensation insurance is required for employers who have three or more employees.
The News & Observer conducted an investigation into how well local companies follow those laws. The results were frightening. According to an article published in today’s News & Observer, tens of thousands of employers don’t carry the required insurance. In addition, when workers became injured, the state Industrial Commission has done little to make sure that their medical bills are paid. The good news is that the investigation results were eye-opening to the Commission:
“In response to the issues you raised, we now have some concrete plans,” said Pamela Young, chairwoman of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the state agency charged with enforcing the workers’ comp laws.
Those plans include a contempt hearing involving more than a dozen employers on May 22 to settle workers’ claims that have dragged on for years, and special hearing to deal with lingering uninsured cases. Companies that ignore the commission’s orders to pay their workers will be called back, as well.
According to Joseph Hodgin, a Workers’ Compensation lawyer with HensonFuerst Attorneys:
We should all applaud the Industrial Commission for cracking down on uninsured employers. Our state’s workers are our most important resource. The idea of leaving them hurt without any meaningful way to receive medical attention is unacceptable.
I am pleased to see that the Industrial Commission is taking action that will positively affect all of us. Make no mistake, the problem of uninsured employers does not just affect injured workers. When an employer does not carry insurance, many injured workers do the only thing they can, which is to turn to public assistance for help. This assistance is funded by our tax dollars. Cracking down on uninsured employers helps all of us.
According to the news article, Pamela Young says she has been working to establish a process for dealing with uncooperative employers since 2009. Tracy Curtner, an attorney currently in private practice who used to work for the Commission said that she had already created a contempt procedure in 2008, and that it was “set and ready to go” back then.
Whatever the reason for the delay, we’re happy that it appears that action will finally be taken. Injured workers–and all North Carolina residents–deserve better than uninsured and unlawful employers.
To read the full story in the News & Observer, click here: NC agency will force employers to pay
To learn more about Workers’ Compensation rights, visit our dedicated webpage here: HensonFuerst Workers’ Comp
All Worker’s Compensation claims in NC are handled through the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Worker’s Compensation claims are not handled in the normal civil court system that most people are familiar with: judges, juries, etc. The Industrial Commission is comprised of multiple administrative levels of appeal. When there are disputes, those issues are handled in front of Deputy Commissioners and Commissioners. Most decisions are then made at a later time and are issued in paper form. It goes without saying that this process is very unfamiliar to most people. That is why it is important for injured workers to consult with an attorney before embarking on this process.
Joey Hodgin has talked to a lot of injured workers. One concern that often arises, is an injured worker’s concern that they are “suing” their employer. For whatever reason, their employer, friend, co-worker, or family member has told the injured worker that he/she shouldn’t sue the company. The reality is that the injured worker isn’t suing anybody. In the state of NC, lawsuits are not involved in WC. Any injury related issues are handled in front of the NC Industrial Commission in an administrative forum. Additionally, there is a very specific provision in NC law that disallows lawsuits, save a very few exceptions, when an individual is hurt on the job.
Workers’ Comp., whether findings of fact supported by competent evidence; whether failure to file Form 44 abandons appeal to Full Commission; whether disability was proven by plaintiff under Russell v. Lowes Prods. Among other issues, the Court of Appeals affirmed and Opinion and Award of the Industrial Commission denying permanent and total disability benefits to the claimant. The Court of Appeals held that because the claimant had been released to full duty by her treating physician, she had not met her burden of proving disability under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Please click here for more information.
The employer admitted that it employed 3 or more employees from 1988 through March 22, 2006. The employer also admitted that during that time period it did not carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance. Consequently, the employer was fined by the Industrial Commission pursuant to N.C.G.S. 97-94(b).
The claimant suffered a compensable back claim on June 5, 2003. The claimant then suffered an aggravation of his initial injury while working for a different employer on January 23, 2006. The Industrial Commission held that because expert medical testimony could not adequately attribute a certain percentage of the claimant’s disability to each employer, both employers were jointly and severally liable for the benefits owed to the claimant.
Workers’ Compensation Rule 502(3)(b); pro se plaintiff’s submission of compromise settlement agreement directly to Industrial Commission did not render agreement unenforceable when it otherwise complied with N.C.G.S. § 97-17(a). Employer tried to back out of a settlement reached with the employee. The settlement was based on the need of a future knee replacement, however the defendants argued that after reaching the agreement, it was clear that the employee did not need a knee replacement. The Industrial Commission enforced the agreement against the employer finding that an enforceable agreement had been reached and was fair and just. The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the Industrial Commission’s decision. Please click here for more information.