10 Challenges for the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System in 2010 (Part 1)

December 13, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

The North Carolina workers’ compensation system faces daunting challenges in the upcoming decade. Here are some of the foremost problems that pose issues for workers, small business owners, insurance companies, and the state government alike in the year ahead.

1. Epidemic of texting-while-driving is causing many more accidents.

As North Carolina workers become more and more dependent on cellular devices to communicate with clients, friends, and family members, more and more people across the state are getting into injury accidents caused by or exacerbated by mobile device use. A recent study out of Virginia Tech (this summer) concluded that texting while driving increases the risk of getting into an accident by a whopping 21 times — that’s significantly more dangerous than driving DUI. Other studies at various independent institutions have confirmed this. Unless we somehow curtail this epidemic of texting while driving, more injury cases will swamp the system.

2. Other distractions at work, such as social networking websites, make employees less attentive to critical tasks.

An endless stream of media distractions competes for the attention of North Carolinians — not just in private and at home but also at work. Many independent studies show that workers who do not concentrate effectively on specific tasks perform these tasks more poorly and less ergonomically. Collectively, the distraction of our state workers is bound to lead to increases in on-the-job accidents — everything from ladder falls to machinery accidents to the ignoring of posted warning signs to devastating effect.

3. A failure to resuscitate the state’s economy could lead to desperate and unwise cost cutting measures.

Small business owners — and large companies alike (such as Wachovia and Bank of America) — have been tightening their belts to compensate for the downturn in the state and national economies. Some of this belt-tightening has yielded improvements in efficiency. And many economists argue that the current NC unemployment rate of around 11 percent is not as bad as the pessimists would have us fear. But the reality is that economic hard times can drive small business owners and workers alike to do dangerous things to keep financially afloat. An independent contractor, for instance, may forego hiring help and attempt to do more work himself. This can put him at risk for increased fatigue and thus increase his risk for getting hurt on the job. Similarly, business owners may be more likely to take risky and perhaps illegal steps to protect their budgets. For instance, a small business owner may forego taking out North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance to cut corners — thus leaving his employees unprotected and setting up serious legal problems down the line which could suck up valuable court time and drain the resources of all litigants.

4. As the stale economy lingers, more workers and employers will become depressed and irritable, which will collectively hurt productivity and set the stage for accidents and injuries.

When you’re depressed, inattentive, anxious, and constantly engaged with financial fears, you don’t work as well, and you don’t communicate with others as effectively. Factors such as worker fatigue, miscommunication, and inability to follow protocol all contribute to injury risk and risk for accidents. Unless our economy stabilizes quickly, we’re likely to see increases in all of these risk factors across industries, which will put hard to identify but nevertheless real and serious strains on the state’s infrastructure.

5. Climate of uncertainty leads to problematic behavior.

How might the massive new Democratic sponsored healthcare bill impact North Carolina workers’ compensation policies? Will the federally funded unemployment benefits run out in 2010? How will the North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance rate slash (due to go into effect in April 2010) impact everything? Will the state’s economy languish or lunge forward? All of these factors and dozens of others can create a climate of confusion and fear in the minds not only of policymakers but also in the minds of bosses and workers. When we collectively lose confidence in our ability to forecast the future of North Carolina workers’ compensation and unemployment policies, costs tend to skyrocket.

If you or a coworker or family member has been hurt on the job in North Carolina, you may benefit greatly from a free, confidential, and zero obligation consultation with a creditable and proven North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney.

More Web Resources:

Texting While Driving is Dangerous

Distractions at Work


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