Governor Perdue Signs North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Reforms, Vetoes Malpractice Cap

July 4, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On June 25, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue signed an historic North Carolina workers’ compensation reform into law…and simultaneously vetoed a Republican proposed cap on medical malpractice awards.

Governor Perdue, a Democrat, called the North Carolina workers’ compensation reforms fair and balanced – she argued that the changes both protected businesses and preserved the rights of injured and sick workers. But she was far less effusive about the proposed cap on punitive damages to be awarded in medical malpractice cases. Republicans wanted the limit to be capped at $500,000. Governor Perdue responded in a written statement: “I commend the legislature for addressing this important issue [medical malpractice reform] but, in its current form, the bill is unbalanced… I urge our legislators to modify the bill when the General Assembly returns in July to protect those who are catastrophically injured.”

The North Carolina Senate passed the “medmal cap” bill by an enormous margin, but the House only passed it by a narrow, non-veto-proof margin of 62 to 44. Advocates of the cap were livid. They did not mince the words. A Republican from Rockingham, Phil Berger, the NC Senate’s leader, said Perdue’s actions dealt “a severe blow to the state’s medical community and every citizen struggling to cope with skyrocketing cost of health care.”

Over 30 states currently have some cap on medical liability damages. It’s pretty clear from interest group statements that this battle over a potential cap is far from over.

On the other hand, the changes in the workers’ comp laws have created a not insignificant amount of confusion and agita among claimants and their families. If you or someone you care about has questions about how the reforms might affect you – or needs help with a benefits question – talk to a qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm about your rights and possible remedies.