February 2010

Insurers lobby government over North Carolina workers’ compensation and other issues

February 26, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Blue chip insurance companies, such as Travelers and Hartford Financial Services Group, heavily lobbied the US government over North Carolina workers’ compensation (among other issues) last year, according to twin reports released on February 9th by the AP.

Travelers spent over $1.6 million in just the fourth quarter last year to lobby Congress, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, and other government agencies.

Hartford Financial Services Group spent more than $0.5 million in that same period.

In addition to lobbying on behalf of North Carolina workers’ compensation concerns, the insurers also sought favorable treatment with respect to consumer protection issues, global warming issues, and insurance regulation reform.

Travelers also lobbied on bankruptcy, asbestos loss, and coastal wind zone issues. Hartford Financial, meanwhile, lobbied on drywall safety issues, retirement securities and flood insurance, and issues concerning the National Insurance Consumer Protection Act.

What should North Carolina workers’ compensation policymakers take away from these concerted lobbying efforts? Will insurance companies substantially impact policy by throwing around their money and influence? And if so, what might insurance-company-induced changes to law and policy ultimately mean for the workers, employers and physicians who must navigate the North Carolina workers’ compensation system?

The reforms these companies seek are complex and technical. But while it might be tempting to dismiss the proposals as purely self-interested (and thus purely destructive to those who might oppose them), only an in-depth analysis of specific policy proposals can lead to any meaningful insights. And even if a particular proposal does look good (or bad) for employees, for instance, there is no way to really know how it will pan out without seeing a full-scale implementation. After all, the real world tends to change policies substantially; the so-called law of unintended consequences guarantees unpredictable outcomes.

These philosophical considerations notwithstanding, if you or a loved one or friend has specific concerns about your North Carolina workers’ compensation, connect with a qualified and highly credentialed attorney. A free consultation can simplify and improve your long-term outlook.

More Web Resources:

Hartford Financial Services Group

Travelers Insurance

Department of Defense may pay out North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits for military personnel injured by environmental containments at Camp Lejeune

February 24, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Military personnel injured by exposure to carcinogenic elements at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina may soon be able to cash in on North Carolina workers’ compensation claims, thanks to a new bill under consideration in the Senate called the “Examination of Exposures to Environmental Hazards during Military Service Act of 2010,” also known as TRICARE. Since January 28th, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has held hearings about how to compensate injured military personnel for damages related to exposure to environmental hazards, such as benzene-based solvents like trichloroethylene.

The Senate bill is designed to respond to complaints at 130 military bases around the nation. These are all listed on something called The Environmental Protection Agency Superfund’s National Priority List. Thousands of military personnel may be impacted by the legislation.

At Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, officers and other personnel came into regular contact with trichloroethylene (TCE) during the course of cleaning airplane parts. This harsh solvent seeped into the ground and local water supply, and many personnel thus indirectly drank it, got it on their skin and inhaled the aromatic compound.

Assuming the proposed Senate bill becomes law, the Department of Defense will have 90 days to create a list “Of individuals exposed to environmental hazards at Camp Lejeune, during the period… in which the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with volatile organic compounds, including known and probable human carcinogens.”

To collect North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits from the DOD, potential beneficiaries will likely have to jump through many logistical hoops. If you or a family member suffered exposure to chemicals at Camp Lejeune, it may behoove you to speak with a qualified and highly credentialed North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to protect your interests and to ensure that you get fair payment for injuries, medical costs, wages lost, and other damages.

More Web Resources:

Examination of Exposures to Environmental Hazards during Military Service Act of 2010

Camp Lejeune

North Carolina Workers' Compensation By the Numbers — The Workers' Compensation Research Institute Looks at the Statistics

February 17, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation policymakers have been pouring over the latest report issued by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), a non-partisan and non-for-profit agency that studies workers’ comp systems throughout the U.S. and internationally. The Cambridge-based WCRI recently finished a mega survey of 15 states including:

• North Carolina
• California
• Florida
• Illinois
• Indiana
• Iowa
• Louisiana
• Maryland
• Massachusetts
• Michigan
• Minnesota
• Pennsylvania
• Tennessee
• Texas
• Wisconsin

Louisiana demonstrated some of the poorest numbers. LA’s costs were more than 35% higher than the average per state costs, and injured employees in Louisiana stayed off of work longer than average – 15 weeks longer, in fact, than the average Michigan worker.

For a summary of the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute study findings, visit the WCRI website.

What do the state and national trends imply for NC policy?

It’s difficult to extrapolate the results of a single survey – even one as thoroughly and level headedly conducted as the WCRI. Many NC Workers’ Comp watchers believe that the raging debate over the healthcare system and jobs recovery act could throw off any analysis. After all, if a federal overhaul the healthcare system pushes through Congress, for instance, this will no doubt radically alter the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation insurance landscape, which in turn will impact patient care, employer costs, and so forth.

What does the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute study mean for you and your case?

Macroscopic trends in NC Workers’ Comp likely won’t impact your personal situation. If you do have questions regarding insurance benefits, employer coverage, physician networks, long-term support, or any other subject, get in touch with a quality and battle proven North Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorney. Address your concerns now, and get the compensation you deserve to return to work and thrive at your career.

More Web Resources:

Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI)

WRCI study, CompScope™ Benchmarks,10th Edition

Insurance Agent Sentenced in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Embezzlement Case

February 15, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

A former North Carolina Workers’ Compensation insurance agent, Terri Lynn Spence, has been sentenced to four years of supervised probation and a full year of house arrest (under electronic surveillance) for multiple counts of embezzlement, according to North Carolina officials.

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner, Wayne Goodwin, publicized Ms. Spence’s sentencing at a news conference. The 34-year-old Emerald Isle resident was ordered to pay more than $46,000 in court fees and restitution to victims of her scheme. All told, 16 different insurance companies and 43 individuals were financially impacted.

Ms. Spence “obtained property by false pretences,” according to investigators at the Department of Insurance, who contacted police officers in La Grange to bust the embezzler back in June 2008. Most of the policies embezzled were North Carolina Workers’ Compensation policies (along with some homeowners’ policies). State officials do not believe that Ms. Spence worked in conjunction with any other entity or syndicate. But her arrest, trial, and sentencing likely have not gone unnoticed by others who would seek to embezzle or otherwise defraud the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation system.

If you or a family member has had trouble collecting your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation benefits, or if you are having any issues filing paperwork, dealing with your employer, managing negotiations with your insurance company, or talking to your physician or rehabilitation specialist about billing, go over your concerns with a qualified North Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorney.

More Web Resources:

Terri Lynn Spence

Wayne Goodwin

Rehabilitation Tips for Employees out on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

February 11, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

You’ve successfully fought for and won a substantial North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claim. Now you are left with the difficult and long-term task of rebuilding your life, planning your career direction, and managing your injury/injuries. Here are some useful tips and solutions as you make this great journey back to financial and physical health.

1. Get support

No one recovers alone. Human beings are social creatures. We need the support of doctors, friends, family members, and other people who are going through similar situations. Reach out to people who can help you, including specialized North Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorneys, support groups, and the helpful operators at the North Carolina Industrial Commission. You are not the first person forced to endure a long and difficult rehabilitation from an on the job injury. And you need not “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to navigating recovery. Listen to what others have to say, and do due diligence and research now to save yourself trouble down the line.

2. Treat your injuries holistically.

You may simply have suffered a sprained finger on the job, or you may have endured something more severe, like a blood injury due to chemical exposure. Whatever the case, in addition to the acute damage the injury/illness has caused you, you have no doubt suffered secondary and even tertiary consequences from the initial insult. Often times, surgery and pain medications can alleviate some of initial symptoms. Work now with your physician to develop a long term system of pain management, exercise, diet, flexibility training, and ergonomic practices. Otherwise, you could easily reopen old wounds and exacerbate current problems. For instance, people who get typing injuries in one hand often revert to using the less favored hand to type — without changing anything fundamental about their work habits. As a result, the less favored hand also gets injured.

3. Budget realistically for the future – and don’t ignore your finances.

While filling out and waiting for a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claim to go through, it’s easy to awfulize bad news and celebrate good news. Try to keep yourself on an even keel. The budgetary uncertainty won’t go away soon – even if your claim goes through fine. You have a difficult and unpredictable recovery and rehabilitation ahead of you. Budget conservatively, and develop workarounds to protect your nest egg and ensure a good quality of life — without creating undue expectations. If your spouse or partner can pick up some of the financial burden, may be that’s something to consider. If you can take on a temporary job that doesn’t stress your injuries or interfere with your rehabilitation, that also might be something to consider. Workarounds abound. The key is to, first of all, be honest about where your financial situation is right now. Only once you have collected all of your concerns, hopes, and fears about your financial future can you make an accurate and active strategic plan.

4. Consult with a reputable and experienced North Carolina Workers’ Compensation firm regarding any legal questions.

Often, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claimants wait until the last minute – or wait until deadlines have passed – to get good legal help. Don’t make that mistake. Whether you are negotiating with insurance companies, dealing with an uncooperative employer, or simply confused by the maze of paperwork presented to you, you need not go down this path alone. A free consultation with a vetted and credentialed N.C Workers’ Comp Attorney can make a huge difference to your financial future and to the prospects for your rehabilitation.

More Web Resources:

Medical Rehabilitation Nurses Section of NCIC


Can improved CAT Scan equipment improve North Carolina Workers’ Compensation treatments?

February 9, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Does the quality of the CAT Scan used on patients impact treatment outcome and cost? The answer may have significant relevance to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases. Consider this argument:

Many CAT Scan technologies in use in hospitals throughout North Carolina were developed in the 1990s and 1980s. When you compare these technologies to emerging CAT Scan equipment (such as the Siemens Somatom Definition Flash), real and potential significant differences emerge. A patient who gets a CAT Scan from an old piece of equipment may receive a fundamentally different diagnosis than a patient who gets analyzed using one of the newer machines!

For instance, on the newer machines, such as the Definition Flash, patients can be scanned in half a heartbeat and need not take beta blockers prior to the scan. These minor differences could be important; when you extrapolate the implications over the entire patient population of United States, we could be looking at potentially millions of dollars a year in patient/doctor savings.

Of course, whenever one does a cost benefit analysis of a new medical technology, we must remember the law of unintended consequence. Adding new machines to hospitals that provide more trustworthy analyses could lead physicians to trust their intuitions less and rely on machines more, for instance. This could lead to doctors ignoring smart intuitions – thus, putting some patients in dange. Furthermore, more accurate imaging technology could lead to more false positives and thus to more unnecessary treatments.

These kinds of concerns must be addressed whenever we debate improvements in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation policy. A policy solution may, at first blush, appear to have no downsides. But the execution of the solution can open a Pandoras Box of problems.

One famous, if peripheral, example of this kind of nasty surprise comes from ecology. In the middle of the 1900s, a Caribbean island was besieged a rat infestation. So the government literally parachuted cats onto the island to eat the rats. But the once the rats were eaten, this severely disrupted the island food chain and created an ecological catastrophe.

To mitigate against the dangers of unforeseen consequences associated with your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claim, discuss your concerns with quality North Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorneys today.

More Web Resources:

CAT Scan

Siemens Somatom Definition Flash

Can you collect North Carolina Workers’ Compensation for your injury?

February 4, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

To collect North Carolina Workers’ Compensation benefits, you must first go through a rigorous and formal process. Even if you were legitimately hurt at work and you have a clear case for needing Workers’ Comp; if you don’t go through official channels, you could be denied compensation and long-term coverage. So, take your time now to understand your options. Go over any questions you might have with a credentialed North Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorney, and plot out a strategic course for your rehabilitation and remuneration.

To qualify, your injury must generally meet the following criteria:

1. You got hurt or sick during the course of your employment.
2. The injury or illness arose directly or indirectly from circumstances of your job.
3. The injury and illness created an impairment which led to medical costs and/or lost wages.

Of course, just because you got hurt on the job does not mean that you will automatically collect North Carolina Workers’ Compensation. Conversely, if you got hurt on the job and it was your fault, you are NOT necessarily denied coverage.

Confused? Let’s take a look at some examples to clarify these points.

Let’s say that you and a co-worker horsed around on some industrial equipment, and you fell off and broke your femur. In this case, you likely would NOT be able to collect North Carolina Workers’ Compensation benefits because your negligence led directly to the injury.

Similarly, let’s say that you suffered a stroke on the job. If you were predisposed to stroke (obese, diabetic, history of stroke, etc), and the condition occurred NOT because of your job, you may not be able to collect Workers’ Comp benefits. (You may have alternative avenues to collect support, however.)

Alternatively, let’s say you suffered a stroke during a particularly stressful time on the job. You might be able to argue that the stress of the situation caused or exacerbated the stroke; and thus you should be entitled to Workers’ Comp.

The point is, at the end of the day, subtle distinctions matter a great deal when it comes to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation benefits. To protect yourself against insurance company harassment, problematic negotiations with your employer, snafus with paperwork, and other potential but not so obvious hurdles. It likely behooves you to discuss your matter with a qualified and trained North Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyer.

A professional attorney can draw upon a deep knowledge of the law and practical applications of the law to provide you with strategic guidance during this difficult time.

More Web Resources:

Workers’ Compensation Criteria

Denied Coverage? It can be maddening!