Debate Over North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law Heats Up (Part 1)

May 12, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

In this two part blog post on the possible reform of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system, we’re going to boil down legislation proposed recently by business groups.

According to an Associated Press article from April 22nd, business groups are practically giddy about the potential to alter North Carolina workers’ compensation laws to reduce employer costs and set limits and constraints.

The AP quotes Bruce Clark, the President of a business group called Capital Associated Industries: “a multi-million dollar event with no legal means to ever end or settle the open-ended, lifelong claim… this is not what good and fair workers’ compensations do around the country and it should not happen here.”

The newly Republican controlled state General Assembly aims to prioritize workers’ comp reform, and the proposed bill will do the following:

• Limit temporary total disability payments to approximately 9.5 years (currently, these payments can last a lifetime)
• Extend benefits for families of workers who die on the job from 400 weeks to 500 weeks.
• Burial benefits will also be ratcheted up by an additional $10,000.
• A provision will be inserted that “would allow employers, their attorneys and their insurers access to the medical records and physician of an injured worker seeking compensation.”
• Workers will be restricted in how they choose the physicians who treat them.

Advocates of hurt workers admit that some people do try to “game” the system by staying on workers’ comp too long or even faking symptoms. But they also point out that insurance companies and employers work relentlessly to challenge claims. The AP article quoted an advocate: “every insurance company works overtime to limit payouts, sometimes by putting injured workers on a carousel of different doctors until one provides an employer friendly diagnosis.”

The AP article then discusses the sad case of a 42-year old Randolph County man, Levy Grantham, a tree trimmer who seriously hurt his back, arm and shoulder on the job. Grantham’s “employer’s insurer… sent [him] to five doctors after the initial diagnosis in a pattern of persistent refusal to provide timely treatment.”

So the debate rages on, and both business advocates and advocates of hurt workers are more than well aware of the stakes. In a subsequent blog post, we will discuss possible outcomes to this fractious debate and analyze the deeper implications.

If someone you care about needs immediate help with a claim or a benefits issue, connect with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to go over your resources.

More Web Resources:

NC panel hears effort to change workers’ comp law

NC panel hears effort to change workers’ comp law