Top North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Zero In on Heartrending Case Out of Connecticut

March 28, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

While many North Carolina workers’ compensation blogs focus specifically on breaking stories in state, this blog likes to take time occasionally to report on stories from around the nation (and sometimes from around the world) that concern NC workers, employers, insurance agents, and other key players in the system.

On March 21st, The Hartford Courant reported on the poignant story of Stephanie Laurin, who was engaged to a man killed at a Manchester, Connecticut beer distributing company last year by an enraged coworker. Eight people died in the shooting, which made national headlines.

William Ackerman, Laurin’s fiancé, had been receiving $500 per week in workers’ comp. Now, Laurin wants to collect that money. But the Hartford distributor and its insurer has denied Laurin’s claim because she was not technically a family member… even though she was engaged to Ackerman for four years. The key legal question here is: can Laurin be considered a “dependent” or not? According to The Hartford Courant, experts believe that Laurin’s case may wind up before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

If she wins (or loses), therefore, it won’t directly impact the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. But you can be assured that legal experts, lawyers, judges, and policy analysts will be watching the situation carefully. The fact is, the law is constantly redefining the scope, mission, and function of workers’ compensation. Who should be entitled to benefits, for how long, under what circumstances, and for what conditions? Who should pay for those benefits? What constitutes a fair and reasonable response to workplace tragedies?

These and other questions consume the minds of policy makers, judges, and legal experts – there is no “one size fits all” solution to them. Indeed, the answers change dynamically from year to year based on things like political fads, economic constraints, injury rates, and probably dozens of other factors that may be very difficult to measure.

One lesson here is that it’s dangerous to draw sweeping conclusions about the “fairness” or “unfairness” of this system based on one news story or even one piece of legislation. The system is complicated. Even if all key players involved had the best of intentions, occasionally “unfair” situations will arise. For instance, in this case, perhaps, morally speaking, Laurin should qualify as a dependent. But maybe the court will say no because saying “fine” would open the door to legal chaos. Is this fair or not? The answer is obviously up for debate. But the fairness or unfairness of the resolution of Laurin’s quandary should not necessarily reflect positively or negatively on the Connecticut workers’ comp system as a whole.

These complicated argument aside… many people out there have specific and direct questions about their benefits that they need answered now. For instance, maybe you’re dealing with an unfair insurance company or a boss who won’t listen to your concerns or a physician doesn’t believe that you are hurt.

If you need any help, look to a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm with lots of experience and the wherewithal to deliver good results.

More Web Resources:

Manchester, Connecticut beer distributing company shooting

Stephanie Laurin’s struggle