Legislative Update: Status of Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina

Today I am attending a Workers’ Compensation Roundtable at the North Carolina Advocates of Justice in Raleigh, NC.  After lunch, Gina Cammarano provided us with a legislative update regarding the status of Workers’ Compensation reform at the General Assembly.

Although a bill has not yet been filed, it is clear that the insurance companies have the ears of our state representatives.  We initially thought that the bill would include a cap for lifetime benefits at 500 weeks, even in cases where an injured worker is completely and totally disabled.  We also thought that the bill would include language that gutted the statute with regards to the current requirement that an injured worker must have “substantially similar” employment to go back to work.

However, now we are aware that the effects of the bill may be far worse than originally expected…  Here are some of the things that we learned today.

  1. The proposed legislation will give the insurance companies complete control over your medical care
  2. You will be able to choose your doctor, but only from a list of doctors pre-approved by the insurance company
  3. In cases where you have the burden of proof at a hearing, you will be unable to introduce expert witness testimony from an independent doctor (this doesn’t seem to pass constitutional muster to me, but sometimes the state representative’s don’t understand that)
  4. You will have to make an election of benefits
  5. The insurance company representatives will be able to talk to your doctor without your presence or knowledge!!

This is all a ploy to transfer the burden of paying expenses for injured workers from the insurance companies that are contractually liable to pay these expenses to the taxpayers of the State of North Carolina.

Bottom Line? This bill is bad for injured workers, it is bad for doctors, it is bad for business, and it is bad for North Carolina and it’s taxpayers.  Don’t let the insurance companies reap a windfall at the expense of the taxpayers.  Contact your representative and tell them to stand up for North Carolinians and vote NO on Workers’ Compensation reform.

Flash Fire at Sherwin Williams Plant leads to burned worker

A Flash Fire at the Sherwin Williams Plant in Greensboro has burned a worker, reports CBS News.  The fire happened Thursday morning and burned the worker on his arms and face.

This unfortunate incident was the result of chemical vapors igniting, reports fire investigators, and is yet another reason that workers must be vigilant in maintaining a safe work environment.

The Raleigh Workers Compensation Lawyers at The Hart Law Firm understand how devastating a tragic event such as this can be.  Chemical burns are a serious danger of working in any factory.  When you or a loved one is involved in an accident like this, it is important for you to consult legal counsel about your rights.

The actions you take in the initial hours and days after a workplace accident can have a significant impact on your case and how it gets resolved.  The insurance companies will do anything they can to deny your claim or limit the workers compensation benefits you are legally entitled to – don’t let that happen to you.

One of the first things that this worker or his family must do is inform his employer (Sherwin Williams), in writing, of the accident.  Seems like a pretty simple thing to do, right?  But six months or a year from now, nobody will remember how severe this accident was, and if he failed to write this very important letter, it could be used against him in court.  In a severe workplace accident, such as a flash fire, this very simple step is often overlooked.

After getting appropriate medical treatment, the next thing I would advise this worker to do is contact an attorney to learn more about his rights.  A workers compensation lawyer can help him to navigate this treacherous and complicated claim – and make sure nothing is overlooked.

If you or a loved one was injured in a Flash Fire or Other Workplace Accident, contact a Workers Compensation Lawyer today.

Call the Raleigh Workers Compensation Lawyers at The Hart Law Firm to schedule a free consultation at (919) 460-5422.  Alternatively, you may complete our online contact form and a representative of our office will call you back within 24 hours.

Insurance Company Lobby wants NC Legislators to cut benefits to Workers

Anyone who has been following Workers Compensation in North Carolina over the recent months (or years) knows that there is a constant battle raging with the insurance company lobbyists that are trying to persuade legislators to introduce a bill (we think, the bill hasn’t been introduced yet) to cap benefits for totally disabled workers at 500 weeks and force workers to take jobs that are not substantially similar to what they were doing pre-injury (and at lower income levels).

Your state representatives are being pressured by insurance company lobbyists and the NC Chamber of Commerce to reduce benefits to injured workers. One of the changes being pushed is placing an artificial cap on the number of weeks of weekly compensation benefits an injured worker can receive. That would allow weekly compensation benefits to be stopped even if someone is still disabled. Another change being considered is forcing injured workers to take any type job they can find if they can not return to the job they were doing when they were injured. An example of this would be a teacher, electrician, construction supervisor or any other worker being forced to take a Wal-Mart greeter job. The loss of income claim resulting from the job change would be capped. Several other reductions to benefits are being considered.

If you are an injured worker who is reading this blog, I encourage you to take action and contact your state representative to tell them how these changes might affect your lives. I ask that you call and write your Representative and Senator and ask them to vote against any new laws that reduce workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers. These new laws will probably pass if legislators don’t hear from the people they represent.

When you contact your representatives, tell them the following:

  • Please tell them how important your workers’ compensation benefits are to you and your family;
  • Let them know what the impact would be on you if your workers’ compensation benefits were reduced or stopped;
  • Tell them about your injury and how it has affected you;
  • Tell them not to give in to the insurance company lobbyists who want them to put profit before injured people;
  • You can also ask your family members and friends to call and write;

If you are not able to speak with your representatives when you call, please leave a detailed message outlining your concerns.

You can figure out who your representative is by going to this web page and inputting your zip code (You will need to go here first to look up the last four digits of your zip code).

If you have any questions, or need some help – please feel free to call my office at (919) 460-5422.  I’d be happy to look up the information for you.

Low Clearance: Truckers watch out!

Thanks to Workers Comp Insider for drawing my attention to this video.  All of the truck accidents in this video took place at a single trestle bridge in Durham, North Carolina.  There was a prominent sign that let everyone know that trucks over 11′ 8″ tall need not pass, but it seems that too many drivers weren’t paying attention.  My initial thought would be that most of the trucks would be casual drivers and rental trucks – but the video tells a different story.  Many professional drivers were involved as well.

If there is a moral to be had in this story, it is that if you drive for work, you must always be careful to pay attention to signs – especially if you drive a semi for a living.  The higher the truck, the more risk you face of an accident on a day-to-day basis.

For you truckers out there, make sure to check the Low Clearance Bridge Database if you are travelling a new route and need to check for problem bridges.  Additionally, America’s Independent Truckers Association also maintains a Truck Escort Referral Service.

Are you too old to receive Workers Compensation?

If you are an ex-Federal Employee who is receiving workers compensation benefits and older than 70 – you may just be.

According to the Workers Compensation Blog published by Jon Gelman, Senator Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) has asked the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to launch an investigation into whether employees in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and even 100’s should still be receiving Workers Compensation benefits, even though there is no chance they would ever go back to work.  Sen. Collins has said that “I am increasingly concerned that individuals with no intention of returning to work continue to receive these benefits.”

I have serious concerns about cutting off benefits to senior citizens without giving them any due process.  An individual who is receiving Worker’s Compensation benefits does not receive the same benefits as someone who is employed, such as a Federal Pension in the case of these Federal workers.  It would stand to reason that if their benefits are cut off, they would have no other comparable income to replace it – with the exception of Social Security which they are probably already relying on.

Cutting off these benefits could have severe consequences to the individuals affected and is not a decision that should be taken lightly.