The Herald-Sun reports that a new bill aims to reduce compensation benefits, make it easier for insurance companies to eliminate benefits and abolish workers’ rights to physician-patient privacy for those involved in work accidents in North Carolina and elsewhere. The proposals, HB 709 and SB 544, only create the illusion of better compensation for workers and do nothing to positively reform the current system.
Our North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys understand that these new bills are not in the best interest of workers. These bills will only shift the responsibility of compensation payouts from the insurance companies to the tax payers.
As we’ve recently reported on our North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Blog, employers are doing all that they can to weasel their way out of paying claims for work accidents. Worker advocates continue to reiterate that insurance companies are putting in the long hours to make sure that payouts to injured workers are limited and they’re making sure that these injured workers seek doctor diagnoses until an “employer-friendly” one is discovered.
The beginning of workers’ compensation came after the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City. This work accident took the lives of almost 150 workers. At that time, no compensation was paid for their deaths.
After the fire, New York passed one of the first workers’ compensation acts in the United States. Many states followed, and North Carolina eventually passed a law in 1929.
When the first wave of workers’ compensation was presented to U.S. workers, it went a little like this:
-Injured individuals were to receive two-thirds of the weekly wage earned before the injury and for as long as disability continued.
-All reasonable medical bills related to the injury were paid.
-If a body part had been permanently injured, additional payments would be made.
-Each body part was assigned a certain time period of allotted compensation if it was permanently damaged.
-There was no compensation for physical pain or emotional suffering.
-Wages were to never increase when receiving disability funds. You were locked into the wage you were receiving at the time of the incident.
A work accident in 2010 left a 17-year-old boy in pieces after he became entangled in a machine meant to shred pallets to make mulch. A safety bar had recently been removed and the employer had previously been cited with 11 violations. Because of workers’ compensation immunity, the family of this young worker was prohibited from filing a civil claim against the employer. The employer received immunity and the family received very limited benefits, totaling 400 weeks of compensation and funeral expenses of less than $4,000.
The current bill that is pending in the North Carolina legislature allows disability benefits to halt after 500 weeks, even if the employee remains disabled.
Officials don’t worry about disabled workers as they claim they will most likely fall into Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security Disability. This new bill would only shift the medical bills and other compensation payouts from the insurance companies to the taxpayers.
Reform or backpedaling?
If you are dealing with a work accident in North Carolina or are dealing with a workers’ compensation or disability claim, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.