On December 27, 2012, the Charlotte Observer brought a disturbing story to light. The article discussed the plight of North Carolina workers who had been injured but whose employers had failed to have the required workers’ compensation insurance in place. Without insurance, employers became responsible for paying damages to injured workers themselves. Unfortunately, the Charlotte Observer reported that many workers simply weren’t being paid.
Our Greensboro workers’ compensation attorneys believe that every injured worker deserves workers compensation benefits as guaranteed under North Carolina law. We work to help injured workers get the benefits they deserve and we applaud the Charlotte Observer for drawing attention to the problem of workers whose employers failed to follow the rules.
When Employers Don’t Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Almost every employer in North Carolina is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Unfortunately, the Charlotte Observer points out that many employers don’t do as they are required. According to the Observer, an April report revealed that as many as 30,000 employers didn’t carry the required workers’ compensation insurance.
When an employee works at a company that doesn’t have proper insurance, that employee can face a major problem if he or she gets injured. The Observer told some stories of workers in exactly this situation. Employers are supposed to pay the bills and costs for these workers, but many employers don’t do as they are required. One worker, for example, was owed more than $100,000 in payments by his employer and had received only $75.
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission is attempting to force employers to pay what is required, calling back cases and even threatening employers with jail time if they do not pay what they owe to their injured workers. This has been successful in some cases, as bosses that are threatened with going to jail have reportedly worked out payment arrangements and began paying workers. However, many workers still wait to receive the compensation that they need to pay their medical bills and support themselves while too impaired to work.
One possible solution suggested in the Charlotte Observer is that the state should set up a fund to protect injured workers and make sure they get benefits if they are working for an employer who failed to have the required insurance. Money for the fund could be provided, at least in part, by penalties charged against employers who do not have the workers’ compensation insurance they are required to buy. South Carolina set up such a fund 30 years ago and the fund is supported by a fee attached to workers’ compensation premiums.
If North Carolina followed suit, the fund could go a long way towards helping injured workers in the state get the help they need. Workers’ compensation is supposed to be a social safety net that guarantees that injured workers’ don’t end up reliant on Medicaid, Social Security disability and food stamps. If workers’ compensation fails due to employers not buying the insurance that they are required to purchase, there should be a fallback system to ensure that the full cost of supporting the injured worker doesn’t land on the taxpayers.
If you or your loved one has been injured on-the-job, contact the Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case. Call 1-800-887-1965.
State and Federal OSHA – A Question of Proper Enforcement, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 6, 2012