Earlier in 2011 the North Carolina General Assembly passed changes to the NC workers' compensation laws that significantly change how claims will be processed and awarded. Thousands of NC workers and employers are affected by the changes to NC's workers' comp laws. This is the first time in 17 years the state has made extreme changes to these laws.
Not only does the bill make changes to the laws that affect workers injured on the job in NC, but it also changes benefits for those who collect disability or death benefits. There was no cap on disability benefits, however the new law caps disability benefits at 9 ½ years. The bill extends temporary partial disability payments from 300 to 500 weeks. Families that receive survivors' death benefits now have an extension from 400 to 500 weeks, plus burial expense coverage has increased from $3,500 to $10,000.
One of the sections in the new bill enforces that if employers can prove an employee "knowingly and willingly" lied about their physical condition, which is related to the occupational injury or disease, and their lie resulted in the employer offering the job, then the employer does not have to pay weekly benefits-including health benefits.
Another section changes employers' access to injured workers' medical records. Before, employers had unlimited access to health care providers, now they only have access to medical records for treatments that they are paying for.
The significant reforms to the laws mean NC employers, injured workers, insurance companies and lawyers must learn the new obligations and restrictions. The legislation came at a time when North Carolina's unemployment rate was 9.9%. The changes to the bill apply only to claims made on or after June 24, 2011, the day the bill was passed.
NC workers' comp law is complex, and even more challenging for injured workers to navigate with the changes. NC workers' comp attorneys at Brent Adams & Associates will help you understand your options and the new laws if you or someone you know is receiving or wants to receive workers' comp benefits.