When are North Carolina workers' compensation benefits due?
When an employer admits that the employee is entitled to workers' compensation benefits, the employer is required to begin making weekly workers' compensation payments no later than the 14th day after the employer has written or actual notice of the injury or death. By the 14th day after such notice, the employer shall pay all compensation then due.
After the initial payment which must be made no later than 14 days after notice, the employer is required to make weekly payments.
If any installment of compensation is not paid within 14 days after it becomes due, the worker can collect a penalty in an amount equal to 10 percent of such overdue payment.
If the employer denies the claim, it must notify the employee and the Industrial Commission of this refusal to pay compensation.
After receiving notice of this denial, it is the employee’s burden to file the appropriate forms with the North Carolina Industrial Commission to ask for a hearing on the issue of whether the employer is obligated to pay workers' compensation benefits to the employee.
The employer is under no obligation to make workers' compensation payments if it files a denial of the claim. The employer does not have to pay benefits pending a hearing to resolve the issue of its liability to the employee. Interest does not accrue on the employer’s liability to pay workers' compensation benefits until the initial hearing.
Once a hearing is conducted on a denied claim the employer is required to make compensation payments as ordered by the Commission. If the employer fails to make payments as ordered by the Commission within 14 days from the day that each payment is due, the worker is entitled to a 10 percent penalty.
If there is an appeal from the initial hearing to the full Industrial Commission, the employer does not have to make payments to the employee until and unless the full Commission orders such payment.
If the employer denies the worker’s claim and the Industrial Commission ultimately finds that the employer is required to pay the employee workers' compensation benefits, the first installment of compensation payable under the terms of an Award by the Industrial Commission shall become due ten days from the day following expiration of the time for appeal from the Award or judgment or the day after notice waiving the right of appeal by all parties has been received by the Industrial Commission, whichever occurs sooner.
The initial determination of the employer’s liability to pay workers' compensation benefits if the employer denies the claim is made by a Deputy Industrial Commissioner. A Deputy Industrial Commissioner has the power to rule that the employer is liable to the employee for workers' compensation benefits. The employer may then appeal that decision to the full Industrial Commission. Once the Industrial Commission has ruled, the employer may then appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, a process which usually takes a year and a half to complete.
The provision of the law mentioned above which allows the employer to defer payment of workers' compensation benefits by successive appeals which could last several years places the employee at a huge disadvantage.
This ability to defer payments gives the employer a tremendous bargaining advantage over an employee who is out of a job, has no income and whose family is dependent upon him or her for basic survival needs.
There is no real deterrence to discourage an employer from using successive appeals to string out their employees. During the appeals process the employee is left to fend for himself even when he is unemployed, destitute and has no source of income.
The only adverse consequence to the employer for conducting these successive appeals is their own attorneys’ fees and other related costs of the appeal. In certain severe cases, the employer may be ordered to pay a portion of the employee’s attorney fees. The employer will have to pay interest to the employee from the date of the initial hearing at the legal rate of 8 percent. However, this is no real deterrent since the employer and his insurance carrier is able to hold this money during these appeals and presumably collect interest on the money which is due the employee.