Two pending cases may change how North Carolina workers' comp cases are valued. The outcome of these cases may double, triple, or quadruple some workers' comp case values.
The two NC workers' comp cases (Mehaffey v. Burger King and Chandler v. Atlantic Scrap) address how attendant care benefits are valued. The big question is:
Can injured workers retroactively receive payments for care given by family members?
First, what are attendant care benefits? Attendant care benefits are along the lines of in-home nursing care required to fulfill the injured person's basic needs. Basic needs may include eating, bathing, dressing, meal preparation, administering medication, and more.
Nurses and trained home health aides are not the only individuals who may provide attendant care. In some cases, family members or legal guardians provide the services for the injured person. Anyone who provides attendant care services is entitled to compensation. Typically, attendant care continues for as long as reasonably necessary.
In June of 2011, the Reform Act clearly defined how attendant care benefits are awarded for all cases developing after June 24, 2011.
The Reform Act explicitly states:
The term "medical compensation" means medical, surgical, hospital, nursing, and rehabilitative services , including, but not limited to, attendant care services prescribed by a health care provider authorized by the employer or subsequently by the Commission, vocational rehabilitation, and medicines, sick travel, and other treatment, including medical and surgical supplies, as may reasonably be required to effect a cure or give relief and for such additional time as, in the judgment of the Commission, will tend to lessen the period of disability; and any original artificial members as may reasonably be necessary at the end of the healing period and the replacement of such artificial members when reasonably necessitated by ordinary use or medical circumstances.
However, cases that took place before June 24, 2011 are unclear about retroactive benefits. One case (Shackleton v. Southern Flooring & Acoustical Company) that settled just a few months before the Reform Act stated attendant care benefits would not be awarded because they were not prescribed by a physician. This case was appealed, and the courts determined that this benefit amount would be valued on a case-by-case basis.
Now the two pending cases may make it possible for injured workers to make claims against their employers and their insurance carriers for retroactive attendant care benefits. Attendant care benefits can be awarded to any injured worker - regardless of the severity of their injury. Whether they now live with a permanent disability and will need life-long care, or if they are temporarily unable to satisfy their own basic needs, injured workers with valid workers' comp cases would be entitled to attendant care benefits.
This could mean significant increases in compensation for North Carolina workers who are injured on the job. If you would like to stay updated on North Carolina workers' comp law changes, follow our workers' comp attorneys on Facebook and Twitter. You can also schedule a no-cost case evaluation with a Raleigh workers' comp attorney.