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North Carolina Workers' Comp Changes Affect Injured Workers

The down economy has many ripple effects. One of them is more pressure on the workers' compensation system. Across the country, employers in many states are seeking relief from paying work comp insurance costs.

Legislative debate is part of democracy. But legislatures should not push through changes that will harm the ability of injured workers to take care of themselves and their families. After all, that's why worker' comp exists - so that someone who gets hurt at work doesn't have to sue his or her employer in order to be compensated fairly for those injuries.

Has North Carolina workers' compensation been affected by this national trend toward considering work comp changes?

Last June, the North Carolina General Assembly did pass changes to the workers' compensation law. The previous law had allowed injured workers to receive temporary total disability benefits for life. The amended law imposes a 500-week cap on those benefits.

This means that the payments will continue for less than ten years, unless the injured workers qualifies for a specific exemption that is available for catastrophic injuries.

In seeking this change, the goal of employers was clear: cost containment. But as workers' rights groups pointed out, the changes raises concerns about whether workers will receive sufficient compensation in cases of permanent disability.

The revised law is likely to result in reduced insurance premiums for manufacturers and other employers. The exact amount of the reduction is not yet clear, because rates are calculated on any annual basis.

The revised North Carolina law contained other changes as well. It cut the size of the N.C. Industrial Commission, aiming to give industry a stronger voice there. The law also provides assistance to manufacturers for the placement of injured workers in temporary or light-duty jobs, after doctors have given approval.

Source: "How changes in workers' comp will affect N.C. manufacturers," Charlotte Business Journal, 9-9-11

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