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North Carolina agency increasing workers comp claim enforcement

The chairwoman of the North Carolina Industrial Commission said recently that the commission has formulated plans to deal with evidence that employers in the state are not insuring tens of thousands of employees under workers' compensation regulations. In addition, the commission found that workers sustaining injuries on the job were not compensated for their medical expenses or lost wages. As a result, workers ended up with permanent disabilities and were surviving on welfare.

Now the commission is taking an aggressive stance against employers who have not settled claims with injured workers: either they must pay up or go to jail. A contempt hearing has been scheduled this month for more than a dozen employers who have not resolved long-standing claims. If employers fail to settle these claims, they will be sent to jail, and if they do not appear at the hearing, they will be placed under house arrest.

The commission contacted nearly 100 workers who were injured on the job whose cases remain outstanding. The employers who ignored the commission's instructions to settle their claims will also be contacted.

The power to demand proof of coverage from employers lies with the commission, but it routinely confers with a private group to gather relevant insurance information. According to the Department of Commerce, approximately 170,000 North Carolina companies have four or more employees -- above the threshold for determining whether the employer must carry workers' compensation coverage.

Another firm that tracks businesses estimates that 174,000 companies with headquarters in the state have three or more employees. However, the private company used by the commission accounted for only 140,000 businesses, leaving a chasm between the businesses that are accounted for and those that are not.

Source: News & Observer, "N.C. agency will force employers to pay injured workers," Mandy Locke, April 19, 2012

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