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Proposed bill could usher in era of limited employer liability

North Carolina employers and employees alike may be keeping their eyes on proposed legislation in other states that would limit employer liability in regard to workplace injuries. Employees in Missouri, where a current bill is on the table, consider the reforms to favor employers by restricting workers' rights to file civil lawsuits after a workplace injury.

The new legislation stipulates that employees cannot bring lawsuits against their co-workers in relation to workplace injuries. Workers' compensation would also be expanded to cover occupational diseases, meaning workers cannot sue their employers to collect damages for a work-related illness.

The bill has garnered mixed responses. Those who approve of the measure consider it overdue--the trend of suing coworkers was on the rise and needed to be stopped, they say. The bill is seen by proponents as a balance between the rights of employees and employers by providing detailed provisions for both parties. According to supporters, the legislation will return workers' compensation to its original concept whereby it is the only remedy for workplace injuries.

Those who oppose the bill are of the opinion it belittles the effects of injuries and diseases from which workers suffer. They protest that companies are only concerned with the bottom line and increasing their profits, and this bill will ensure they do not have to pay appropriate compensation to those who are injured on the job.

The bill will only become law if the governor acts on it.

When an employee in North Carolina is injured on the job, he or she may sometimes file both a workers' compensation claim and a tort or personal injury claim. Personal injury claims are an option when negligence contributed to the workplace accident. It can sometimes be important to pursue both types of claims as they each have unique advantages and limits.

Source: Human Resources Journal, "New Workplace Injuries Bill to Provide healing Salve to Employers," March 9, 2012

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