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Study finds North Carolina behind on workers' compensation

North Carolina requires most employers to purchase workers' compensation insurance for the benefit of its employees. When the employers fail to do so, an employee injured on the job may have a very hard time getting the benefits he or she deserves. However, a recent report found that the state agency that is supposed to make sure employers are buying the insurance is not doing enough to enforce the law.

According to the report, 30,000 North Carolina employers that legally must maintain workers' compensation insurance do not do so. The North Carolina Industrial Commission is supposed to monitor employers and impose penalties when they don't live up to their responsibilities, but the report said that the commission rarely collects fines from these scofflaw employers. The commission issued $6.5 million in penalties in 2012, but has collected only two percent of that.

Workers' compensation benefits are vital to employees who have been hurt on the job. Workers' compensation covers medical expenses from injury or illness, lost income, retraining costs and compensation for any permanent injuries. It also provides benefits to survivors if an employee is killed on the job.

The trade-off is that workers' compensation takes the place of other legal actions. That is, when a worker collects these benefits, he or she is usually barred from suing the employer over the injury.

The system can be a great help to workers struggling to pay the bills after a workplace accident or illness, as well as a boon to employers who might otherwise be stuck in an expensive lawsuit every time an employee is hurt. But it requires the employers to do their part and the government to do its part as well.

Source: Insurance Journal, "North Carolina fails to Enforce Workers' Compensation Mandate: Auditor," Emery P. Dalesio, Feb. 21, 2013

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