Several members of the N.C. Legislature have proposed House Bill 709, which they shamelessly titled "Protect and Put N.C. Back to Work". I'll issue you a simple challenge: read the proposal and then explain with a straight face how the title of the bill is legitimate. It simply isn't; the title is nothing more than a political scam. I recently spoke with one sponsor of the bill, who could not tell me two critical things: (1) the legislator couldn't explain why he sponsored the bill - his eventual response was that the title said "something about putting N.C. back to work" and someone he knew asked him to co-sponsor the bill; and (2) the legislator couldn't explain any of the language in the proposed bill.
Harry Payne serves as senior counsel for policy and law at the N.C. Justice Center. He previously served as a state legislator, a N.C. labor commissioner, and chairman of the Employment Security Commission. Thus, Mr. Payne has a little insight into labor and the political process. He points out the workers' compensation system is a carefully drafted compromise by which injured workers gave up their right to sue their employer in regular (civil) court for actual damages caused by negligence in all but the rarest cases. In exchange, employees received the certainty of having their medical bills paid in a compensable claim, with two thirds of their average weekly wage during their period of recovery for on-the-job injuries.
Despite the fact that North Carolina enjoys average rates for workers' comp insurance, and the business climate is ranked at or near No. 1 in the nation, business lobbyists have somehow persuaded the N.C. legislature there is urgent need for reform of this system which works. The result is a proposal so full of problems, it is truly difficult to address them in a blog post. Essentially, the bill gives complete control of the medical care of an injured worker to the insurance adjuster while ignoring all right to privacy of the patient. It further installs arbitrary caps on medical and indemnity (weekly) benefits without regard to the extent of the disability suffered by the worker in most cases.
Many individuals will debate this proposal in Raleigh. However, thousands of injured workers around N.C., and right here in Charlotte, will suffer its effects. The proponents of this bill will not be the ones to suffer; however, their forgotten constituents will see their lives ruined as they face the unfortunate realities of this bill in terms of their medical treatment and their work capacity. If you suffer an injury at work or otherwise, you should contact a qualified Charlotte personal injury attorney promptly to discuss your legal remedy. However, it is crucial that you contact your representative and oppose this bill immediately.