Kudos to bulldog reporter Mandy Locke with the Raleigh News and Observer for another excellent article documenting the crisis of employers who fail to have the required North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance coverage . Mandy has been covering this issue for months now and hopefully her reporting will provide an impetus for State leaders to make some changes to NC workers’ compensation laws.
In this newest article Mandy profiles the trials and tribulations of John Ashworth, a former roofing worker who broke both of his feet when he fell off a house in 2008. I can tell you from years of experience as NC workers’ comp lawyer that foot injuries are among the most disabling to tradesmen. Mr. Ashworth is owed over $70,000 in lost wages under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, but has collected only $75, because his employer failed to have the workers compensation insurance coverage required by North Carolina law. The North Carolina Industrial Commission has failed in its efforts to collect from the employer. Mr. Ashworth gets by on Social Security disability, food stamps and Medicaid, meaning the taxpayers are footing the bill for the employer’s failure to have North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance.
“Workmans comp lawyers” in North Carolina have long been calling for improvements to the State’s system for identifying employers who don’t have workers’ comp insurance and forcing them to provide it. As Mandy reports it’s a big problem. The Raleigh News and Observer reported recently that up to 30,000 employers may be uninsured for workers compensation in North Carolina. The North Carolina Industrial Commission considers claims from hundreds of injured NC workers each year who discover their employer did not carry “workmans comp.” While the Industrial Commission regularly enters Awards in these cases, collecting is another matter entirely. Collection of workers’ compensation benefits from an uninsured employer almost always requires a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. But having handled my share of these cases I can tell you even hiring an attorney does not guarantee that the injured worker will collect.
My friend long-time NC workers’ compensation attorney Lennie Jernigan has been calling for the creation of an uninsured fund to provide workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers whose employer did not have insurance. According to Mandy, South Carolina set up a non-insured workers’ comp fund years ago, and supports it by a fee assessed on workers’ compensation policies. Hopefully this idea will gain traction in this legislative session.