An investigative article in the Charlotte News & Observer has determined that tens of thousands of North Carolina employers fail to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, despite state laws requiring employers with three or more employees to carry it.
According to the state, 170,000 companies with four or more employees are currently operating within North Carolina. However, insurance carriers in the state have only insured 140,472 businesses. In North Carolina, companies are able to self-insure if they can prove they have assets to cover employee claims, but only 117 companies in the state are registered as self-insured. This leaves tens of thousands of companies without proper workers’ compensation coverage-and tens of thousands of workers without insurance for workplace injuries.
North Carolina’s Industrial Commission is tasked with investigating and prosecuting companies which fail to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. It also has the power to order companies without workers’ compensation to pay an injured worker’s claim.
Unfortunately, the Industrial Commission has been lax in pursuing these companies, instead waiting to look into claims until an injured worker petitions the agency for mediation. At this point, the injured worker has been without a paycheck while accumulating medical bills. Once the Industrial Commission decides to investigate a company, penalties and fines are rarely enforced.
Recently, North Carolina lawmakers rewrote some of the state’s workers’ compensation laws to limit the amount and duration of workers’ compensation payouts, in hopes that such reform will drive down costs for employers. The decision could leave many injured workers without adequate funds to cover their medical bills. Lawmakers have so-far done nothing to generally compel uninsured employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.
The condition of workers’ compensation benefits coverage in North Carolina should alarm workers in the state. Workers should find out if their employers carry workers’ compensation and if not, urge them to purchase it. Fortunately, employees injured while working for an employer without workers’ compensation can sue for compensation for medical bills or pursue mediation through the Industrial Commission.
Companies that fail to carry workers’ compensation leave tens of thousands of workers high and dry in the event of a workplace injury. Though not purchasing the insurance may cut costs, it also cuts vital compensation to injured workers. If you or a loved one has sustained a workplace injury and your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, please consult an experienced personal injury attorney to explore your legal options.