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Many North Carolina employers lack required insurance

Do you have any idea whether you actually have workers' compensation insurance if you need it, or are you trusting your employer to take care of you?

If so, your trust may be misplaced. According to investigative reporters, many North Carolina businesses don't have the required coverage for their employees.

North Carolina law states that employers with three or more employees have to carry workers' compensation insurance in case one of those employees is injured on the job. Not having the insurance is illegal—if the employer is found negligent, meaning his or her noncompliance was essentially out of ignorance or an accidental lapse, the crime is a misdemeanor. If the noncompliance is willful, the crime is a felony.

According to a state audit, at least 52,000 businesses lack the required workers' compensation insurance. Since the North Carolina Industrial Commission's new director of Compliance and Fraud Investigations took office in 2013, a database has been established that tries to flag companies who may be non-compliant for investigation.

Originally, the commission could essentially only identify a business that lacked the appropriate insurance once someone got injured and tried to file a claim. In 2013 and early 2014, before the database began, the commission had charged only about 10 employers with breaking the law. Since April of 2014 alone, the commission has brought 1,300 businesses into compliance and collected $2.5 million in penalties.

The types of employers who lack workers' compensation coverage are surprisingly broad. It isn't just factories and construction companies that neglect to get coverage. Other businesses caught without insurance include a dentist, cleaning services, towing companies, a bakery and even an insurance company that sold workers' comp policies.

Not having coverage doesn't relieve an employer of the obligation to pay an injured workers' bills or other compensation—but it makes it hard on the injured worker to collect. They often have to seek a judgment in order to get their fair compensation and hope that they can enforce it.

It's wise to make inquiries about your coverage. Your employer should have no qualms about telling you what company handles their workers' comp plan. If your employer doesn't want to tell you, you might consider that a red flag.

If you are injured on the job, the advice of a workers' compensation attorney can be helpful, especially if you find that your employer has no insurance.

Source: www.wsoctv.com, "9 Investigates: NC employers may be breaking workers' comp laws," Jason Stoogenke, Feb. 08, 2017

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