New state workers comp law’s impact on NC workforce

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A June 9, 2017 North Carolina Supreme Court decision in a closely watched workers’ compensation case generated a successful, organized effort by businesses to persuade state legislators to nullify the impact of the decision. The NC Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in Wilkes vs. City of Greenville. The case involved a Greenville public employee (a landscaping laborer) who was severely injured when a vehicle whose driver ran a red light struck his city-owned vehicle, and who had later suffered further injurious effects of the crash.

Within days, according to the News & Observer, “A broad coalition of private and public organizations”—that is, more than two dozen employers including the NC Chamber of Commerce, the NC League of Municipalities, NC Association of County Commissioners, American Airlines, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina—organized to demand changes to the state’s workers’ compensation law. They asserted that the ruling would significantly raise their workers’ comp costs. The president of one member of the group, the NC Retail Merchants Association, told the News & Observer that he had never seen business and government officials so galvanized by a workers’ compensation issue.

Within days of the decision, the North Carolina legislature adopted without debate a bill with changes to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. NC Governor Roy Cooper signed the bill into law in July. The bill places the burden on injured workers to prove to prove that a “subsequent injury or condition” stems from a work-related accident.

Workers’ comp attorneys argued that the Supreme Court ruling had merely affirmed longstanding legal rights of workers. “The big losers, if they change the law, are North Carolina employees,” one attorney told the reporter. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Richard Manger, principal of Manger Law Firm, has extensive experience in litigation and settlements, with a focus on personal injury and workers’ compensation law. We are proud of the strong relationships of loyalty and trust we develop with our clients. We go above and beyond to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. You can contact Richard Manger via email at, or by calling (336) 882-2000.

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