Protect Your Rights
There are several bills currently before the North Carolina General Assembly that would be devastating to our rights. We ask you to contact the General Assembly and tell them you oppose these bills, House Bills 542 and 709, and Senate Bill 33). If these bills become law, here is what will happen to your rights:
- Worker’s Compensation payments would stop 500 weeks from the date of injury. Even if you are severely injured and can never work again, you can only recover for a maximum of 500 weeks. So an employee who breaks his back at work and can never work again can only recover for roughly 9 years before his weekly checks will be cut off.
- Injured workers would lose their right to medical opinions by a second opinion doctor. If any doctor not chosen by your employer recommends medical care, the North Carolina Industrial Commission would be prohibited by law from approving that recommended treatment. You can still see a second opinion doctor, but no one can ever consider his or her treatment recommendations.
- Injured workers would not be considered disabled if they can work any job at all. So if an electrician who makes $1,000.00 a week is injured at work, and they can find him a job making $300.00 a week, he is not considered disabled and is not longer entitled to weekly temporary total disability checks.
- The right to sue a doctor for malpractice in the ER would be abolished. Actually, your right to sue any medical professional for anything involving an “emergency” would be abolished. And the term “emergency” is defined so broadly, it encompasses everything from the birth of a child to a heart attack. This bill would state that a doctor, nurse, or any medical provider cannot be sued for negligence or malpractice unless it can be proven that their malpractice was reckless or intentional. This is a very high burden of proof. So if a radiologist forgets to tell you that your son had a skull fracture, you cannot recover for your son’s injuries, because forgetting to tell someone about their skull fracture isn’t intentional. This bill would make negligence in the ER okay.
- Pain and suffering would be capped at $500,000 in medical malpractice claims. So even if you are burned and scarred by a nurse, or your doctor amputates the wrong leg, a jury cannot award you pain and suffering for any amount above this cap.
- Drug maker would be immunized from liability for damages caused by their products. If a drug maker complies with any safety standard at all, they would be immune to suit, even if they violate a dozen other safety standards.
- Drunk drivers would get credit for your health insurance. If you have health insurance, and you are hit by a drunk driver, the drunk driver would be allowed to tell the jury if your health insurance negotiated down your medical bills through a discount rate. But you would be prohibited from telling the jury that the drunk driver has car insurance.
Many legislators think these bills will drive down the cost of doing business in this state. We need to contact them and tell them that big businesses and insurance companies cannot make their profits on the backs of hard-working North Carolinians.
Remember that in all negligence actions in our state, no plaintiff is allowed to recover a single penny unless he or she is 100% blameless. If the defendant is only 99% percent responsible, the defendant pays nothing. Only four other states are that harsh. But now, they want caps that further limit the liability. Even those 100% at fault for the injury and death they cause would now pay less than 100% of the damage they cause.
It is also important to know that the premiums employers pay for worker’s compensation coverage is right at the median for the nation. If premiums are not the problem, then why pass this bill? Because insurance companies want to pass this bill. If they can kick people off worker’s compensation, they can shift them to Medicare and Medicaid, which are paid by taxpayers. This is an insurance company bailout.
And why do we need to protect medical provider who admit they committed malpractice? Again, because insurance companies want to avoid paying for it. Most people do not know that medical insurance is not regulated by the Department of Insurance like homeowners insurance and auto insurance are in North Carolina. So medical malpractice insurance rates are higher that auto and homeowners insurance because the Insurance Commissioner has no right to review rate increases like he can for auto and home insurance. If we really want to lower the costs of medicine, let’s give the Insurance Commissioner the right to review medical malpractice rate increases. Don’t do it on the backs of people who were injured.
If we want the jury to know the truth about who is paying medical bills in car accidents, let’s tell the jury the whole story. Tell them that health insurance negotiated down some bills, but tell them how much we pay each month to have that health insurance. And tell the jury that the drunk driver that caused the accident has auto insurance that will pay the verdict as well.
Finally, why do we want to penalize injured workers and arbitrarily cut off their benefits at 500 weeks, no matter how badly they are hurt? Why do we want to silence doctors unless that doctor was chosen and paid for by the worker’s compensation insurance company?
We ask that you immediately contact your representative and ask them to oppose House Bills 542 and 709, and Senate Bill 33. Tell them to vote NO on tort and worker’s comp “reform”.
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