Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What if my employer doesn’t have workers’ comp insurance or doesn’t file the claim?”
Those who suffer injuries at work in North Carolina are able to seek workers’ compensation benefits under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act. However, a Florida freight broker that contracted with a truck company to ship blueberries has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a North Carolina appeals court decision it argues wrongly decided that the broker was liable for an injury to a truck driver because the truck company did not have workers’ compensation insurance. In its petition, the broker company Owen Thomas Inc. told the Supreme Court that federal transportation law preempts the North Carolina workers’ compensation statute provisions that hold contractors responsible for benefits to the drivers of uninsured motor carriers. According to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act did not preempt enforcement of the state statute because imposing liability for workers’ compensation did not amount to a regulation of price, routes, or services.
Liability of Broker for Uninsured Motor Carrier
The broker company in this case, Owen Thomas Inc., hires motor carriers to haul shipments for its customers in the produce industry. In this case, the company hired Goree Logistics Inc., a motor carrier based in Charlotte, North Carolina, to deliver a load of blueberries for the company’s client, Sunny Ridge Farms. Goree was apparently required by contract to assume responsibility for workers’ compensation insurance for its drivers.
The driver for Goree, Frances Atiapo, was injured while hauling the blueberries and pursued a workers’ compensation claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, adding Owen Thomas Inc. as a defendant when it was disclosed that Goree did not have workers’ compensation insurance. Subsequently, the North Carolina Industrial Commission ruled Owen was liable and ordered it to pay the driver $4,356.50 in disability compensation and $73,165.25 in medical expenses, as well as the costs of the action. Owen Thomas Inc. appealed the ruling to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which upheld the commission’s decision. The Court of Appeals stated that it did not find the workers’ compensation law related to a price, route, or service of a freight broker.
Petition to the Supreme Court
In its petition to the Supreme Court, Owen argues that the North Carolina state law imposes workers’ compensation liability on the motor carrier industry, but it has not been applied to federally authorized freight brokers. The court’s decision at minimum will make it more expensive for brokers to insure their operations. According to the petition, as long as a North Carolina motor carrier is involved in a particular interstate shipment of goods, a large segment of the national trucking industry is potentially liable for workers’ compensation benefits to truck drivers transporting the goods to any destination in the country.
If you or a loved one has suffered a work injury, you are entitled to file a claim for benefits. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help you navigate the complex process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Contact us today for a consultation, now taking cases throughout the Charlotte region with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and our new location in Monroe, call us at 704-370-2828.
The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.
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