The North Carolina Legislature and Governor Roy Cooper have passed a law clarifying that an employer’s acceptance of the compensability of a specific injury on a Form 60 or Form 63 Section 1 shall not extend the “Parsons presumption” to injuries and conditions other than those specifically listed on the Form 60 or Form 63 Section 1.

The North Carolina Legislature enacted clarifications to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-82 to relieve concerns following the Supreme Court’s opinion in Wilkes v. City of Greenville, 368PA15 (June 9, 2017). In Wilkes, the Court cited the previous version of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-82 and held that “an admission of compensability . . . entitles an employee to a presumption that additional medical treatment is causally related to his compensable injury.” This holding left employers and carriers concerned that the decision could be interpreted to establish an incident based acceptance, meaning that once a claim is admitted as compensable, the burden shifts to the employer to disprove that any requested medical treatment is causally related to the compensable incident regardless of whether the treatment is recommended for a condition expressly identified as the compensable injury on the Form 60 or Form 63 Section 1.

The Legislature’s enactment adds language to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-82 that states an acceptance of the compensability of a claim by filing a Form 60 or Form 63 Section 1 “. . . shall not create a presumption that medical treatment for an injury or condition not identified [on the Form 60 or Form 63] is causally related to the compensable injury.” Thus, the presumption that medical treatment is related to the compensable injury only attaches to the specific injury that is the subject of an award of the Industrial Commission.

Governor Roy Cooper approved the legislative changes on July 20, 2017 and the new law is effective immediately and retroactively applies to any pending claims.

Going forward, carriers and employers should continue to complete thorough investigations when a claim is received and accept those injuries the investigation reveals to be compensable. However, carriers and employers can also continue to deny the alleged injuries and requested medical treatment which are not directly related to the injuries listed on the Form 60 without fear that the burden will be upon the defendants to disprove the causal relationship.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the legislative changes, please contact a member of our Workers’ Compensation practice group.

 

Photo of attorney Erica Lewis

Erica Lewis
Wilmington
910.679.4802

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Jennifer Ruiz
Raleigh
910.679.4802

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Jeff Kadis
Charlotte
704.319.5450