WC Risk Alert: Statute of Limitations and Medical Compensation
Charles Clark was a resident of Florida who worked for Summit Contractors Group, Inc., a Florida company doing business in North Carolina. In 2009, Clark was employed as a superintendent to supervise construction of apartment complexes in Greensboro. On August 5, 2009, he injured his shoulder and reported the injury the following morning. Clark returned to Florida where he received ongoing medical treatment. He also received indemnity benefits under Florida law until August 25, 2011. On January 20, 2012, Clark filed a Form 18 in North Carolina. His claim was denied pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 97-24 on the grounds that the N.C. Industrial Commission lacked jurisdiction because Clark failed to file his claim within two years of the date of his work-related accident. The Full Commission denied Clark’s claim, citing a failure to timely file in North Carolina. Clark appealed.
On December 31, 2014, in Clark v. Summit Contractors Group, Inc., the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Full Commission and concluded that Clark timely filed his claim. The Court explained that in order for the Industrial Commission to acquire jurisdiction over a claim, the employee must timely file a claim for compensation. The Court noted that § 97-24(a)(ii) bars a claim for workers’ compensation benefits unless the claim: (1) is filed with the Commission within two years after the last payment of medical compensation; (2) when no other compensation has been paid; and (3) the employer’s liability has not otherwise been established. Here, the Court held that the last payment of medical compensation was not limited to payments made pursuant to a North Carolina claim. The Court pointed out that Clark last received medical treatment on November 14, 2012 under his Florida claim and filed his North Carolina claim within two years of this date, thus satisfying the first requirement. The Court further concluded that Clark had not received any other compensation paid in lieu of workers’ compensation benefits and that the record clearly showed that liability had not otherwise been established under the Act. As Clark satisfied all elements of § 97-24(a)(ii), the Court reversed the decision of the Full Commission and remanded the claim for further proceedings.
Risk Handling Hint: Clark provides a useful analysis of how North Carolina interprets “medical compensation” and “other compensation” under to § 97-24. When considering a timeliness defense under § 97-24, risk managers should be sure to investigate that last date medical compensation was provided, even outside of North Carolina, as well as any other compensation pursuant to the N.C. Workers’ Compensation Act the claimant may have received in order to fully assess the strength of the defense.