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The North Carolina Industrial Commission has been in the news recently as a result of a number of political appointments made by Governor Pat McCrory. If you find yourself wrestling with a contested workers’ compensation claim, you may be wondering how these appointments affect you.
Perhaps most importantly, the Industrial Commission acts as a “quasi-judicial” agency and rules upon factual and legal questions arising within specific types of disputes. Among a handful of other types of legal cases, the disputes heard by the Industrial Commission include those arising under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, between injured workers/employees and their employers/insurance carriers/third-party administrators.
Workers’ compensation disputes are heard initially by the “Deputy Commissioners’ Section,” which comprises several (presently, twenty) administrative law judges called “Deputy Commissioners,” in regional offices all over the state. In North Carolina, Deputy Commissioners serve as the equivalent of “trial judges” in hearings where evidence must be presented by the parties and weighed, in order for the Industrial Commission to render a decision about which party should prevail.
The Chairman leads the “Full Commission”, which currently includes four other “Commissioners.” The Full Commission also serves in a “quasi-judicial” capacity in deciding workers’ compensation cases, as well as other types of disputes. Specifically, the Full Commission acts as a type of “appellate court” in workers’ comp matters, reviewing the decisions of Deputy Commissioners when one or both parties appeal from the lower level.
Recent North Carolina Industrial Commission Appointments
In January 2016, Governor McCrory announced several appointments. Most notably, Charlton Allen was appointed as the Chairman of the Industrial Commission, replacing Andrew “Drew” Heath. In 2014, the North Carolina legislature confirmed Allen in his previous position with the Commission.
In addition to the new Chairman, there were several Deputy Commissioner appointments. Brian P. LiVecchi, Dane Scalise, and Tyler Younts will be joining the commission, and Thomas H. Perlungher and John Schafer were re-appointed. Each Deputy Commissioner will serve a six year term, effective February 2, 2016.
How Does This Affect Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?
As described above, contested workers’ compensation claims are first heard by Deputy Commissioners, and then referred, if necessary, to the Full Commission on appeal. Choosing an attorney who has significant workers’ compensation experience is always important. Extensive experience and knowledge are even more important, however, when important decisions are to be made by Deputy Commissioners and others with varying levels of experience with workers’ compensation law.
A great attorney is ultimately also a great teacher. He or she can teach you about your claim, so you are empowered to make the best decisions possible. He or she can also teach the decision-makers (in this case, Deputy Commissioners and Commissioners) about the merits of your claim and the applicable law.