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North Carolina Guidelines for People Attending Workers’ Compensation Hearings During the COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The guidelines for North Carolina Industrial Commission hearings, as of July 2020, are the following:

You have COVID-19 symptoms

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, you should not attend a hearing. You should not enter a courthouse or hearing room. You should contact the deputy commissioner by email or telephone to receive further instructions.

The Centers for Disease and Control (US CDC) considers that the following are symptoms of COVID-19:

  • “Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea”

You’ve tested positive for COVID-19- unless you’ve recovered from the disease and the time since the illness onset and recovery, as set by the US CDC, has passed

If you’ve tested positive and the CDC recommended time since the disease onset/recovery hasn’t elapsed, you must not attend the hearing and must notify the presiding Deputy Commissioner by email telephone.

CDC recovery is defined as all of the following:

  • “Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications
  • Progressive improvement or resolution of other symptoms.”

As of July 1, 2020, the CDC-recommended amount of time that must pass since illness onset and recovery is:

  • “At least 10 days after illness onset; and 
  • at least 3 days (72 hours) after recovery (meaning no fever for at least 3 days (72 hours) and progressive improvement or resolution of other symptoms). “

You need to check the current CDC guidelines for any updates regarding the disease onset and recovery times since they may change.

You’ve tested positive but don’t have symptoms

The NCIC position is that you shouldn’t attend any hearing unless 10 days have elapsed since the positive test. You should also contact the deputy commissioner.

You’ve had a known contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19

In this case, you should not enter a courthouse/courtroom or a building where an NCIC hearing is scheduled – unless 14 days have lapsed since the date of the known contact. You need to contact the deputy commission by email or telephone as soon as possible – and await further instructions.

You’ve traveled internationally

If you’ve traveled internationally, the NCIC requires that you shouldn’t attend a hearing at a building or courthouse – unless 14 days have passed since coming home from the international travel.

If you’ve traveled abroad, you need to stay away from the courthouse for two weeks. You must also contact the deputy commissioner by email or phone – as soon as possible.

Social distancing, hand hygiene, and face coverings

Social Distancing

Everyone in the hearing room must stay at least six feed from everyone else. The deputy commission will limit how many people can be in the room at the same time.

Hand Hygiene

Everyone in the hearing room “should wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer in a manner consistent with CDC guidelines.” Hands should be washed before entering the hearing room, after using the bathroom, and after touching an “high-traffic surfaces.”

Face Coverings

While there is a current order (from the state, a local order or an order from the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court) requiring that a face covering be worn in the county or municipality where the hearing is taking place – then everyone in the hearing room is required to ware an “appropriate face covering over the mouth and nose in a manner consistent with CDC guidelines, unless an exception applies.” Some exceptions may apply.

While there is not a statewide, local, or Supreme Court directive regarding wearing a face covering – the people in the room are still strongly encouraged to wear an appropriate face covering – until further notice. Some exceptions may apply.

Generally, face coverings are not required for children under two years of age. Face coverings are also not required if the person has a “medical or behavioral condition or if another exception contained in a statewide order, local order and/or emergency directive or order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina is applicable.”

Exhibits in North Carolina workers’ compensation hearings

Except for hearings where a worker represents himself/herself, “all stipulated and proposed exhibits shall be uploaded via the Electronic Document Filing Portal at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled hearing and exchanged with the other party or parties. This requirement shall not apply to proposed exhibits contemplated exclusively for use in potential rebuttal, surrebuttal, or impeachment.” 

In cases where a party appears on his/her own, the deputy commissioner will determine how the exhibits should be received and whether they are admissible.

Unless the deputy commissioner orders otherwise, all participants at the hearing shall bring their own copies of hearing exhibits (all exhibits exchanged between the parties and submitted to the Commission prior to the hearing).”

If a paper or electronic copy of an exhibit is required- to question a witness – the following procedure should be used:

  • When examining the witness, the questioning attorney should place the paper exhibit (or the electronic device containing the exhibit) on a surface while maintaining a distance of at least six feet from all other individuals. 
  • The witness may then approach the surface to examine or read the paper exhibit or exhibit on the electronic device, while maintaining a distance of at least six feet from all other individuals. 
  • If the witness needs to touch the paper exhibit or the electronic device, the witness should use clean gloves to do so or should properly sanitize his or her hands before and after touching the exhibit. 

If a party is acting pro se (on his/her own) the presiding Deputy Commissioner will determine how to proceed.

Additional requirements

All participants are expected to follow federal, state, and local guidelines. Participants should take every measure possible to avoid contracting COVID-19 – including understanding how the disease spreads, washing hands, keeping safe distances, face coverings, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting, and other appropriate steps.

Other Articles and Resources relating to COVID-19 and Workers Compensation in VA and NC: 

Video:  COVID-19 Illness Not Really  Covered by Workers Compensation Law

Video: Let’s at Least Protect our Frontline Healthcare Workers and Get them Covered by Workers Comp

Video: Will My Comp Checks Stop if my Employer Lays me Off or Shuts Down? 

Article: Frequently Asked Questions Re COVID-19 in Relation to Workers Comp

Article: Some States are Making Workers Compensation Benefits More Accessible for Victims of COVID-19

Article:  Health Care Workers and Comp Benefits in the Age of COVID-19

Article:  Filing a COVID-19 Workers Comp Claim in North Carolina

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation attorney Joe Miller Esq. is taking new workers’ compensation cases and is continuing to represent his current clients. He is keeping current with the North Carolina and Virginia state workers’ compensation rules during the current pandemic.  Attorney Joe Miller Esq. helped thousands of injured workers obtain strong recoveries. To speak with an experienced work injury lawyer, call North Carolina and Virginia lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to schedule an appointment.

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