§ 97-18. Prompt payment of compensation required; installments; payment without prejudice; notice to Commission; penalties.
(a) Compensation under this Article shall be paid periodically, promptly and directly to the person entitled thereto unless otherwise specifically provided.
(b) When the employer or insurer admits the employee's right to compensation, the first installment of compensation payable by the employer shall become due on the fourteenth day after the employer has written or actual notice of the injury or death, on which date all compensation then due shall be paid. Compensation thereafter shall be paid in installments weekly except where the Commission determines that payment in installments should be made monthly or at some other period. Upon paying the first installment of compensation and upon suspending, reinstating, changing, or modifying such compensation for any cause, the insurer shall immediately notify the Commission, on a form prescribed by the Commission, that compensation has begun, or has been suspended, reinstated, changed, or modified. A copy of each notice shall be provided to the employee. The first notice of payment to the Commission shall contain the date and nature of the injury, the average weekly wages of the employee, the weekly compensation rate, the date the disability resulting from the injury began, and the date compensation commenced.
(c) If the employer or insurer denies the employee's right to compensation, the employer or insurer shall notify the Commission, on or before the fourteenth day after it has written or actual notice of the injury or death, or within such reasonable additional time as the Commission may allow, and advise the employee in writing of its refusal to pay compensation on a form prescribed by the Commission. This notification shall (i) include the name of the employee, the name of the employer, the date of the alleged injury or death, the insurer on the risk, if any, and a detailed statement of the grounds upon which the right to compensation is denied, and (ii) advise the employee of the employee's right to request a hearing pursuant to G.S. 97-83. If the employer or insurer, in good faith, is without sufficient information to admit the employee's right to compensation, the employer or insurer may deny the employee's right to compensation.
(d) In any claim for compensation in which the employer or insurer is uncertain on reasonable grounds whether the claim is compensable or whether it has liability for the claim under this Article, the employer or insurer may initiate compensation payments without prejudice and without admitting liability. The initial payment shall be accompanied by a form prescribed by and filed with the Commission, stating that the payments are being made without prejudice. Payments made pursuant to this subsection may continue until the employer or insurer contests or accepts liability for the claim or 90 days from the date the employer has written or actual notice of the injury or death, whichever occurs first, unless an extension is granted pursuant to this section. Prior to the expiration of the 90-day period, the employer or insurer may upon reasonable grounds apply to the Commission for an extension of not more than 30 days. The initiation of payment does not affect the right of the employer or insurer to continue to investigate or deny the compensability of the claim or its liability therefor during this period. If at any time during the 90-day period or extension thereof, the employer or insurer contests the compensability of the claim or its liability therefor, it may suspend payment of compensation and shall promptly notify the Commission and the employee on a form prescribed by the Commission. The employer or insurer must provide on the prescribed form a detailed statement of its grounds for denying compensability of the claim or its liability therefor. If the employer or insurer does not contest the compensability of the claim or its liability therefor within 90 days from the date it first has written or actual notice of the injury or death, or within such additional period as may be granted by the Commission, it waives the right to contest the compensability of and its liability for the claim under this Article. However, the employer or insurer may contest the compensability of or its liability for the claim after the 90-day period or extension thereof when it can show that material evidence was discovered after that period that could not have been reasonably discovered earlier, in which event the employer or insurer may terminate or suspend compensation subject to the provisions of G.S. 97-18.1.
(e) The first installment of compensation payable under the terms of an award by the Commission, or under the terms of a judgment of the court upon an appeal from such an award, shall become due 10 days from the day following expiration of the time for appeal from the award or judgment or the day after notice waiving the right of appeal by all parties has been received by the Commission, whichever is sooner. Thereafter compensation shall be paid in installments weekly, except where the Commission determines that payment in installments shall be made monthly or in some other manner.
(f) The employer's or insurer's grounds for contesting the employee's claim or its liability therefor as specified in the notice suspending compensation under subsection (d) of this section are the only bases for the employer's or insurer's defense on the issue of compensability in a subsequent proceeding, unless the defense is based on newly discovered material evidence that could not reasonably have been discovered prior to the notice suspending compensation.
(g) If any installment of compensation is not paid within 14 days after it becomes due, there shall be added to such unpaid installment an amount equal to ten per centum (10%) thereof, which shall be paid at the same time as, but in addition to, such installment, unless such nonpayment is excused by the Commission after a showing by the employer that owing to conditions over which he had no control such installment could not be paid within the period prescribed for the payment.
(h) Within 16 days after final payment of compensation has been made, the employer or insurer shall send to the Commission and the employee a notice, in accordance with a form prescribed by the Commission, stating that such final payment has been made, the total amount of compensation paid, the name of the employee and of any other person to whom compensation has been paid, the date of the injury or death, and the date to which compensation has been paid. If the employer or insurer fails to so notify the Commission or the employee within such time, the Commission shall assess against such employer or insurer a civil penalty in the amount of twenty-five dollars ($25.00). The clear proceeds of civil penalties assessed pursuant to this section shall be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund in accordance with G.S. 115C-457.2.
(i) If any bill for services rendered under G.S. 97-25 by any provider of health care is not paid within 60 days after it has been approved by the Commission and returned to the responsible party, or within 60 days after it was properly submitted, in accordance with the provisions of this Article, to an insurer or managed care organization responsible for direct reimbursement pursuant to G.S. 97-26(g), there shall be added to such unpaid bill an amount equal to ten per centum (10%) thereof, which shall be paid at the same time as, but in addition to, such medical bill, unless such late payment is excused by the Commission.
(j) The employer or insurer shall promptly investigate each injury reported or known to the employer and at the earliest practicable time shall admit or deny the employee's right to compensation or commence payment of compensation as provided in subsections (b), (c), or (d) of this section. When an employee files a claim for compensation with the Commission, the Commission may order reasonable sanctions against an employer or insurer which does not, within 30 days following notice from the Commission of the filing of a claim, or within such reasonable additional time as the Commission may allow, do one of the following:
(1) Notify the Commission and the employee in writing that it is admitting the employee's right to compensation and, if applicable, satisfy the requirements for payment of compensation under subsection (b) of this section.
(2) Notify the Commission and the employee that it denies the employee's right to compensation consistent with subsection (c) of this section.
(3) Initiate payments without prejudice and without liability and satisfy the requirements of subsection (d) of this section.
For purposes of this subsection, reasonable sanctions shall not prohibit the employer or insurer from contesting the compensability of or its liability for the claim.
(k) In addition to any other methods for reinstatement of compensation available under the Act, whenever the employer or insurer has admitted the employee's right to compensation, or liability has been established, the employee may move for reinstatement of compensation on a form prescribed by the Commission. The form prescribed by the Commission shall contain the reasons for the proposed reinstatement of compensation, be supported by available documentation, and inform the employer of the employer's right to contest the reinstatement of compensation by filing an objection in writing with the Commission within 14 days of the date the employee's notice is filed with the Commission or within such additional reasonable time as the Commission may allow. If the employer or insurer contests the employee's request for reinstatement, the Commission shall conduct an informal hearing by telephone with the parties or their counsel. If either party objects to conducting the hearing by telephone, the Commission may conduct the hearing in person in Raleigh or at another location selected by the Commission. The parties shall be afforded an opportunity to state their position and to submit documentary evidence at the informal hearing. The employee may waive the right to an informal hearing and proceed to the formal hearing. The Commission's decision in the informal hearing is not binding in the subsequent hearings. If the application for Reinstatement of Payment of Disability Compensation is approved or not contested, then compensation shall be reinstated immediately and continue until further order of the Commission. The employer or employee may request a formal hearing pursuant to G.S. 97-83 on the Commission's decision approving or denying the employee's application for reinstatement. A formal hearing under G.S. 97-83 ordered or requested pursuant to this subsection shall be a hearing de novo on the employee's application for reinstatement of compensation and may be scheduled by the Commission on a preemptive basis. This subsection shall not apply to a request for a review of an award on the grounds of a change in condition pursuant to G.S. 97-47. (1929, c. 120, s. 181/2; 1967, c. 1229, s. 2; 1979, c. 249, ss. 1, 2; c. 599; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 679, s. 3.1; 1998-215, s. 114; 2005-448, s. 4; 2006-264, s. 91.7; 2011-287, s. 5; 2013-294, s. 3.)