Legislative Recap: New and Improved Laws You Should Know About

Legislative Recap: New and Improved Laws You Should Know AboutA variety of legislation was recently passed into law here in North Carolina, including updates to auto insurance law and an insurance omnibus bill, as well as changes affecting students and teens in the state. Today we want to talk about these new laws and how they could affect people like you.

Senate Bill 452

Senate Bill 452 in North Carolina made changes to the state’s insurance laws. It also amends the state’s insurance rate-making laws. SB 452 raises the minimum insurance liability limits for the first time since 1999, helping provide protections for people involved in car accidents on our state roadways.

For the past few decades, the minimum required automobile liability insurance limits here in North Carolina have remained at $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident/$25,000 property damage. Now, the minimum limits have been increased to $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident/$50,000 property damage, bringing these limits up to match the rising costs of medical expenses and vehicle repair.

According to the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ), a trial bar organization to which attorney Douglas Petho belongs, “This change also guarantees that every insured driver has at least $50,000 in uninsured coverage if they are hurt or killed by an uninsured driver. The changes to rates go into effect for all policies and renewals issued on or after Jan. 1, 2025.”

The NCAJ also reports:

Another notable change introduced by Senate Bill 452 is the elimination of the Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UIM) credit for payments made by the liability insurer. Previously, UIM insurers could reduce benefits based on what the liability insurer had paid. Under the new law, UIM carriers will no longer receive any credit from their coverage for the payments made by the liability insurer. This change ensures that individuals who have responsibly purchased UIM coverage will receive the full benefits they purchased, regardless of any payments made by the liability insurer. This change will apply to UIM claims made on policies and policy renewals issued on or after Jan. 1, 2025.

Senate Bill 452 also changes GS 44-49 Article 9, placing a time limit on the production of requested medical documents. The NCAJ reports that:

The new law requires that as a condition precedent to the creation of the lien a medical provider must furnish, without charge to the attorney, requested itemized statements and medical records “within 60 days of receipt of the request.”  This provision harmonizes federal HIPAA record production requirements with our current lien law. This provision became effective Oct. 3, 2023, and applies to all medical requests made on or after that date.

New rules for teenage drivers in NC

One new law that goes into effect in 2024 affects teenage drivers, specifically. ABC News 12 reports that “starting on Jan. 1, teen drivers will need to keep their learner permit for a nine-month period before getting their provisional license.” This is three months longer than the law currently demands, but three months fewer than what the law was before the pandemic hit.

Protections for students who are sexually abused or assaulted

The Protect Our Students Act officially went into effect on Dec 1, 2023. The new law aims to “define penalties and terms for sex offenses against students in North Carolina, as well as to increase penalties against school officials for failing to report misconduct to the State Board of Education,” per WCNC Charlotte. Under the new law:

Any superintendent, assistant superintendent, associate superintendent, personnel administrator, or principal who knows, has reason to believe, or has actual notice of a complaint that an employee licensed under Article 17E of this Chapter has engaged in misconduct resulting in dismissal, disciplinary action, or resignation shall report the misconduct to the State Board of Education within five days of dismissal, determination of disciplinary action, or acceptance of resignation. If the employee resigns within 30 days of a complaint for misconduct or during an ongoing investigation of a complaint, the misconduct is presumed to have resulted in the resignation. Failure to report misconduct pursuant to this section is a Class I felony.

You can read the full text of the new law here.

Protecting existing workers’ compensation laws in North Carolina

If you sustain an injury while in the course of your job duties, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation. For many workers, this means payments for your medical bills while you heal, and a wage-loss benefit of two-thirds of your salary while you’re not working (temporary, total disability). If you can earn a wage in some capacity (temporary, partial disability), then the amount of wage-loss benefits may be less, though your medical bills will still be covered in full.

Since 2011, workers who collect benefits for temporary, total disability can only do so for 500 weeks. In April 2023, however, the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard a case that challenged the language of the Workers’ Compensation Act; and while the Court did not find for the plaintiff, it did urge legislators to revise that language. From the NCAJ:

While the court decided against the plaintiff, it set out the definition of “total loss of wage-earning capacity” that business and insurance interests opposed. They pressed law makers to legislatively overrule the decision and enact language that would have explicitly or effectively ended benefits at 500 weeks. NCAJ engaged with legislative leaders and other stakeholders and arrived at compromise language that avoids a 500-week cap and under which seriously injured workers with long-term injuries will have their capacity to earn wages evaluated using real-world employability factors. The changes to G.S. 97-29(c) became law effective Oct. 3, 2023.

In short, workers who are seriously injured continue to have the right to seek an extension to their benefits.

At Price, Petho & Associates, we take our commitment to our clients seriously. Part of that commitment means knowing which new laws and regulations can help keep you safer, and ensuring that your rights under those laws are protected. If you need an experienced Charlotte personal injury lawyer, call us or contact us today. We offer free initial consultations. Proudly serving Charlotte, Rutherfordton. Rockingham, and all of North Carolina.