For North Carolina workers’ compensation claims arising on or after June 24, 2011, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-29(b) provides the duration of compensation for temporary total disability is 500 weeks from the date of first disability unless the employee qualifies for extended compensation.

Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-29(c), an employee may make an application to the Industrial Commission to exceed the 500-week limitation on temporary total disability benefits when 425 weeks have passed since the date of first disability.

For claims arising on June 24, 2011, the 425 weeks passed for employees to apply for extended compensation on August 16, 2019.

While the Industrial Commission previously updated the Form 33 to allow a party to indicate that a claim for extended compensation is being filed pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-29(c), based upon stakeholder feedback, the Industrial Commission has reverted back to using the prior version of the Form 33 that does not contain a checkbox notifying the Commission that the hearing request is for extended compensation.

When the Industrial Commission previously announced the updated Form 33 for extended compensation, the Industrial Commission shared the following guidance on the Industrial Commission website:

“Claimants seeking a determination of entitlement to extended compensation prior to reaching the 500-week limitation should timely file a claim when eligible pursuant to G.S. 97-29(c). Given the statutory period between eligibility to file a claim for extended compensation and the 500-week limitation, parties will not be ordered into mediation when a claim for extended compensation is filed, and the claim will proceed to a hearing. However, parties are encouraged to mediate either before or after the hearing if the parties believe mediation may be fruitful in resolving the claim.”

As the Industrial Commission has reverted back to the original Form 33 for hearing requests for extended compensation, it is unclear currently whether mediation will be mandatory. While awaiting Industrial Commission clarification and guidance, for best practices, it is recommended that the parties discuss whether mediation may be fruitful, and if so, notify the Industrial Commission of the parties’ intention to proceed with mediation. If the parties do not believe mediation would be beneficial, out of an abundance of caution, it may be wise to notify the Industrial Commission accordingly and seek guidance as to whether a Motion to Dispense with mediation is recommended.