North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

In the first independent assessment of the so-called “opt-out” alternative to workers’ compensation since the ProPublica/NPR think piece last year, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) took on the issue. workers

What researchers discovered is troubling, especially in light of the fact that an opt-out alternative is still technically on the table for workers in South Carolina.

The crux of the research is that these programs – also referred to as “employer alternatives” or “the option” – are bad for workers. They give companies a choice of either buying a traditional workers’ compensation policy or formulating one of their own. Oklahoma has already enacted such a plan, and proposals for similar alternatives have been weighed in South Carolina and Tennessee. What the study authors found was that under opt-out plans, workers are subjected to:

  • An inherent conflict of interest;
  • Barriers to benefits;
  • Unequal treatment;
  • Limited appeals;
  • Little to no independent oversight.

Continue reading

It’s estimated approximately 3 million workers in the U.S. suffer some type of work-related illness or injury every single year. But even those figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are believed to be vastly under-reported. But amazingly, very little to no information about where these workplace injuries happen is related the public or even to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the government entity responsible for enforcement of workplace safety in the country. roadconstruction

But now, OSHA has passed a new rule that requires employers who oversee companies in certain “high-hazard” industries will have to send information about these accidents directly to OSHA. The data will then be available for posting on the agency’s website.

The new rule also contains certain protections against retaliation for employees who report work-related illnesses and injuries.  Continue reading

One of the questions we see crop up frequently in online forums pertaining to North Carolina workers’ compensation is whether workers absolutely need to a hire an attorney or whether they are better off going it alone. gavel1

The answer is that while there is nothing legally preventing you from proceeding with a claim without a lawyer, if you have suffered serious injury, you really should seek legal counsel.

Some examples of situations in which you might not need a lawyer:

  • You missed little or no work due to the injury;
  • The injury was minor, i.e., requiring a few stitches;
  • You don’t have any pre-existing condition;
  • Your employer concedes the injury occurred at work.

But if your workers’ compensation claim is any more complicated than that, discussing it with a lawyer at an initial consultation can give you a sense of the sorts of legal challenges you may encounter and how an attorney can help with your case.  Continue reading

If you have suffered either a North Carolina work-related injury or an occupational disease or illness, you need to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits as soon as possible. It will cover not just the immediate expenses, but those that may develop in the future, including lost wages and medical bills. tires

Unfortunately, too many workers try to “tough it out” when it comes to job-related illness. It’s one thing to have a workplace accident that causes immediate and serious injury requiring timely medical intervention. But when injuries occur over time, it can be tougher to ascertain when it’s best to come forward.

In general, it’s advised that you report pain/ discomfort/ injury/ illness to your employer as soon as possible and explore filing a workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible. In North Carolina, the law only allows two years from the date of injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.  Continue reading

The recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision in Blue v. Montaire Farms et al., underscores once again the fact that workers’ compensation is often the sole means of compensation following a work-related injury. valve

As our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers can explain, there are some situations in which injured workers may seek redress from third parties in civil court. But when we’re talking about the employer, co-workers and certain contracted companies, most often, the exclusive remedy protection is applicable.

The Blue case arises from a tragic accident at a North Carolina poultry plant just outside of Fayetteville. (Other plans for the Delaware-based firm are located outside of Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem.) Continue reading

After witnessing the murder of his law enforcement partner, Charleston County sheriff’s deputy Michael Ackerman said he simply could not cope. There had been a shootout in West Ashley. He watched as his partner was shot to death before Ackerman made the life-or-death decision to kill the gunman responsible. policecar

Anyone could understand how one could suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. However, the only reason he was eligible for assistance through the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation system is because he too had suffered a physical injury. The psychological scars, he said, were the hardest to overcome and he needed treatment, or else he would not have been able to return to work. But under state law, even the death and despair witnessed and experienced by first responders doesn’t qualify as a circumstance that is “extraordinary” or “unusual” for that line of work.

Ackerman and others are fighting that. As he explained to a reporter with The Post and Courier, he’d worked that job nearly a dozen years without ever having to use his service weapon. In seconds, he witnessed his partner’s homicide, was shot himself and had to take the life of a suspect. To say that such an event is not “extraordinary” or “unusual” defies logic. Now, he’s taking it to the legislature.  Continue reading

In almost all states, workers’ compensation provides an exclusive remedy for employees injured on-the-job. What that means is workers cannot sue their employers for job-related injuries or illness; the only relief to which they are entitled from the employer is via workers’ compensation benefits. The trade-off is workers don’t have to prove the company was at-fault, and benefits are supposed to be provided faster. prison1

But what if the worker injured was an incarcerated federal inmate?

These individuals do still have rights (although they are limited) and their work-related injuries are covered under the Inmate Accident Compensation Act, which sets forth procedures for payment of accident compensation resulting from work-related injuries to federal prison inmates or their dependents.    Continue reading

Much has been written about the awful conditions at poultry plants throughout the U.S. (and particularly in the South). But a new report by Oxfam America reveals a whole new level of ugly. restroomsymbol

According to the 15-page report, entitled “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry,” workers at these facilities are so routinely denied the right to use the bathroom at work, many have taken to wearing diapers during their shift. Some lower their food and drink intake to dangerous levels to avoid the urgent need to use the restroom. Women who are menstruating and pregnant often suffer the most. In general, women are biologically more susceptible to bladder-related infections. In many cases, workers are suffering infections, such as urinary tract infections, and bowel and bladder damage as a result of being forced to remain on the line when they desperately need to use the restroom.

Not only does this kind of practice offend workers’ dignity, it is a serious threat to their health. They endure not just the pain and discomfort of being unable to use the restroom, they suffer the emotional scars of humiliation and the severe stress of concern for their job security.  Continue reading

Often when we talk about a work-related injury, we think about a physical injury to a worker’s body. For example, someone falls and injures their back. waterpuddle03

However, one can also legitimately suffer a mental injury as a result of an extraordinary circumstance at work. In those situations, both in North Carolina and South Carolina, the Workers’ Compensation Act does provide an avenue for recovery of benefits.

In South Carolina, the law allows employees who suffer mental injuries that are “induced by physical injury… or by unusual or extraordinary conditions of employment.” In North Carolina, psychological injuries may be compensable if they are a byproduct or result of a physical injury by accident or occupational disease. There have also been some cases in which a psychological injury resulting in a disabling physical condition may be compensable (i.e., a sudden traumatic event at work causes an immediate physical reaction). Continue reading

The attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. regularly work with clients in North Carolina and South Carolina who need to re-open their workers’ compensation claim. manstandingonwall

Typically, these are individuals who are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits as a result of occupational injury, and then those injuries get worse. In some cases, the condition evolves into a permanent injury.

In North Carolina, injured workers have two years from the date their settlement is accepted in which they can re-open their workers’ compensation claim, assuming the settlement was based on their rating of disability. There are certain cases that may not be ripe for re-opening (i.e., those involving clincher agreements). But these are details injured workers will need to discuss with an attorney.  Continue reading

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