August 2, 2015

Study: New Nurses at Higher Risk of Work Injury in North Carolina, U.S.

A new study conducted by the RN Work Project, recently published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, found that newer nurses may be at higher risk for injuries than their more experienced counterparts. nurses.jpg

It's been well-established that those within the nursing profession face a high risk of work injury both within North Carolina and nationally. Some of the more common, non-fatal injuries include:

  • Strains

  • Sprains

  • Needle sticks

But this research discovered newly-licensed nurses may be subject to a higher likelihood of hazards, mostly due to heavier workloads, longer hours and inexperience.

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July 30, 2015

Trench Collapse Work Injury Results in $424K OSHA Fine

A construction company has been ordered by federal regulators to pay nearly $425,000 in penalties for six egregious violations of workplace safety leading to the near-death of a worker who was buried in an eight-foot trench. pipework.jpg

The collapse happened fast, within a matter of seconds. His co-workers rushed to his side and helped to dig him out with their bare hands. Then, just moments after they pulled him to safety, the trench, which was unprotected, collapsed again.

The worker was severely injured and had to be hospitalized.

Now, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the company was found to violate 16 total safety violations, with of those being the more serious, "willful violations" for failing to protect its workers. OSHA investigators say the construction company was aware the site was dangerous, and yet did not take the necessary, adequate measures to protect workers.

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July 27, 2015

Jarrett v. Dillard - Employer President Personally Liable for Workers' Comp Payments

In North Carolina, any company with more than three employees is required to carry workers' compensation insurance.
There are a few exceptions in which smaller companies may required to do so, and some others in which larger companies may be able to forgo it. However, that's the general rule.

When companies fail to do this, they may be subjected to fines and criminal actions, as well as lose the exclusive remedy protection normally afforded them, which means employees who are injured retain the right to sue the firm for personal injury. The firm may also still be responsible for paying those benefits to any workers injured.

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July 25, 2015

D & D Tire v. Ouellette - Workers' Comp Immunity for Contractor Negligence

If you are injured at work as a result of negligence from a co-worker, that co-worker would be protected from a personal injury lawsuit per the exclusive remedy provisions of South Carolina workers' compensation law.
This is the provision that shields the employer and any employees from litigation, even if they acted with negligence. (Intentional acts may be different.)

In some cases, contractors could claim co-worker status (or "statutory co-employee" and therefore also be protected under exclusive remedy provisions. But this is not an absolute.

In fact, there have been a number of cases in which independent contractors have been successfully sued for personal injury claims, even after the employee has collected workers' compensation.

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July 22, 2015

Workers' Compensation Death Benefits Approved for Company President's Survivors

Workers' compensation laws vary from state-to-state, but workers' compensation coverage is mandated by all companies of certain sizes in all but a few states.
Those that fail to meet this requirement are subject to a myriad of penalties and fines, and of course they are still responsible for paying when a worker is injured or killed on-the-job.

In North Carolina, all companies with three or more employees - including those who operate the corporation - must obtain this insurance coverage. The only exceptions are:

  • Certain railroad employees;

  • Casual employees (those not performing work pertaining to the regular course of company's business);

  • Domestic servants employed by a household

  • Farm laborers with fewer than 10, non-seasonal farm laborers;

  • Federal government employees

  • Sellers of agricultural products for producers

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July 19, 2015

State ex rel. Tradesmen Int'l v. Indus. Comm'n - Permanent Total Disability Affirmed

A total permanent disability as it relates to workers' compensation law is one in which a person is unable to work in their own or in any job for which they may be suited by training, experience or education as a result of a workplace injury or illness.
In South Carolina, per S.C. Code 42-9-10, a finding of permanent total disability will entitle claimant to receive benefits for a maximum 500 weeks (or nearly 10 years). Maximum weekly rates of compensation for permanent total disability in South Carolina was $744 in 2013, though the actual number will be based on what a person earned prior to the illness or injury.

While some states allow lifetime benefits for this finding, South Carolina caps it at 500 weeks - unless the work-related injury results in claimant suffering a substantial brain injury or becoming paraplegic or quadriplegic.

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July 16, 2015

In re Workers' Comp. Claim of Guerrero - Proving Cause of Injury

In any workers' compensation case, one of the key facts that must be established is causation. welding2.jpg

That is, not only did you suffer an injury or illness, but that the injury or illness was the direct result of a workplace accident or condition.

In some cases, this can be especially difficult when the pain or injury does not immediately manifest. Even pre-existing medical conditions can be compensable under workers' compensation laws, but there has to be a showing that the employment aggravated or accelerated the condition or combined with the it to produce the condition for which workers' compensation benefits are sought.

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July 14, 2015

Opinion: Misclassification of Workers Hurts Honest Businesses Too

At The Lee Law Offices, P.A., we pride ourselves on fighting tirelessly for the rights of workers who are injured on the job and then denied just compensation based on misclassification of their status as an employee.
Companies do this far too often in an attempt to save on workers' compensation insurance premiums and payouts. By classifying a worker as an "independent contractor" rather than an "employee," some businesses seek to cut corners. Those injured workers must then take it to court to prove their status and entitlement to compensation for lost wages and medical bills.

But it's not only workers who are harmed by this practice. Honest, law-abiding companies also pay the price, as noted in a recent opinion-editorial piece published in The Charlotte Observer. The author, Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr., teaches workers' compensation law at N.C. Central University School of Law.

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July 11, 2015

OSHA: 12 Workers Killed Each Day in U.S. During 2013

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports final statistics are in for 2013 work fatalities, and reveal nearly 4,600 workers were killed on the job that year. (That's up from the preliminary estimate of 4,405 worker fatalities.)roofingcontractors.jpg

That averages out to 12 workers every single day.

Although that is down from the average of 38 daily worker deaths in 1970, it's far too high. Overall worker deaths may have fallen, but there are some industries that are known to be more perilous than others.

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July 9, 2015

Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC - Proving Causation, TTD

Plaintiff in North Carolina Appeals Court workers' compensation case of Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC et al. undoubtedly had been through an enormously difficult time.handsholding.jpg

Her adult brother, for whom she was a 24-hour caregiver through a residential care program, died suddenly. Making matters worse was that on the day of his death, she suffered a serious injury when she rushed to his side to help him as he had fallen onto the floor and lost consciousness. Another injury was later discovered which she asserts was related to the incident.

On top of all that, she had to fight her employer to prove the injury was work-related, that those injuries were causally related to the incident and that she was entitled to temporary total disability. She was not successful on each of those fronts.

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July 5, 2015

O'Neal v. Inline Fluid Power, Inc. - Denial of Indemnity Benefits

About half of all workers' compensation benefits paid in North Carolina are indemnity benefits. These are benefits paid to workers who are injured with the purpose of replacing or supplementing worker's lost income.
Another term for indemnity benefits is "lost wages." There are two basic types: Temporary and permanent. Temporary benefits are paid to supplement worker wages while the worker is recovering from his or her injury. This could be while worker is unable to work or while he or she returns part-time. Permanent indemnity benefits, meanwhile, are paid to workers who have reached maximum medical improvement and may have suffered permanent disability as a result of the work injury.

The amount of indemnity benefits an employee will receive will depend on the amount of the worker's pay history prior to the injuries, and most jurisdictions allow for two-thirds of worker's regular gross pay.

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July 3, 2015

North Carolina Worker Misclassification Bill Advances, Some Critical

Last fall, the Raleigh News & Observer published a mammoth, five-part series on the problem of worker misclassification, both nationally and specifically in North Carolina, where the practice is especially pervasive.
The issue involves companies classifying workers as independent contractors when in fact they are employees. In so doing, these firms can avoid paying workers' compensation benefits, income taxes or unemployment taxes. Not only does this harm workers, who are left without these protections, it also harms other businesses that are unable to compete with those skimming an estimated 20 percent of their costs off the top. Further, the newspaper reported these actions cost North Carolina $467 million every year in lost tax revenue - and that's just in the construction industry alone!

What's more, the report revealed an astonishing 45 percent of the 826 companies participating in HUD-funded projects in this state from 2009 through 2013 misclassified workers.

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July 1, 2015

SeaBright Ins. Co. v. Lopez - Workers' Compensation for Auto Accident

It is possible for someone who is injured in a motor vehicle collision to receive workers' compensation benefits if the vehicle was being driven in the course and scope of employment. accident2.jpg

Of course, where workers are professional drivers, the question of an accident being work-related is fairly simple. However, when a worker is commuting, the answer gets more complex.

Generally, courts in North Carolina and many other states abide by the "coming-and-going-rule." This allows that workers who are "coming and going" to and from work are not protected under workers' compensation provisions. The thinking goes that a worker who is coming to or leaving from work isn't engaged in the business of the employer and therefore is not benefiting the employer and so accidents that occur in this context aren't compensable.

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June 30, 2015

Lifting Accidents and Injuries Common for Nurses and Nursing Assistants

Working as a nurse often involves more physical lifting of heavy loads than most people realize. This, in turn, leads to more incidents of work-related injury. According to a recent news feature from Business Insurance, nurses routinely suffer from injuries while lifting patients, even though all hospitals provide lifting aids.

hospital-1385736-m.jpgRecent study data from the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows nurses and nursing assistants suffered from more musculoskeletal injuries than many other occupations. The actual numbers depict a rate of nearly 209 lifting injuries per 10,000 full-time workers. This is a significant rate when we consider that, in an average of all industries, there is a rate of around 36 musculoskeletal injuries per 10,000 full-time employees.

Most of these injuries to the nurses and healthcare workers happen when they are attempting to lift or physically move a patient. To help make things easier at hospitals around the country, regulations require a variety of different types of patient lifting systems. This includes state-of-the-art hoists, full-body sling lifts, and overhead lifting systems to help lift patients who are confined to a hospital bed and unable to sit up without help. There is also a great deal of lifting when transporting patients from one bed to another. To help minimize this, they are now using hospital beds as movable gurneys whenever possible. In some hospitals, patient beds are even being used in place of traditional operating tables.

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June 28, 2015

Common Carolina Workplace Injuries and Causes

Some jobs are more dangerous than others. However, we often think of dangers in terms of large, single-event catastrophes, where a worker was healthy on his or her way to work and ended up in the hospital by day's end. However, many of the job injuries and illnesses result from long-term work involving repetitive tasks.

wristpain.jpgFor example, carpal tunnel syndrome is normally the result of performing repetitive tasks during a long period of time and is not the result of a single workplace accident.

According to a recent news article from Owatonna People's Press, certain types of work environments are more likely to lead to workplace injuries than others. However, there are certain steps that can be taken at most workplaces to prevent on-the-job injury and illness.

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