April 25, 2015

Tribal Worker Killed in North Carolina

When people think of workers' compensation, they typically think in terms of an employee being injured on the job and missing work. However, some work-related accidents are fatal, and surviving family members will be required to file a workers' compensation claim seeking death benefits to cover medical bills related to employee's fatal injury or illness, lost wages, and funeral expenses under state workers' compensation regulations.

crash4.jpgAccording to a recent article from ABC News 13, a tribal transportation worker was killed in an on-the-job car accident in Cherokee, North Carolina. The accident occurred between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

One witness said she was getting ready for work around that time when she heard a loud crash. She did not know what happened until she was driving to work and saw police had blocked the road ahead of her. All she could see was a truck in the grassy area alongside the travel lane. She later learned her daughter's boyfriend had witnessed the fatal work-related accident and rushed to assist victim. The boyfriend found the injured employee and stayed with him, talking to him until paramedics arrived. He said the victim's head was essentially in his lap till help arrived.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of this tragic on-the-job accident but have released a statement saying victim was an employee for the Tribal Department of Transportation driving an agency truck when he collided with an SUV traveling in the opposite direction. One of victim's coworkers said she believes victim was driving straight, and the driver of the SUV allegedly crossed over the double yellow center line of the roadway and crashed into victim's truck.

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April 23, 2015

North Carolina State Worker Injured on the Job

According to a recent news report from Eyewitness News 11, a state worker is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries as result of a serious on-the-job accident. Witnesses say employee was working at the State Archives in Raleigh setting up a scissor lift at the time of his accident.

workers-01-566067-m.jpgWitnesses say two employees were working to repair an outside light using a scissor lift when the left fell over crushing one of the employees. Fortunately, there were already police officers working at the location, and they were able to provide immediate assistance to the injured employee. Police officers performed CPR until EMTs arrived and transported him to a local level-one trauma center.

A spokesperson for the NC Department of Administration says two maintenance employees were working on an exterior light when a scissor lift toppled over, injuring one of the workers. North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently conducting an investigation into how this was able to happen, and they have net yet released any conclusions.

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April 18, 2015

Sheena H. v. W. Va. Office of Ins. Commissioner

Sheena H. v. W. Va. Office of Ins. Commissioner, a workers' compensation appeal from West Virginia, involved employee who was a 24-year-old coal miner who died as result of a seizure while he was sleeping. His mother and his 6-year-old daughter survived him.

This case involved a workers' compensation death benefits claim on behalf of employee's surviving daughter. While his mother filed the appeal, she was not a party to the matter.

strip-mine-excavator-3-262839-m.jpgPrior to his death in December of 2010, employee was injured in an on-the-job accident in March of 2009. While employee was working in the mine, a wrench which was on the ceiling of the coal mine fell and hit employee on the head. He was knocked unconscious for about a minute and was left with a knot on his head approximately the size of a golf ball.

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April 17, 2015

Haileab v. Hammons Hotels - Banquet Server Suffers Multiple Work Injuries

Some occupations have a tendency to cause more work-related injuries than others. Construction and truck driving are at the top of the list. But food and restaurant service industries too report a fair amount of injuries to workers. receptioncenter.jpg

In the handful of years she worked as a banquet server for a North Carolina hotel, plaintiff in Haileab v. Hammons Hotels d/b/a Embassy Suites suffered a number of injuries after being struck with an ice cart, run into with a table and falling as a result of instability caused by those earlier injuries.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled despite employer's objections as to causation, all injuries were compensable and the worker should receive coverage of medical expenses and other benefits.

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April 14, 2015

Vandre v. State ex rel. Dept. of Workforce Servs. - Compensation for Chronic Illness Exacerbated by Work Injury

Chronic illness that is unrelated to a job function isn't likely to be considered compensable by the courts unless there is some showing of exacerbation of symptoms or condition as a result of one's work injury.
Often, employers vehemently resist these kinds of claims, and routinely issue a denial of benefits, even when it's clear that but for the work injury, the severity of illness or condition would have been considerably less.

This was the case recently for plaintiff in Vandre v. State ex rel. Dept. of Workforce Servs., a case recently weighed by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

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April 11, 2015

Williams v. Best Cartage Inc. - NC Workers' Compensation for Knee Replacement

A semi-truck driver who suffered a knee injury during a fall while exiting his truck when he stopped for breakfast will receive workers' compensation, according to a recent decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
The employer appealed the initial grant of benefits on grounds commission erred in failing to identify a specific reason for plaintiff's fall and secondly in concluding plaintiff's knee injury was causally related to his work accident and therefore compensable. Plaintiff's pre-existing arthritis was a primary point of contention in this case.

But the appellate court affirmed, meaning plaintiff will receive benefits for his knee replacement.

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April 8, 2015

North Carolina Scaffolding Collapse Kills 3 Workers

A North Carolina scaffolding collapse killed three construction workers. Crews were dismantling the scaffold at a high-rise construction site in downtown Raleigh.
The platform reportedly fell 11 stories shortly before mid-day. Serious injuries were reported for at least one other worker, who was inside a portable toilet that was crushed when the scaffold came crashing down.

Workers carrying out construction work underneath the scaffolding indicated they heard something pop. Someone began shouting at everyone to "Run!" Workers then heard a massive crash behind them as they fled. Some described it as sounding like "an explosion."

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April 5, 2015

State ex rel. Viking Forge Corp. v. Perry - Disability Payments After Termination

Workers who suffer a job injury need to understand that if they voluntarily leave their job, they may no longer be entitled to collect disability. In some cases, employers have argued voluntary abandonment of the job, even when the worker was terminated.
It's important for a worker in this situation to consult with an experienced lawyer because companies too often improperly label an employee departures in an effort to avoid providing workers disability benefits they are otherwise due.

This is what reportedly happened in the case of State ex rel. Viking Forge Corp. v. Perry, where a worker suffered an on-the-job injury but did not seek temporary total disability benefits until after he'd been fired for violation of work rules. Although the state industrial commission approved his award of temporary total disability benefits, the employer sought to have that ruling thrown out. However, the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately affirmed.

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March 28, 2015

Bike v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care - Workers' Comp Benefits in Spite of Underlying Injury

A man who suffered an injury at work caused by an underlying knee condition unrelated to his job will receive workers' compensation, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled.
In Bike v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc., the worker was employed at a warehouse, and duties included wrapping pallets, packing boxes, loading trailers and making sure packing lists were accurate. One day in October 2009, he stepped onto a pallet in order to compare the pack list tags when his knee cap moved out of place, and then back. He fell to the floor.

The only injury he suffered was to his knee, and this was not caused by the fall, but rather by an unrelated, underlying condition. He received a myriad of treatments, including emergency treatment right after the incident, physical therapy, braces and activity restrictions. When conservative treatments were unsuccessful, employee proceeded with surgery.

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March 26, 2015

Report: Fast-Food Workers Suffer Many Burns, OSHA Complaints Pending

If you work in the fast-food industry, chances are, you have suffered a burn. Most likely, you endured more than one. fastfood1.jpg

That's according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the National Council for Occupational Safety, which indicated 79 percent of the 1,430 workers polled indicated they had been burned on the job at some point in the last year. Of those, 73 percent (or 58 percent of the total) reported they had suffered multiple burns at some point in the last year.

What's more, 87 percent of these workers indicated they had suffered some type of injury in the last 12 months, with 78 percent indicating they suffered multiple injuries (including burns).

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March 24, 2015

Atiapo v. Goree Logistics - Penalty for Uninsured Trucking Contractor Affirmed

Almost all companies with more than a few employees in North Carolina must carry workers' compensation insurance. The goal is to ensure that workers injured on-the-job have easy access to necessary medical care, and are adequately supported while they recover. highwaydriving.jpg

Unfortunately, there are a fair amount of employers who flout this rule. The state industrial commission has been cracking down on this problem more aggressively of late, but it can be tricky when it comes to the transportation industry. Trucking in particular is tough because the industry is so fragmented. One company owns the tractor, another owns the trailer, another the cargo, while the trucker is an independent contractor.

Independent contractors are not covered under workers' compensation laws. However, N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-.19.1 spells out cases in which a general contractor may be deemed a "statutory employer" of some workers for purposes of workers' compensation. If that company doesn't carry workers' compensation insurance as required, penalties may be instituted. (The law does not require motor carries to pay for workplace injuries for truck drivers who are independent contractors individually licensed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and who personally operates the vehicle. Only trucking firms with three or more employees have to carry coverage.)

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March 22, 2015

Gonzalez v. Tidy Maids - NC Workers' Comp Decision

In requesting ongoing disability compensation for work-related injuries, North Carolina courts presume plaintiff's pain, discomfort and related medical treatment is directly related to previously-established compensable injuries. cleaning.jpg

This standard was set in the 1997 North Carolina Court of Appeals decision in Parsons v. Pantry, Inc. It's sometimes referred to as the "Parsons presumption."

In the more recent case of Gonzalez v. Tiny Maids, Inc., an employer appealed the reinstatement of disability benefits, applied retroactively, to a worker who had suffered a compensable injury and alleged ongoing medical problems stemmed directly from that same issue. Defendant company and insurer insisted it had successfully refuted worker's evidence under Parsons, but appellate court noted the company presented no evidence to suggest plaintiff's discomfort or pain was unrelated to her prior work injuries.

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March 20, 2015

Shepard v. Dept. of Corrections - Continuing Medical Care

A fair number of workers' compensation claims deal not with the initial injury, but with ongoing injuries. In some cases, workers seek an increase in benefits to cover a worsening condition. Other times, companies file a request to re-open a case to assert the employee is no longer disabled, or at least not as severely as initially determined.
In either situation, the worker has to be prepared to effectively argue the extent of their ongoing injuries and the necessity and reasonableness of continuing treatments and medications.

In the recent case of Shepard v. Dept. of Corrections, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled an employer unconstitutionally applied new workers' compensation law that restricted a worker's access to medical treatment. (Of course, this is indicative of a greater problem, detailed recently in investigations by OSHA and ProPublica, which involves the dramatic slashing of workers' compensation benefits in 30 states in the last 10 years). Nonetheless, worker's injury occurred prior to the passage of the more restrictive new law, and her employer wasn't allowed to argue application of the new law in her case.

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March 19, 2015

Shubert v. Macy's West, Inc. - Failure to Adhere to Care Plan

In a workers' compensation case, it is important that the worker abide by the recommendations of his or her treating physician. To do otherwise may jeopardize the employee's ongoing benefits. walking4.jpg

This was seen recently in the case of Shubert v. Macy's West, Inc., reviewed by the Idaho Supreme Court.

This case was riddled with a number of issues, including the fact that she failed to present an expert witness at a hearing, argued too late on the issue of admitting evidence of an award of Social Security Disability Insurance (though the standard of determining disability is different than for workers' compensation) and had not followed through on numerous occasions with physicians' advice for treatment.

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March 17, 2015

Arrowhead v. Kainz - Work Fall Injury Weighed

Falls are among the most common - and perilous - workplace hazards. While construction industry falls garner the most attention, everyday falls are suffered by everyone from restaurant workers to sales employees to office managers.
Although the severity of injuries may vary, falls that arise out of and in the course of employment should be compensable.

Recently in South Carolina, the state high court weighed the case of Nicholson v. SC Dept. of Social Services, in which a social worker was injured in an office fall and sought workers' compensation benefits. Her employer argued the fall could have happened anywhere, and thus wasn't compensable. The workers' compensation commissioner initially denied her benefits, but she prevailed in her case when the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that just because the cause of her fall was unexplained didn't mean it was idiopathic.

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