February 26, 2015

Lambdin v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. - Job-Related Hearing Loss Compensated

Workers' compensation law in each state has a fairly straightforward method for how certain permanent disabilities should be rated and compensated. For example, if your left hand is permanently injured but the injury is not severe, you may be rated with a 10 percent permanent disability. Meanwhile, a more serious injury would warrant a 60 percent disability. Compensation would be based on that percentage, factoring in your average weekly income prior to injury.
Still, there is a broad degree of discretion granted to hearing officers, commissions and courts in determining the extent of injury and benefits.

In the recent case of Lambdin v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., plaintiff suffered hearing loss and requested workers' compensation loss after retirement. Although there were no strict guidelines for the degree of hearing loss beyond a certain point, plaintiff successfully made a claim for higher benefits based on the submission of expert witness testimony regarding methods for rating impairment that are accepted by the medical industry.

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February 24, 2015

L & L Enterprises v. Arellano - Worker Legal Resident Status Irrelevant

Some employers hire workers whose resident status and right to work in the U.S. is in question do so because they assume the worker will be far less likely to file a workers' compensation claim in the event of an injury.
They rely on the fact that these workers may have few other options and might be intimidated into not filing a claim. These employees also tend to be at higher risk for injury because employers will often sidestep worker safety laws and procedures where they are concerned.

But the fact is, companies who hire non-legal workers assume the responsibility for those workers' injuries. Courts have held time and again companies cannot skirt their duty to cover work-related injuries on the basis of a worker's resident status.

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February 22, 2015

Silva v. Lowes - Penalties, Fees and Other Awards in Workers' Compensation Claims

In making a North Carolina workers' compensation claim, the primary issue is typically securing benefits. Beyond that, there may be additional compensation for late payments, attorney's fees and other expenses. These expenses can add up to a significant sum, so it's certainly worth exploring. However, there needs to be sufficient proof that the additional compensation is warranted. aislephoto.jpg

In the recent case of Silva v. Lowes, plaintiff fought a years-long battle for continued benefits after he was terminated from the job for unrelated reasons. The employer argued that because he was fired for reasons unrelated to his disability, workers' compensation benefits, including temporary total disability and coverage of medical expenses, should be revoked.

Plaintiff ultimately prevailed and, after several defendant appeals, received a lump sum payment for about $221,000, or $460 a week from the time of his termination to when the final decision was issued. However, the commission denied plaintiff's request for compensation on certain other fronts. Specifically, he had requested a 10 percent late payment penalty for defendant's alleged untimely payment after it lost the final appeal, plus reimbursement for attorney's fees and certain other expenses.

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February 20, 2015

Report: Nurses at High Risk of Becoming Patients Due to Work Injury

Nurses by trade are healers. And yet, when it comes to their own health, it's apparent workplaces aren't doing enough to prevent serious injury.
New figures released by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates nurses have some of the highest work injury rates in the country. There are an estimated 35,000 back injuries reported among nurses every year that are severe enough they must miss work.

While we tend to think of construction workers as having the most dangerous jobs, consider this: Nursing assistants and orderlies each are three times more likely to suffer musculoskeletal and back injuries than those who work in construction.

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February 16, 2015

State ex rel. Hildebrand v. Wingate Transport, Inc. - Use Caution in Quitting Your Job After Work Injury

In the wake of a work injury, there may be some circumstances in which an employee is mulling quitting his or her job. Maybe he or she has no choice.
Ideally, if the case is pending, it's generally best to hold onto the job at long as possible. While your medical benefits should remain unchanged regardless of your job status, your temporary total disability benefits could be affected. That's because temporary total disability benefits cover a percentage of your lost wages when your injury keeps you from carrying out your previous job duties.

So for example, if there are job restrictions your doctor places on you while you are healing, you can recover the difference through TTD.

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February 14, 2015

Sullwold v. Salvation Army - Work-at-Home Heart Attack Compensable

Working from home is part of a growing trend that saves workers the commute and saves companies money. treadmill1.jpg

According to the American Community Survey, telecommuting has risen nearly 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, meaning some 2.6 percent of Americans are now working from home. That figure includes full-time employees, as well as those who only partially log hours from their own address.

While an increasingly mobile workforce has had a number of positives, it does have the potential to muddy the waters as far as workers' compensation is concerned. That's because it's much easier to prove an injury was work-related when it happens on the job site. But when injuries occur at someone's home - albeit, when they are working - it may be tougher to make a case.

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February 12, 2015

Nicholson v. SC Dept. of Social Services - SC Supreme Court Weighs Work Falls

For the second time in a month, the South Carolina Supreme Court took on the issue of idiopathic injuries in the workplace. While the definition for the term "idiopathic" does include the word "unexplained," that's not exactly the way the court interprets it for purposes of granting workers' compensation benefits.
It's true that work injuries must arise out of and in the course of one's employment. But when an injury - such as a fall - occurs at work, and there is no explanation for why, that does not mean the injuries are not compensable. What would render the injuries the result of an idiopathic incident would be if the cause was something personal to the injured; something that could have occurred anywhere.

Examples might be a heart attack, stroke, seizure or diabetic episode - things that could happen to the worker at any place and time, but just happened to have occurred at work. Even then, if some work-related condition exacerbated the incident or injury, the commission might still find the injury partially compensable.

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February 10, 2015

Demetres v. East West Construction, Inc. - Near-Fatal Bulldozer Injuries and Exclusive Remedy

After being nearly killed by a subcontractor employee operating a bulldozer, a former general contractor supervisor, of North Carolina, attempted to pursue a negligence lawsuit against the subcontractor and its worker.
However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in Demetres v. East West Construction, Inc. the subcontractor was protected per the exclusive remedy provision of Virginia's workers' compensation law.

Exclusive remedy means injuries arising out of and in the course of one's employment are only compensable by workers' compensation - so far as the employer is concerned. While third-party negligence lawsuits are sometimes pursued, co-workers, sub-contractors and general contractors may be protected under this provision too, depending on the details of the relationship and incident.

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February 8, 2015

Barnes v. Charter 1 Realty - South Carolina Supreme Court Weighs Idiopathic Injury Claim

In a South Carolina workers' compensation claim, it is not enough that the incident/injury/illness happened while claimant was at work. The law says it must arise out of and in the course of one carrying out work or work-related duties.
When injuries occur at work as the result of some spontaneous or obscure or unknown cause, this is referred to as an "idiopathic injury," and it's important for injured workers to understand because it could be the basis of a claim denial, if your company/insurer is successful in asserting it.

Recently, the South Carolina Supreme Court took on a purported case of idiopathic injury in a workers' compensation claim in Barnes v. Charter 1 Realty.

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February 6, 2015

South Carolina Appeals Court Remands Workers' Compensation Case for Further Review

The vast majority of companies in South Carolina are required to carry valid workers' compensation insurance to cover employees in the event of a work injury.
However, if an insurance company enters a period of financial difficulty and can't meet its obligations, the state insurance commissioner will step in and initiate a process to help the company regain its financial footing. If it's ultimately determined the company can't be helped, the commissioner will request a court order for liquidation, and the payouts will be covered by a guaranty association.

Those claims covered under a guaranty association are subject to more stringent caps for payouts.

While the guaranty does provide an additional layer of protection for workers insured by now-insolvent companies, it can also create a layer of complication, as the recent case of Ex parte: South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guarantee Association revealed. The case, which was actually a consolidation of 10 separate workers' compensation claims, was recently weighed by the South Carolina Court of Appeal, which vacated an earlier order and remanded the case for further analysis.

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February 4, 2015

Rose v. JJS Trucking - SC Appeals Court Weighs Work Injury Case

Not all companies required by South Carolina law to carry workers' compensation insurance actually do so. In these cases, where the employer was a subcontractor, South Carolina Code Section 42-415 requires the higher tier subcontractor, contractor or project owner and/or that firm's insurance carrier be responsible for work injury coverage.
That contractor may then later be eligible for reimbursement through the Uninsured Employers' Fund.

The idea is to provide swift relief to injured workers. It also provides incentive for contractors and project managers to thoroughly vet the companies with which they are working.

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February 2, 2015

Report: NC Work Deaths Double, 20 Deadliest Jobs Outlined

The latest report by the North Carolina Department of Labor indicates work-related deaths nearly doubled last year when compared to those killed a year earlier.
State officials reported 44 people died in work-related accidents in 2014, compared to 23 in 2013. That means last year has the distinction of the most on-the-job deaths in the state since 2011, when 53 were killed.

Nearly all were men, all were characterized as "laborers" and they ranged in age from 20 to 82. The average age was 44.

Accounting for a large part of the increase was the construction industry. Of the 44 who lost their lives in 2014, 19 of those were construction workers. That's 12 more than suffered a fatality in that sector a year earlier.

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January 30, 2015

Moreau v. Transp. Ins. Co. - Asbestos Illness Medical Expense Reimbursement Disputed

In the case of Moreau v. Transp. Ins. Co., the workers' compensation insurance carrier for a Montana mining company had agreed to accept liability for medical expenses of a former worker who died of asbestos-related lung cancer.
However, the company had established and funded a medical plan to pay for the medical expenses of workers injured by exposure to asbestos, and both the plan and employer declined to accept the insurer reimbursement for this worker. The worker's widow, as personal representative of his estate, asserted the reimbursement should be paid either to his estate or to a charity chosen by the estate.

But the insurer wouldn't pay the money for this purpose, so the estate filed an action with the state Workers' Compensation Court. Initially, the petition was denied on grounds it lacked jurisdiction because the estate lacked standing. However, the Montana Supreme Court disagreed, reversing and remanding.

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January 29, 2015

Making Workplace Accident Prevention a 2014 Goal

The New Year means it is time for resolutions. Employers need to resolve to take workplace seriously safety this year and to do what they can to try to improve work conditions. business-men-silhouette-1014502-m.jpg

Employees can also do their part to protect themselves this year. Workers should resolve to know their rights when it comes to safety issues and to speak up if they believe something is wrong on their job site.

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January 25, 2015

OR-OSHA v. CBI Services, Inc. - Monitoring Workplace Safety

Far too many workers suffer on-the-job injuries because employers fail to obey the industry and legal standards for safety.
In a recent lawsuit out of Oregon, the federal regulatory agency that oversees workforce safety sued a company for failure to exercise reasonable diligence to avoid a legal violation amounting to a safety hazard. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration operates throughout the country, and will at times take civil action against companies that break various labor laws, including the failure to follow rules that keep workers safe.

Unless a willful violation results in a worker's serious injury or death, criminal action is usually not taken, but a company can be made to pay civil fines and penalties.

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