September 29, 2014

Malcomson v. Liberty Northwest - Denial of Insurer's Ex Parte Communication With Doctors


Our Spartanburg workers' compensation attorneys know that in some cases, insurers providing coverage will seek to communicate with medical providers outside the patient's knowledge or participation. This is called ex parte communication, and it can only be done with a patient's explicit, written consent.
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While that communication may sometimes necessary for certain administrative purposes, the Montana Supreme Court recently ruled in Malcomson v. Liberty Northwest the communication should not be unlimited, particularly when information gleaned is broad and not relevant to the immediate case. Further, the court affirmed an earlier ruling by the state's workers' compensation commission that a patient's refusal to allow unmitigated access to her health care providers regarding her case violated her constitutional rights to medical privacy.

This is a case that illustrates why it is important to have an attorney assisting you from the outside of filing a claim.

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September 27, 2014

Dozier v. American Red Cross - SC Supreme Court Weighs Workers' Compensation Appeal


The South Carolina Supreme Court recently weighed the appeal of a plaintiff in a workers' compensation case who alleged lower courts had erred in failing to find her permanently totally disabled, due to her 5-pound weight lifting restriction imposed after a work-related injury.
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In Dozier v. American Red Cross, the high court affirmed the determination of lower courts, finding job opportunities were available to her in this weight-lifting restriction range, and she failed to properly preserve her claim on the major underlying condition, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a progressive ailment of the nervous system.

Our Rock Hill work injury attorneys know cases like this, where injuries or ailments may be obscure or ambiguous, are difficult to prove. It's imperative to work with an experienced lawyer, or else the claim may have little chance of succeeding.

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September 24, 2014

Lewis v. N.C. Department of Corrections - Mandatory Interest on Lump Sum Permanent Disability Award


The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently awarded interest on a lump sum permanent workers' compensation disability award, finding state law mandated it under N.C.G.S. ยง 97 - 86.2. prison1.jpg

The statute indicates that in any workers' compensation case in which the claimant is successful upon appeal, the company or its insurer "shall pay" interest on the final award or any unpaid portion from the date the claim was first made.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys know the key point in the statute, pertaining to the case of Lewis v. N.C. Department of Corrections, is "shall pay."

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September 21, 2014

Harris v. Haynes: On Worker's Compensation in Car Accident Cases


Harris v. Haynes, an appeal heard before the Supreme Court of Tennessee, involved a claimant ("Claimant") who was working as a police officer for the local sheriff's office. Claimant was assisting with a traffic control operation when a woman driving a pickup truck ("Defendant") ran into him.

480202_broken_car.jpgClaimant applied for and was awarded workers' compensation benefits to compensate him for lost wages and medical bills. Claimant also filed a civil lawsuit against Defendant under a theory of negligence. The trial court entered a default judgment against Defendant and awarded Claimant and his wife $1,250,000 million in damages.

Claimant also filed a claim against the state risk management ("SRM") department under the uninsured motorist (UIM) plan. Claimant and SRM filed cross summary judgment motions. While parties acknowledged that claimants who receive workers' compensation benefits are not also eligible to collect on an uninsured motorist policy, Claimant argued that a portion of the state code conflicted with that prohibition under this particular set of circumstances.

Our Charlotte, North Carolina injury attorneys who represent people injured on the job understand that there are often issues that arise when there are more parties involved in a workers' compensation action than simply the employee and his or her employer.

The trial court granted SRM's motion for summary judgment on grounds that the SRM is a state insurance pool and Employer had specifically rejected UIM coverage when signing the policy contract.

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September 19, 2014

Schmitz v. U.S. Steel Corp: On Retaliation for Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim


In Schmitz v. U.S. Steel Corp., a case from the Minnesota Supreme Court, a worker ("Claimant") filed a civil lawsuit against the company at which he was formerly employed ("Employer") on claims of retaliatory discharge and threats to discharge his workers' compensation claims.

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgClaimant was working as a mechanic at Employer's steel plant when he injured his back. He felt a pop and fell to the ground. Claimant immediately told his supervisor about the accident. Claimant did not fill out an accident report that day, because, according his testimony, it was the foreman's job to fill out the report. Our Spartanburg workplace injury attorneys know that promptly reporting any on-the-job injury and ensuring an accident report is generated greatly increases your chance of obtaining a workers' compensation benefits award.

In Schmitz, Employee called his foreman the next day and said that he was experiencing pain in his side and back. According to court records, Employer's agents warned Claimant not to fill out a workers' compensation claim form. He was told that Employer would not like it if he filled out the report. He asked if they would fire him if he filled out the report, and his supervisor allegedly told him that, yes, they would fire him.

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September 17, 2014

Adamson v. Municipality of Anchorage and Novapro Risk Solutions: Work-Related Cancer and Firefighters


Adamson v. Municipality of Anchorage and Novapro Risk Solutions, and the State of Alaska, involved a firefighter ("Claimant") who had worked for the municipal government for more than 30 years.

711356_firefighter.jpgWhen Claimant was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he filed a workers' compensation claim. The city ("Employer") filed a challenge to his claim on grounds that there was not evidence that the cancer was a workplace injury or illness. Employer included with the challenge a letter from Claimant's physician that stated that he had evidence that the cancer was related to his work as a firefighter.

Claimant was seeking workers' compensation under a Temporary Total Disability Rating (TTD) and was seeking coverage of his medical expenses. As your Asheville attorneys who represent workers injured on the job can explain, workers' compensation benefits are often determined by the claimant's disability rating.

In Adamson, Claimant was relying on a statute that provided that prostate cancer could be considered a workplace injury for a firefighter who did now show any evidence of the disease during his or her qualifying examination at the time of hire, received a complete physical for each of the first seven years on the job, and was exposed to a substance classified as a known carcinogen by an international cancer research agency.

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September 14, 2014

Workers' Compensation Retaliation: Know Your Rights


A West Virginia man recently filed a lawsuit alleging his former employer, a mining company, fired him after he suffered an on-the-job injury and attempted to file for workers' compensation benefits.
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This kind of action is not unheard of. It's called workers' compensation retaliation, and it's illegal.

Our Asheville workers' compensation lawyers recognize that while many employers will challenge a claim for benefits, there are those who may seek to prevent workers from filing one at all. There could be a number of reasons for this. They may fear higher insurance premiums. There is also the concern that a high number of claims could draw the attention of state labor officials, leading to possible government sanctions.

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September 11, 2014

North Carolina Industrial Commission Targets Companies Lacking Workers' Compensation Insurance


The North Carolina Industrial Commission is cracking down on companies that illegally fail to maintain workers' compensation insurance, as required by law to ensure injured employees will have coverage. mortar.jpg

Using a new fraud alerting tool called the Non-compliant Employer Targeting System (NETS), the agency pinpoints potentially non-compliant companies, and then ranks them in terms of priority. The system went live in April, and has since discovered five employers who flouted state worker insurance law.

Workers' compensation lawyers in Charlotte know state law mandates all businesses employing three or more people must maintain workers' compensation insurance. Lumped into this are corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships and sole proprietorships. Exceptions are made for self-insured employers, but for the most part, almost all companies have to maintain it, or else face possible government sanctions.

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September 8, 2014

Caniff v. CSX Transp., Inc. - Compensation Under Federal Employers' Liability Act


Most work-related accidents in South Carolina will fall under the purview of state regulators. However, if you work for a railroad company - and there are numerous carriers in South Carolina - injury claims will be decided by federal authorities according to the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA).
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Our Rock Hill worker injury attorneys know that 45 U.S.C. 51 holds railroad carriers liable for worker injury or death if the incident was the result of any defect or insufficiency, or due to its negligence, cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, works, wharves, roadbed or any other issues with equipment. A person is considered to be the "employee" of the company if his duties "in any way directly or closely and substantially" further the business of interstate commerce.

Given that this is such a physically taxing job, worker injuries are not uncommon. Still, the railroads are not eager to offer up payouts, so injured employees can expect to fight for compensation. A recent example occurred in Kentucky in the case of Caniff v. CSX Transp., Inc., considered by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

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September 6, 2014

Gov. McCrory's Appointment to N.C. Industrial Commission Sparks Ire


The recent appointment of Charlton L. Allen to serve as commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission has raised concern and sparked ire in among workers' advocates, following the release of troubling evidence that Allen's views are prejudice against workers and also minorities.
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Gov. Pat McCrory held firm to his choice to appoint Allen, an attorney from Mooresville who previously served as the Republican party chairman for Iredell County, even after red flags were raised. There is concern that someone with such reportedly dubious views on race and equality will not fairly weigh the rights of all workers who appeal to the commission seeking review of their request for benefits.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers recognize the commission, a quasi-judicial authority, has historically been split down the middle, with three pro-business commissioners and three pro-workers. This approach has worked well to maintain balance and fairness. However, some have expressed concern that Allen's views go beyond the liberal/conservative divide.

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September 3, 2014

Black Lung Work Illness Benefits Upheld for Former Smoker


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld a lower court's decision to grant federal Black Lung benefits to a former coal miner, despite the fact that his years as a cigarette smoker had raised questions regarding the source of his illness.
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The case of Central OH Coal Co. v. Dir.r, Office of Workers' Comp. Programs reveals that when it comes to federal benefits for "black lung," there is much in the worker's favor, assuming he has an experienced Asheville work injury lawyer to advocate on his behalf.

The Black Lung Benefits Act allows for payment to workers deemed 100 percent disabled due to pneumoconiosis, which is a chronic dust disease of the lung caused by coal mining. It's distributed through the U.S. Department of Labor, unlike workers' compensation benefits, which are overseen by the state.

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September 1, 2014

LeFiell Mfg. v. Super. Ct. - Limited Exception to Workers' Compensation Exclusive Remedy Principle


In North Carolina, as in virtually every other state, workers' compensation is considered the "exclusive remedy" for employees who have suffered on-the-job injuries or related illnesses.
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What this means is workers who are eligible for workers' compensation benefits may not sue their employer in court for injuries sustained in the course of employment. There may be the potential for third-party liability lawsuits, but generally, the employer is off-limits in terms of litigation.

There is, our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers know, a limited exception. It started with the 1992 North Carolina Supreme Court decision in Woodson v. Rowland. There, justices decided employees (or their personal representatives) could sue their employer in civil court when an employer engages in misconduct knowing it is substantially certain to cause serious injury or death to employees.

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August 31, 2014

Purcell v. Friday Staffing - Concealment of Prior Work Injury Results in Claim Dismissal


When a worker sustains an on-the-job injury, he or she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits, regardless of whether the injury involves the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. So long as the aggravating injury occurred at work, the incident is compensable. industrial.jpg

Of course, there may be exceptions, as the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Purcell v. Friday Staffing reveals. As our Charlotte work injury lawyers understand it, the biggest issue was not whether the employee's injuries were job-related. However, her alleged concealment of a prior work injury before securing the second job, where the second injury occurred, meant she forfeited her benefits.

According to court records in the Purcell case, the worker reportedly sustained a serious injury to her back while working for a printing company. She was treated with surgery, and initially restricted from engaging in any kind of bending, lifting, stooping or twisting. After a while, she was rated to have a 7 percent partial disability to her back.She was to continue physical therapy and restrict her lifting to prevent further degeneration of her condition. She was encouraged by her doctor to find sedentary work.

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August 26, 2014

Morgan v. Interim Healthcare - Refusal to Accept Suitable Employment


The purpose of workers' compensation is to give workers and employers a straightforward process by which to request and offer benefits to those who have been injured at work, without the hassle of a lawsuit. The ultimate goal in most cases is for the worker to return to gainful employment, whenever possible.
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A worker who refuses to seek or secure employment when the commission deems the worker eligible to do so may risk forfeiting these benefits. Such was the case recently in Morgan v. Interim Healthcare, before the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Our Asheville workers' compensation lawyers know there may be situations in which the North Carolina Industrial Commission overestimates a worker's ability to return to the workforce. An advocate in these circumstances is necessary.

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August 23, 2014

Multiple Employers and Repetitive Trauma Injuries


The term "work injury" conjures a construction fall or a truck crash - something severe and sudden. However, some of the most common types of work-related injuries for which people seek workers' compensation in Rock Hill are those related to repetitive motion. dentist04.jpg

Repetitive motion disorders are those muscular conditions that result from repeated motions performed in the course of normal work activities. Among the more common conditions: tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, bursitis, tenosynovitis, ganglion cyst and trigger finger. Essentially, these conditions are caused by too many uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion or some awkward or unnatural position, such as twisting or overexertion.

While these work-related conditions are certainly worthy of benefits, they tend to be more challenging for the fact that they occur over time. If a worker has been employed by multiple companies over the course of that time, it's important to have an experienced workers' compensation lawyer help conduct a thorough analysis of which employer may be responsible for covering benefits.

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