November 25, 2014

Campos v. Daisy Construction Co. - Benefits for Injured Undocumented Workers


The subject of illegal immigration and undocumented workers tends to be a particularly heated political issue, especially when the issue comes to federal and state benefits secured by these individuals.
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Many states, including North Carolina, still recognize the rights of workers injured on the job to be at least minimally reimbursed for medical expenses by the employer's insurer - regardless of the worker's immigration status. This almost changed earlier this year with H.B. 369, which would have stripped these benefits from undocumented workers. The law would have exempted companies from paying workers' compensation to workers who were undocumented where it could be shown employer didn't know worker was here illegally at the time of hiring due to false representations by worker.

The measure was tucked into a bigger bill of criminal reforms, but was later removed amid stark opposition from health care lobbyists worried injured workers would show up en mass without coverage, resulting in more than $1 billion in additional charity care provided by state hospitals. Those costs are also absorbed by taxpayers. Others worried this would encourage companies to hire illegal workers and then turned a blind eye to misrepresented immigration status until it became beneficial to know otherwise.

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November 22, 2014

Compensation for Injured Workers with Pre-Existing Conditions


Workers' compensation benefits are available to any worker who suffers injury or loses his or her life while performing work-related job duties. Some cases can be more complicated than others. For example, drivers who are in an accident while leaving or heading to work or workers who suffer illness. Can a worker collect compensation when they are injured as a result of a pre-existing or chronic condition? Every case is unique and should be reviewed by an experienced advocate. When pursuing workers' compensation benefits after an accident or injury, it is important to know your rights and the potential obstacles you may face.

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In some instances, workers with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, will often take longer to recover from an on-the-job injury. If the worker suffers from partial or permanent disability, workers' compensation costs go up for employers. Even if an employer has advanced knowledge of the condition, workers' compensation benefits may still extend to total cost of an injured workers medical care and lost wages. Some states, including Connecticut, Florida, New York, and California, allow disability benefits to be split between and employer and another responsible entity, such as a former employer or state-controlled injury fund.

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November 20, 2014

Roadside Construction Worker Killed in Hit and Run


Highway construction workers face some of the most dangerous conditions every time they head to work--speeding trucks, distracted driving, drunk driving, and generally reckless drivers can put the lives of construction workers at risk. In a tragic case, a South Carolina member of a highway construction crew was struck in a fatal hit and run accident. According to reports, the crew was re-paving Highway 170 around 2:00 a.m. when a Pontiac came speeding through the work site. The driver crashed into the crew and killed a 53-year-old worker. An immediate investigation was launched to catch and apprehend the driver.

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Later in the early morning, a 28-year-old female driver was picked up in a traffic stop. She is being charged with hit and run involving a death and felony DUI, criminal allegations that could result in serious penalties upon conviction. This case is still under investigation and the South Carolina Highway Patrol is encouraging any witnesses or individuals with additional information to come forward.

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November 19, 2014

Firefighter Suffers Cardiac Arrest, Dies on Duty


Firefighters risk their lives every time they head out on an emergency call. Not knowing what to expect on the scene, many will face high-levels of stress in addition to dangerous circumstances. In a recent case, a South Carolina firefighter and paramedic suffered a heart attack in the bunkroom of his station and died after he went into cardiac arrest. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the 29-year-old firefighter had responded to several emergency calls and worked on a fire prevention detail only hours before he died of the fatal heart attack.

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Though fellow paramedics and responders tried to save the firefighter, their attempts were unsuccessful. According to reports, the cause of death was listed as "over exertion." When a worker suffers from a heart attack while on the job, compensation can be more complicated, depending on the facts of the case. The workers' compensation system allows workers to collect lost wages, hospital expenses, and wrongful death benefits without having to prove fault. Any worker is entitled to workers' compensation so long as they were injured while in the course of performing work-related duties. When an employee suffers from a heart attack, the individual circumstances are important to determine whether it is a compensable event.

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November 15, 2014

Cortez v. Nacco Material Handling - Lawsuits Against Parent Company Employers


States have varying standards by which employees can subvert workers' compensation laws and pursue litigation against an employer for negligence resulting in on-the-job injury.
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Most state laws adhere to the general holding that workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy by which workers can receive recompense from their employer in the event of a work-related illness or injury.

The idea is that workers' compensation pays for necessary medical treatments, loss of wages during disability and compensation for permanent disability or death at work. The tradeoff is that workers are promptly and adequately compensated without having to prove negligence, but the employer can't be sued by the worker even if it was negligent.

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November 13, 2014

NC Industrial Commission Targets Scofflaw Firms With No Worker Injury Coverage


North Carolina Industrial Commission leaders met recently to discuss policy changes geared toward granting the authority more power to penalize scofflaw business that fail to secure legally-mandated workers' compensation insurance.
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This has been a major problem in recent years, as the News & Observer reported back in 2012. The publication found tens of thousands of businesses in the state put workers at grave risk by failing to purchase workers' compensation insurance that would cushion the financial blow for injured employees. Unfortunately, the NCIC typically fails to act until someone is actually hurt, doesn't get a paycheck, is stuck with mounting medical bills and finally reports the company. Even then, the newspaper noted, the commission rarely enforces penalties and efforts to reimburse workers for the cost of health care could take years.

All companies with three or more employees are required to buy insurance or formally certify to the state that it can cover the expense of on-the-job worker injuries. However, the commission doesn't actually ask for this information, and instead contracts with a third party to maintain a database. But until very recently, there had not been a formal effort to track down those companies that aren't abiding by the law. Instead, the commission acts when a worker is hurt and asks for intervention. By then, the worker is facing down poverty - foreclosure, bankruptcy and wrecked credit.

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November 10, 2014

Hall v. North Carolina Services Corp. - Workers' Compensation Liens


Workers' compensation is known as the "exclusive remedy" for employees injured in the course and scope of employment. That means except for in very rare circumstances, you can't sue your boss, employer or co-worker for negligence that resulted in a work-related injury.
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However, there is nothing in the law that says you can't pursue third-party tortfeasors for negligence resulting in your work-related injury. What you should understand, however, is that your employer may assert subrogation rights - i.e., a lien - on all or part of any third-party award, depending on the facts of the case.

Subrogation is a type of legal right that allows one party (your company's insurance carrier) to make a payment actually owed by another (i.e., third party tortfeasor) and then collect the money from the party that owes the debt after the fact.

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November 7, 2014

Beard v. Wakemed - Healthcare Workers Often Suffer On-the-Job Injury


Health care is the most dangerous industry for injuries and illnesses, according to researchers with think tank Public Citizen. Consider that 45 percent of all workplace violence incidents in the U.S. resulting in lost work days occur in the health care industry. Meanwhile, the number of work-related back injuries among orderlies, attendants, nurses and nurses aides are higher than for any other industry, and they cost an estimated $7 billion annually. stethascope2.jpg

In general, the rate of injuries requiring time of work was four times higher for health care workers than for all workers nationally. Despite this, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) conducts relatively few inspections, according to study authors. Even when inspections are carried out, there is often an absence of defined safety standards.

So it's unsurprising that a large number of workers' compensation cases in North Carolina involve health care workers.

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November 5, 2014

Workers' Compensation for Truckers in North Carolina


Recently in Virginia, a North Carolina truck driver was fatally struck on I-95 after he stopped by the side of the highway to check his rig.
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The question of whether his surviving family will be able to collect workers' compensation benefits may depend on one question: His status as a worker.

In most workers' compensation cases, an employer's assertion that a worker is not an "employee" but rather an "independent contractor" is one that can be fatal to a claim for workers' compensation benefits.

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November 3, 2014

Fox v. Sara Lee Corp. - Workers' Compensation for Sexual Assault at Work


A recent report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated there are more than 12,000 reports of sexual harassment to that agency annually. The actual number of incidents is almost certainly far higher. The official figures also don't necessarily include the number of sexual assaults at work. Every two minutes in the U.S., a woman is sexually assaulted, and nearly 40 percent of those instances involve someone they know - including potentially co-workers, customers, etc.
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In these instances, is workers' compensation the exclusive remedy for employees who are sexually assaulted on-the-job or at a job site? The answer is: It depends.

Workers compensation laws, as enacted in all 50 states, provide payments to workers who are injured during the course and/or scope of employment. With few exceptions, these laws provide exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, and thus bar workers from filing civil lawsuits against their employers.

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October 31, 2014

Average Salaries for the Most Dangerous U.S. Jobs


While many high-risk jobs are in widely known--industries such as logging, fishing, and firefighting--a new report reveals only a few of these high risk industries are also lucrative. A research company set out to find out the most dangerous jobs in America and how much workers were making. According to the study, which was recently published in Time Magazine, many workers are taking on significant risk for less than average salaries.

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According to the BLS, the average wage for all professions was $34,750. Compared to wages collected by those in the most dangerous positions, only 4 of the top 10 dangerous jobs pay more than $10,000 above the average. The others pay around median or less than average. The highest paid dangerous job was airplane pilots who made an average of $129,600 per year.

So what are the most dangerous jobs in America and are they worth it? Here is a summary according to the FindtheBest data combined with wages posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census:

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October 28, 2014

Ebola and Dangerous Health Care Working Conditions


With two nurses from Dallas, another doctor from New York, and now with another nurse being quarantined after providing services to Ebola patients in West Africa, working conditions for health care workers are under scrutiny. The life-threatening threat has spiked concern among residents, politicians, and members of the health care working community--both in training and establishing protocol and how workers should be treated to prevent future spread.

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After the death of a Liberian who was infected with Ebola, a nurse responsible for treating him became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States. Local, state, and federal officials scrambled to determine how she had contracted the disease, despite wearing protective gear. Officials were also concerned about how to prevent future cases, and to minimize the risk of treating patients.

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October 26, 2014

Can Injured Workers Recover Damages for Pain and Suffering?


In the event of a workplace accident, victims do not have to prove that the company or another employee was at fault. Even if the injured worker was ultimately responsible for the accident, he or she is still entitled to workers' compensation. The only requirement to qualify for workers' compensation is that the injury occurred "while in the course of performing work-related duties." In personal injury law, victims are entitled to compensation for personal and financial damages, including pain and suffering. One of the trade-offs in workers' compensation law, is that victims are not entitled to direct payments for pain and suffering.

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While you have likely heard about plaintiffs taking defendants to court in personal injury litigation, workers' compensation claims do not usually involve a dispute of facts. In most cases, a worker will file a claim after injury, and collect compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. Though injured workers are not able to collect for pain and suffering, they do benefit from the quicker turnaround of the workers' compensation system.

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October 24, 2014

Marta v. Reid: On Penalties for the Late Payment of Workers' Compensation Benefits


Marta v. Reid, an appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Georgia, involved the issue of whether there is a penalty for the late payment of workers' compensation benefits.

1018806_the_color_of_money.jpgThe facts in the case were not disputed by either party. Claimant filed for workers' compensation benefits following a 1999 on-the-job injury. A short time after filing the claim, employer started making payments. Claimant was determined to be entitled to 32 payments under a temporary total disability (TTD) rating.

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October 23, 2014

Gits Mfg. Co. v. Frank - Disability Under Odd-Lot Doctrine


While most workers' compensation claims are going to hinge heavily on the degree to which a person is injured, there is another consideration: employment potential.
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This is where the "odd-lot" doctrine comes into play. This is a legal consideration that provides that while a worker may not be completely unable to work, his condition is such that he won't be regularly employed in any reasonably stable area of the labor market that would fit his services.

In these situations, it is the worker who shoulders the burden of proving there is a lack of opportunity for someone suffering from his particular condition, taking into account his education, experience and age. Usually, this is achieved by showing a worker diligently yet unsuccessfully sought work, but the only positions available were menial tasks for which there isn't a stable job market.

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