North Carolina has had a serious issue with employers who fail to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees in the event of an on-the-job injury. In fact, this last year, the North Carolina Industrial Commission charged some 100 employers with misdemeanors for failure to carry proper insurance. The agency has also collected more than $ 1 million in civil fines.

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Yet problems persist. So what are workers to do?

One option is to sue your employer for personal injury. When employers refuse to secure workers’ compensation insurance as required by law, they are no longer legally insulated from such lawsuits, which can result in substantial payouts to the employee far in excess of what they might have gotten from the workers’ compensation claim. That’s because workers’ compensation doesn’t allow for damages paid for pain and suffering, while personal injury litigation does. Plus, you could seek full reimbursement of wages, rather than the two-thirds allowable under workers’ compensation law. However, that’s typically a slower process and you would still have to prove negligence.  Continue reading

A North Carolina man injured at work in both 2010 and again in 2014 while working at two different jobs is entitled to collect workers’ compensation from both, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has just ruled. worker1

In Harris v. Southern Commercial Glass, the appellate panel affirmed the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which had ruled the worker’s second employer was liable to pay both workers’ compensation and disability benefits to the worker.

All sides had previously agreed plaintiff was seriously hurt at work in 2010, necessitating back injury and ultimately resulting in a maximum medical improvement rating of 15 percent disability. That’s the rating he walked into his second job with. However, he still managed to work full-time – sometimes as much as 70 hours weekly – and lift up to 75 pounds. Then in April 2014, all sides agree he experienced back pain after bending slightly while performing job duties. What the parties sharply disagreed about in this case was the legal significance of that second occurrence. Continue reading

Numerous work safety violations came to light at a poultry processing plant in Texas after a worker suffered a finger amputation, sparking an investigation by state and federal regulators. hands1

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reported it is recommending a fine of $263,000 against one of the largest meat processing firms in the world for the more than a dozen workplace safety violations. Inspectors reported some of the workers were exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide and peracetic acid – without being given the proper personal protective equipment.

The investigation first began when a worker lost a finger that had gotten stuck in a conveyor belt that was not properly guarded while he was working in the de-bone area of the plant. He was trying to remove chicken parts that had gotten jammed in the belt.  Continue reading

A spate of on-the-job electrical injuries has health and safety officials hoping to raise awareness about this serious and potentially fatal issue. dangerelectricwires

Electrocutions are one of the “Construction Fatal Four” in terms of the commonality of the problem on job sites. Given that 1 in 5 work-related deaths occurs in the construction industry, the fact that electrocution is the No. 2 cause of death for construction workers makes it a major problem. And it’s not just those within the construction industry that need to worry because electricity is in virtually every workplace. The potential for danger is there.

Our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation attorneys know that employees who suffer electrical shock or surviving dependents of those electrocuted may seek benefits through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. They may additionally want to explore third-party litigation if there is evidence someone else was negligent in causing the hazard or failing to warn about it.  Continue reading

We’ve all heard of stories of workers’ compensation fraud – not because it happens often, but because when it does, it’s heavily publicized. Stories about individuals reportedly taking advantage of the system are splashed all over the front page, providing a skewed picture of the reality of the situation. The truth is, workers’ compensation is something that is sometimes difficult to obtain and often, tougher to keep. camera

If an employer or workers’ compensation insurer suspects an employee is exaggerating his or her injury claims, it’s not unheard of that they will conduct video or other surveillance in an attempt to catch the worker in a lie or to cast doubt on their credibility.

This was the situation in Cornelison v. TIG Insurance, wherein a worker from Alaska had been awarded permanent total disability benefits under the odd-lot doctrine.  Continue reading

Various types of illnesses and health conditions may be covered under workers’ compensation law. It will depend on whether the worker can show the condition was either an occupational disease or somehow work-related.heartattack

We tend to think of occupational diseases as being those such as mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos) or silicosis (caused by exposure to silica dust) or other similar conditions. However, there is a growing area of case law that supports workers’ compensation claims for heart attacks and other heart-related conditions.In order for such an ailment to be compensable, the worker needs to show that, regardless of his or her physical condition prior to taking on the work, the illness arose in the course of and was related to his or her employment.

In some cases, obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for a heart attack might require the worker to show abnormal or extremely stressful working conditions. In situations where the causal connection isn’t apparent or obvious, the worker is probably going to need to establish a connection via unequivocal medical testimony by a qualified medical expert. Just because a worker dies of a heart attack at work doesn’t mean it’s work-related. But similarly, just because a heart attack occurs at home doesn’t mean it isn’t work-related. There are many factors that must be taken into account.  Continue reading

When work-related accidents occur, the first resource those workers and their families may look to is workers’ compensation benefits. These are benefits paid by employers regardless of fault, so long as the injury occurred in the course and scope of one’s employment. oilrig

Injured workers and/ or surviving family members may additionally seek compensation from third parties who may be responsible. Workers can’t sue their employers due to the exclusive remedy provisions of workers’ compensation laws, but they can hold accountable third parties. When successful, these damage awards may well exceed the amount obtained in workers’ compensation actions, though recipients should know that they may be required to repay a portion of their workers’ compensation benefits if they are later paid by that third party.

The question of whether a third party can be held liable will depend on a host of factors and will be specific to that situation. On construction sites, the question of liability of third parties on that site will generally depend on the level of control the third party exercised on the site and the duty of care – if any – defendant owed plaintiff.  Continue reading

The family of an anesthesiology technician who was gunned down while making his way to the hospital, where he was called in last-minute to assist with liver transplant, is seeking workers’ compensation benefits from his employer.

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Stephen Halton Jr. was fatally shot back in January 2014 as he waited at an RTA bus stop around 4:30 a.m. He was just 30-years-old, a husband and father of two who also left behind two loving parents.

Now, his family is warring against Halton’s former employer, arguing the Cleveland Clinic should pay workers’ compensation death benefits. Initially, the Ohio Industrial Commission had refused the claim because, as the hearing officer noted, Halton was required to be on call starting at 6 a.m. For that reason, the hearing officer held that Halton couldn’t have been considered “on call” when he was shot one-and-a-half hours earlier at 4:30 a.m.  Continue reading

Late last month, public health officials in Florida spread the word about the first, locally-transmitted cases of the Zika virus in the continental U.S. mosquito

Initially, there were four people in a northern Miami neighborhood who were identified as having contracted the virus after being bitten by local mosquitoes. That number has since (as of this writing) growing to 14, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to issue an unprecedented warning advising pregnant women to avoid travel to that area.

While there have been no reports of the virus in the Carolinas, it’s not a stretch to say the virus will most likely make it this way at some point. The fact that the virus has spread to the continental U.S. isn’t shocking. In fact, it was widely-anticipated. Still, it creates great concern when we know the virus has proven to cause fetuses to suffer severe birth defects when a pregnant woman is bitten by a mosquito carrying infected blood.  Continue reading

A number of new diseases have made their way to the U.S. in recent years, including Zika and Ebola. That puts laboratory workers on the front lines of important diagnostics, testing, research and treatment. But it has also put them at higher risk of a work-related injury.laboratory

OSHA estimates there are approximately 500,000 laboratory workers in the U.S., and considerations of how they can stay safe in a difficult working environment must be prioritized.

Lab workers face a myriad of potential dangers that may result in workers’ compensation claims, including chemical and biological risks, but also musculoskeletal injuries, such as those caused by constant, repetitive movements. Continue reading

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