July 5, 2015

O'Neal v. Inline Fluid Power, Inc. - Denial of Indemnity Benefits

About half of all workers' compensation benefits paid in North Carolina are indemnity benefits. These are benefits paid to workers who are injured with the purpose of replacing or supplementing worker's lost income.
Another term for indemnity benefits is "lost wages." There are two basic types: Temporary and permanent. Temporary benefits are paid to supplement worker wages while the worker is recovering from his or her injury. This could be while worker is unable to work or while he or she returns part-time. Permanent indemnity benefits, meanwhile, are paid to workers who have reached maximum medical improvement and may have suffered permanent disability as a result of the work injury.

The amount of indemnity benefits an employee will receive will depend on the amount of the worker's pay history prior to the injuries, and most jurisdictions allow for two-thirds of worker's regular gross pay.

Continue reading "O'Neal v. Inline Fluid Power, Inc. - Denial of Indemnity Benefits" »

July 3, 2015

North Carolina Worker Misclassification Bill Advances, Some Critical

Last fall, the Raleigh News & Observer published a mammoth, five-part series on the problem of worker misclassification, both nationally and specifically in North Carolina, where the practice is especially pervasive.
The issue involves companies classifying workers as independent contractors when in fact they are employees. In so doing, these firms can avoid paying workers' compensation benefits, income taxes or unemployment taxes. Not only does this harm workers, who are left without these protections, it also harms other businesses that are unable to compete with those skimming an estimated 20 percent of their costs off the top. Further, the newspaper reported these actions cost North Carolina $467 million every year in lost tax revenue - and that's just in the construction industry alone!

What's more, the report revealed an astonishing 45 percent of the 826 companies participating in HUD-funded projects in this state from 2009 through 2013 misclassified workers.

Continue reading "North Carolina Worker Misclassification Bill Advances, Some Critical" »

July 1, 2015

SeaBright Ins. Co. v. Lopez - Workers' Compensation for Auto Accident

It is possible for someone who is injured in a motor vehicle collision to receive workers' compensation benefits if the vehicle was being driven in the course and scope of employment. accident2.jpg

Of course, where workers are professional drivers, the question of an accident being work-related is fairly simple. However, when a worker is commuting, the answer gets more complex.

Generally, courts in North Carolina and many other states abide by the "coming-and-going-rule." This allows that workers who are "coming and going" to and from work are not protected under workers' compensation provisions. The thinking goes that a worker who is coming to or leaving from work isn't engaged in the business of the employer and therefore is not benefiting the employer and so accidents that occur in this context aren't compensable.

Continue reading "SeaBright Ins. Co. v. Lopez - Workers' Compensation for Auto Accident" »

June 30, 2015

Lifting Accidents and Injuries Common for Nurses and Nursing Assistants

Working as a nurse often involves more physical lifting of heavy loads than most people realize. This, in turn, leads to more incidents of work-related injury. According to a recent news feature from Business Insurance, nurses routinely suffer from injuries while lifting patients, even though all hospitals provide lifting aids.

hospital-1385736-m.jpgRecent study data from the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows nurses and nursing assistants suffered from more musculoskeletal injuries than many other occupations. The actual numbers depict a rate of nearly 209 lifting injuries per 10,000 full-time workers. This is a significant rate when we consider that, in an average of all industries, there is a rate of around 36 musculoskeletal injuries per 10,000 full-time employees.

Most of these injuries to the nurses and healthcare workers happen when they are attempting to lift or physically move a patient. To help make things easier at hospitals around the country, regulations require a variety of different types of patient lifting systems. This includes state-of-the-art hoists, full-body sling lifts, and overhead lifting systems to help lift patients who are confined to a hospital bed and unable to sit up without help. There is also a great deal of lifting when transporting patients from one bed to another. To help minimize this, they are now using hospital beds as movable gurneys whenever possible. In some hospitals, patient beds are even being used in place of traditional operating tables.

Continue reading "Lifting Accidents and Injuries Common for Nurses and Nursing Assistants " »

June 28, 2015

Common Carolina Workplace Injuries and Causes

Some jobs are more dangerous than others. However, we often think of dangers in terms of large, single-event catastrophes, where a worker was healthy on his or her way to work and ended up in the hospital by day's end. However, many of the job injuries and illnesses result from long-term work involving repetitive tasks.

wristpain.jpgFor example, carpal tunnel syndrome is normally the result of performing repetitive tasks during a long period of time and is not the result of a single workplace accident.

According to a recent news article from Owatonna People's Press, certain types of work environments are more likely to lead to workplace injuries than others. However, there are certain steps that can be taken at most workplaces to prevent on-the-job injury and illness.

Continue reading "Common Carolina Workplace Injuries and Causes " »

June 26, 2015

Timing of Reporting Workplace Injuries in South Carolina

One of the most important things any injured worker can do is to make sure his or her workplace accident or work-related illness is promptly reported to his or her employer and a claim is filed for workers' compensation as soon as possible following the incident.

clock-1408511-m.jpgAccording to a recent news article from Business Insurance, it is not only injured employees who can benefit from timely reporting, as this timeliness of claims should also be important to employers. Experts say that encouraging employees to immediately file accident and injury reports can help keep their costs down. However, these same experts warn employers there should never been an employer-controlled penalty for failing to file a workers' compensation claim in a timely manner. If there is a state statute of limitations on how long a worker can wait to file a workers' compensation claim, then the state statute, and not an employer's policy, should dictate any penalty, including dismissal of a claim.

Continue reading "Timing of Reporting Workplace Injuries in South Carolina " »

June 24, 2015

Worker Killed During Construction of New Smithsonian Museum

Each year, millions of tourists from all over the world come to Washington, DC for a family vacation. One of the best things about Washington, DC is that, while it may be expensive to stay there, there are many family-friendly activities that are completely free. The best examples of this are the various museums administered by the Smithsonian Institute. Many of these Smithsonian museums are located around the National Mall. The most popular museums, based upon annual visitors, are the Air and Space Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.

building-1086498-m.jpgHowever, these are just two of the many museums that are housed in buildings that are each true works of art. Many of these buildings have been constructed and renovated over the years, and new museums are under construction or in planning stages. The museum scheduled to open next is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is being constructed near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. While the museum will be a wonderful place to visit once complete, for the workers helping to build it, it is like any other construction job, and that means it can be a dangerous place to work.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, a worker was recently killed when scaffolding collapsed during construction of the new museum. The 50-year-old construction worker was on scaffolding above the roof of the museum during its construction when he became trapped in some of the scaffolding on which he was working. While he was trapped in the scaffolding, it collapsed, and he fell to the roof surface. Witnesses immediately called 911, and first responders quickly arrived on the scene. When emergency personnel made it to the roof of the building, they assessed the nature and extent of worker's injuries. They quickly removed him from the roof and began to initiate CPR.

Continue reading "Worker Killed During Construction of New Smithsonian Museum " »

June 22, 2015

Five Workers Injured from Poison Gas Leak at Apple Data Center in NC

According to a recent report from The Guardian, five workers were taken to the hospital as a result of a chlorine gas leak at Apple's massive data center located in Maiden, North Carolina.

chlorine-gas-116007-m.jpgData centers for computer giants like Google and Apple, both of which are located in the Carolinas, use extremely powerful servers and data handling computers to manage the operation. Essentially, the network is designed to not only manage data, but to serve as a conduit for cloud computing operations. These powerful computers tend to get extremely hot, so, in addition to using an enormous amount of electricity, they also require a large supply of water to cool the data servers.

Water-cooled electronics are not common in terms of consumer products, but it is a very common method of cooling large commercial data centers and switches. However, due to the sensitive nature of the server's equipment, including the cooling system, the water must be sterilized to prevent any contamination from disrupting operation of the data center. Chlorine is often used as a chemical agent to sanitize the water being pumped through the coolant system.

Continue reading "Five Workers Injured from Poison Gas Leak at Apple Data Center in NC" »

June 19, 2015

Fatal South Carolina Workplace Accident - Falling Concrete Block

Throughout much of our history, construction jobs have always been one of the more dangerous occupations. While construction work has become significantly safer over the past 100 years, there are still frequent accidents, and some of the accidents result in a worker being killed.

wall-4-589624-m.jpgAccording to a recent news report from WISTV, a worker in Orangeburg, South Carolina was killed when a falling concrete block hit him. Witnesses say the 70-year-old victim was working on a masonry project taking down a cinderblock wall at the time of his on-the-job fatal injury.

While he was attempting to dismantle the wall one block at a time, the wall became unstable and collapsed, causing a large concrete block to fall on him. Authorities conducted an investigation into the fatal work-related accident, as is always done, and quickly determined the worker's death was in fact the result of an accident. No other workers at the construction site were injured when the wall collapsed.

Continue reading "Fatal South Carolina Workplace Accident - Falling Concrete Block " »

June 16, 2015

Report: Young, Hispanic Immigrant Construction Workers at High Risk of Injury

Young, Hispanic immigrant construction workers employed by small companies have the highest risk of suffering an on-the-job injury. That's according to a new study conducted by NIOSH and the American Society of Safety Engineers.
The agencies were interested in examining the safety of individuals with overlapping vulnerabilities. A number of factors contribute to the likelihood of an injury, such as race, class, gender, the growth of the temporary workforce and the weaknesses of companies with 20 or fewer workers.

The report identifies three groups - Hispanic immigrants, small business employees and young workers that, separately, have an elevated risk of job-related injury and poor health outcomes when an accident does occur. When a worker shares all of these traits, the researchers found, the risk of injury is even higher.

Continue reading "Report: Young, Hispanic Immigrant Construction Workers at High Risk of Injury" »

June 13, 2015

Animals Can Cause Work-Related Injuries in South Carolina

News recently broke that a zookeeper working at a zoo and aquarium in Nebraska was hospitalized after suffering a bite from a juvenile Komodo dragon, a carnivorous lizard with poisonous venom. Despite earlier reports the woman was critically inured, she was treated, released and expected to recover fully.
A spokeswoman for the zoo later reported the worker had a wound on her hand that required stitches. While adult Komodo dragons can weigh up to 300 pounds, reach 10 feet in length and run for short bursts up to 11 mph, this was one was young and relatively small: Only about 4 feet long and weighing just 10 pounds.

At the time of the incident, the zoo worker was reportedly caring for the animal while it was in its cage.

Continue reading "Animals Can Cause Work-Related Injuries in South Carolina" »

June 11, 2015

Ferguson v. New Hampshire Insurance Co. - SC Appeals Court Weighs Employee Status in Workers' Comp Case

Most employers within South Carolina are required to carry workers' compensation for their employees to cover expenses related to work injury or illnesses.
However, these claims sometimes hinge on whether:

  1. The employer was statutorily required to carry coverage

  2. The worker in question was in fact an "employee" per the understood legal definition

Although seemingly simple, these points are not always straightforward.

Take the recent case of Ferguson v. New Hampshire Insurance Company, recently weighed by the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

Continue reading "Ferguson v. New Hampshire Insurance Co. - SC Appeals Court Weighs Employee Status in Workers' Comp Case" »

June 9, 2015

Taylor v. Howard Transportation, Inc. - Jurisdiction in NC Workers' Comp Cases

Work forces today are more fluid than ever. Employees work from home. Some may travel extensively out-of-state as part of their work.
While these things can benefit industry and commerce, they can muddy the waters where workers' compensation is concerned.

Specifically where accidents occur out-of-state, the N.C. Gen. Stat. ยง 97-36 says that when workers are injured in an accident that occurs out-of-state, employees and/or dependents are entitled to workers' compensation benefits only in the following circumstances:

  1. If the employment contract was made in North Carolina

  2. If employer's principal place of business was in North Carolina

  3. If worker's principle place of employment was in North Carolina

Continue reading "Taylor v. Howard Transportation, Inc. - Jurisdiction in NC Workers' Comp Cases" »

June 6, 2015

Fields v. H&E Equipment Services LLC - Importance of Expert Witness Testimony

Certain matters of fact in a workers' compensation lawsuit may require special explanation by an expert witness. These matters can range from injury causation to extent of injury to the types of treatments deemed reasonably necessary.
In the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Fields v. H&E Equipment Services LLC, the issue was the employee's inability to find other work.

This may not seem a highly technical issue on the surface, but it can be when the court is comparing the types of injuries a worker sustained to the kinds of jobs available that he or she can reasonably do.

Continue reading "Fields v. H&E Equipment Services LLC - Importance of Expert Witness Testimony" »

June 3, 2015

South Coast Framing v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Board - Death Benefits After Drug Overdose

One of the most common forms of treatment for pain following a work injury is medication. We are often lulled into a false sense of security about the safety of pain medication.
Not only is it highly addictive, but certain combinations can be dangerous too.

Illness or death caused by prescription medication taken in accordance with a doctor's orders for a work-related injury may be compensable - as much so as the underlying injury that prompted the person to receive the medication. (There could also be grounds for a medical malpractice claim, though that would be an entirely separate matter.)

Continue reading "South Coast Framing v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Board - Death Benefits After Drug Overdose" »