The nation watched in horror the images of a young television reporter and her cameraman fatally gunned down on live television in Virginia recently. The interview subject was also shot, though her injures were non-life-threatening.
The devastating incident was later determined to have occurred at the hands of a former reporter who had been fired from the local news station two years earlier for repeated confrontations with colleagues. Although he had completed counseling through employee assistance at his supervisors’ behest, he was fired anyway for ongoing belligerence and other issues. When his bosses informed him of his termination, police had to be called to escort him from the building as his coworkers locked themselves in a nearby room to escape his wrath.

But he never technically committed any crime. Station managers hoped that would be the last they would have to worry about him. They were wrong. After killing his two former co-workers and wounding the interviewee, he fled and later killed himself.
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A South Carolina construction worker was seriously injured recently when a pipe exploded at a work site on the University of South Carolina Beaufort campus.
Authorities said the worker was conscious as he was flown by helicopter to the local hospital, shortly before 11 a.m. The worker was not immediately identified and neither were the exact nature of his injuries, though officials did say the injuries were serious enough that he had to be transported to the hospital by helicopter rather than ground ambulance.

He was being treated at the local trauma center, though the injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. Officials did say he the worker suffered “bruises and scratches.” It’s not clear if he also suffered severe burns.
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For years in North Carolina, businesses – primarily those in the construction industry – have sidestepped labor and tax laws by labeling employees as “independent contractors.”
In so doing, they reaped numerous benefits. They have been able to underbid law-abiding companies by as much as 20 percent because they didn’t withhold taxes from paychecks. Workers, meanwhile, are made to toil absent the benefit of protections to which they are entitled, such as unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance.

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer conducted a five-part series last year detailing this practice, and revealed it costs an estimated $467 million annually in lost federal and state revenue – just from the state’s construction industry alone.
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In North Carolina, workers’ compensation death benefits may be paid to the total dependents of an employee or next-of-kin, whichever is applicable.
Death benefits cover funeral expenses, plus two-thirds of employee’s average weekly wages, payable for up to 500 weeks, unless dependent is a spouse unable to support himself or herself due to physical or mental disability or a child who is under 18.

However, determining who is eligible to collect these death benefits is not always a straightforward task. If the individual is married, typically those benefits would go to the surviving spouse. However, if the pair is estranged – but still married – there could be a valid dispute as to entitlement.

In the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Easley v. TLC Companies, the question arose of what constitutes a widow?
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It’s not unusual for workers’ compensation claims to be denied outright, especially if the worker is not represented by an experienced attorney.
In many cases, workers have to fight for benefits, and it sometimes requires a substantial amount of evidence to establish certain aspects such as causation, whether the injury or illness occurred in the scope and course of employment and the full extent of claimant’s disability.

In the recent case of Ellis v. Key City Furniture, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed a denial of benefits to an employee who failed to show she was unable to earn the same wages as she died prior to layoff. The court further held that the North Carolina Industrial Commission had not erred in giving diminished weight or totally disregarding her physician’s opinion of her injuries.

This is one of the reasons why having ample evidence of each aspect of the case is so important. Presenting the opinion of just one doctor to testify in your favor may not be sufficient in your case.
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The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the award of workers’ compensation benefits to plaintiff in Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., over objections by employer that worker hadn’t suffered a compensable injury, wasn’t injured in the course of employment and wasn’t entitled to temporary total disability benefits.
According to court records, the injury was sustained while plaintiff was playing “laser tag” at a company-sponsored event in Charlotte. The game was part of a three-day conference and plaintiff’s attendance was mandatory. Normally, he was based in Asheville, but the conference was in Charlotte, and he wasn’t allowed to bring his wife or children with him. He was paid normal salary for his time there.

During the day, the company discussed the previous year’s sales, new products, new sales strategies and offered opportunities to meet with vendors and colleagues in other locations.
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Workers’ compensation insurance is continuing to get more costly for businesses, and at the same time, workers are receiving even lesser benefits.
That’s according to the latest report from the National Academy of Social Insurance.

What this means is people injured at work in North Carolina are going to have to fight even harder to obtain benefits to which they are entitled. And even if they secure benefits, they may be in for a battle when it comes to the extent of those benefits.
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In 2012, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration lost a critical case in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the federal regulator can’t cite employers for failure to record work-related injuries and illnesses more than six months after the initial obligation to record the case occurred.
Previously, the commission had held it had up 5.5 years to bring such cases, and taken numerous employers to task with hefty fines and penalties for failure to do so. There was great concern after that decision would result in companies being lax on record-keeping duties.

Now, OSHA has announced it’s proposing to amend it’s record-keeping rules to reinforce the duty to record illness or injury for as long as the employer must keep records of recordable injury or illness. That time is five years.
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The state of North Carolina abides by the so-called “coming-and-going rule” when it comes to injuries sustained by an employee who is traveling to or from his place of employment.
Generally speaking, these injuries will not be covered by workers’ compensation unless the worker is driving a vehicle furnished by the employer as an incident to the contract of employment, or if the injuries were sustained while the worker was on a premises owned or controlled by employer.

In a recent case out of Georgia, a pastry chef suffered grievous injuries in February last year while on her way to her place of employment, a local bread bakery and cafe. According to news reports, she was astride her bicycle when a car driver ran over her.
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Those who are self-employed in North Carolina do not necessarily have to carry workers’ compensation insurance for themselves as sole proprietors or their partners or co-members of an LLC. That’s because these individuals are not automatically considered “employees.” However, it’s still generally a good idea, especially if the work involves moderate to severe risk of injury.
Because the potential for a violation of law is high on this point, it’s important for small business owners to consult with an attorney to ensure they have secured the proper coverage, if necessary.

Even then, self-employed individuals may find it difficult to collect on that coverage if it’s necessary. Here again, employing an experienced legal team to help navigate the process can be well worth it, as there may be unforeseen complications in these cases with which other “regular” employees may not have to grapple.
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