A landscaping worker employed by the North Carolina city of Greenville, about 2.5 hours east of Greensboro, was injured while driving a city truck. A third-party driver ran a red light and crashed into him. The force of the collision caused his truck to collide with a tree, breaking the windshield and causing the airbags to deploy with force.
Plaintiff was transported to a local hospital and treated for bruises on his head, broken ribs and a number of injuries to his pelvis, neck, back and hip. An MRI revealed a concussion, but he was discharged from the hospital the next day.

That was five years ago. The issue of his workers’ compensation benefits has been an ongoing one, recently weighed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Wilkes v. Greenville. Plaintiff recently appealed a finding by the North Carolina Industrial Commission indicating his injuries weren’t work-related and that he was no longer entitled to receive temporary total disability benefits. The appellate court reversed in part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.
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One of the benefits of having an experienced legal team handle your North Carolina workers’ compensation claim is that any acts of retaliation taken in response to that claim will be well-documented. autopaint.jpg

There are many ways employers may try to take action against employees who file injury claims, and some are not always obvious.

This kind of retaliation can be grounds for a separate legal claim for damages. Our compassionate legal team assists clients in not only securing fair work injury benefits, but in properly documenting retaliatory actions in a way that will preserve the case for a future civil lawsuit, if that is deemed necessary.
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The North Carolina Industrial Commission follows a rating guide for evaluation of permanent disability and permanent physical impairment that is intended to assist physicians in evaluating workers’ compensation claims.
For example, a moderate deformity of the hip is given a total permanent impairment rating of 30 percent. A limitation of knee motion from 0 to 90 degrees is given an impairment rating of 15 percent. Quadriplegia is given a 100 percent impairment rating. These guidelines follow the recommendations set forth by the American Medical Association (AMA).

A doctor or the industrial commission may choose to deviate from these guidelines, but there has to be evidence to support that deviation. Many other state workers’ compensation systems abide by the same kinds of guidelines.
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A part-time, teenage employee suffered injury to his knees while working as a cook at fast-food restaurant in Idaho. He filed for workers’ compensation coverage several months after the accident (a slip-and-fall), but his quest for permanent partial disability benefits would span the next 10 years.
In the case of Fairchild v. Kentucky Fried Chicken, the state workers’ compensation commission ultimately granted him a permanent partial impairment rating of 3 percent, while finding plaintiff failed to prove a disability in excess of that impairment.

The Idaho Supreme Court recently affirmed that finding.
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There are a lot of ways one could get injured when working at a coffee shop. Burn injuries are an obvious type of injury that comes to mind. A worker could also get injured from having something fall on him or her in the supply room, or slipping and falling on a wet floor.

However, “Getting struck by a vehicle” is probably not on the list of likely scenarios.

1339587_catering_-_coffee.jpgHowever, according to a recent news article in the Winston-Salem Journal, one worker had come to the coffee shop early in the morning and began setting things up to serve customers their morning coffee. The store’s patio furniture stays out all night, but like many other businesses with out door furniture, employees run a cable lock through the chairs and tables to deter any theft.
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When people think of workers’ compensation, they are normally thinking of a single, catastrophic accident. This could involve anything from merchandise falling from a high shelf in a retail setting to a machine guarding injury at a large factory.

However, workers’ compensation benefits are also appropriate in cases of work-related illness or when an injury is caused by work that took a substantial amount of time to develop.

wristpain.jpgRepetitive stress injuries (RSI) are actually a major category of workplace injuries, though many victims may not realize they can apply for benefits. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a good example that is one of the most common types of RSI seen on the job. If a worker is required to perform a repetitive task day in and day out, there is a decent chance this will eventually lead to an RSI. If that work involves the use of the hand or wrist, that RSI may manifest as carpal tunnel syndrome.

While many people associate carpal tunnel syndrome with working at a computer, that is actually only one cause. Many factory workers and food service and production employees are required to perform repetitive tasks that may cause CTS.
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According to a recent news article from Kentucky.com, two employees died as a result of the recent flooding in Eastover, South Carolina. Authorities say five workers were driving in a truck to various washout sites and repairing them along the railroad bed. After finishing repair on one washout, they got in the truck to drive to the next job site. After completing the last washout repair for the day, they started to make their way to a motel where they were staying.

flooded-access-road-1245711.jpgThey were driving on a paved asphalt road when they got to a spot where the road was submerged about 15 feet under water. The driver was unable to stop in time and drove into the deep water. At this point, three of the workers in the truck were able to escape from the submerged vehicle and ran for help for the two workers still trapped in the vehicle. However, it took almost 12 hours for recuse workers to locate the submerged truck. There was obviously nothing first responders could do for the two men, who were trapped in the underwater truck the entire night.

Authorities are claiming the driver of the truck had to crash through a barrier to get to the point where the vehicle sank because that section of road was temporarily closed due to the flooding. However, the railroad company disputes those claims and said there was no barrier, and, had there been, their workers would not have ignored the barrier and would have found a detour route. It should be noted that there has been no finding of negligence with respect to either party as of this time.
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A worker in Massachusetts fell 14 feet from a wooden beam at a construction site recently, landing on a hammer and sustaining severe injuries to his back.
Although those injuries were characterized as non-life-threatening by first responders, one deputy fire chief did concede, “He’ll be out of work for a while.”

This is unfortunately not surprising, given that falls are one of the top causes of job site injuries nationally. Further, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports falls are the No. 1 cause of death in the construction industry. In 2013, there were nearly 300 fatal falls to a lower level. That was out of nearly 830 total deaths in the construction industry. That’s about 36 percent of the total.
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Under South Carolina law, companies with three or fewer full-time workers generally aren’t expected to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Still, even these firms may find it beneficial to do so even if they aren’t required because if a workplace injury does happen, the business could be found liable.
Sometimes, these smaller firms will secure liability insurance to provide coverage in case of a workplace accident.

That’s what happened in Canal v. National House Movers LLC, a case recently before the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Here, the court ruled – against the insurance company’s reasoning – that a man injured while working on a house-moving job for a small firm was in fact a temporary worker – not an employee – meaning the liability insurance policy did cover his injuries.
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The laws regarding exclusive remedy in most states are quite clear: If you have workers’ compensation insurance, that is the only recourse you have against your employer, no matter how negligent the company may have been in causing a worker’s injury or death.
But where the waters get muddied, especially where companies have numerous contracts and subcontracts necessary to complete a job, is in the examination of questions like:

  • Who is an employee?
  • Who is an employer?
  • Who is a co-worker?
  • Who is responsible per previously-established contracts?

In the case of Hanco Corporation v. Goldman, defendant company/ general contractor may have been able to avoid liability to a worker’s wife and children for his death in a trench collapse. However, the company actively participated in litigation for 26 months before raising the affirmative defense of exclusive remedy. Therefore, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled, it had waived any affirmative defense it may have had under the provision of exclusive remedy.
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