Workers’ compensation claims in North Carolina are considered by the state industrial commission. A disagreement regarding a decision from a single commissioner will go before the full commission. A disagreement at that level can be appealed to the state appeals court and then, if necessary, to the state supreme court. gaveljan

But those appellate judges generally do not try to reweigh all the evidence. That’s the job of the commission, which has a great deal of discretion in deciding how much credibility to assign to which witnesses. The appeals courts are usually only concerned with whether the commission and/or lower courts abused discretion or misapplied the law. This same general schema is present in most state workers’ compensation systems.

In the recent case of IA Construction v. WCAB, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked whether the appeals court was wrong to reverse the industrial commission on the basis that it had given improper weight to one of employer’s expert witnesses.  Continue reading

The National Safety Council (NSC) has released a list of its top 7 workplace hazards.worker

Nothing on the list is particularly earth-shattering, but it all requires review, considering how many workers continue to be injured in accidents that are entirely preventable.

The NSC’s consultants travel the country year-round to conduct workplace safety audits for companies whose leaders want to ensure they are in compliance with not only the industry standards, but the law.  Continue reading

Workers’ compensation law in North Carolina allows for compensation of occupational injuries and diseases that are either caused or aggravated by work-related conditions. That can in some cases include psychological injury or claims of workplace stress.sad

Often, these are cases wherein the physical injury results in a psychological injury, such as depression. However, emotional trauma or “pure stress” claims can be recognized as well.

Still, most employers will fight hard against these type of claims. Any hope of prevailing will require the help of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.  Continue reading

A young landscaping worker was reportedly killed his very first day on the job recently in New York when he became entangled in a tree grinding machine, also known as a wood-chipper. The 23-year-old worker was pronounced dead at the scene of the horrific accident, which occurred shortly after 1 p.m. on a recent Wednesday. woodchipper

The awful accident sounded eerily familiar to our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers. That’s because in December, a 19-year-old in this state was killed after falling into a wood chipper on his very first day on the job in Kings Mountain. In that case, the teen reportedly tried to kick a tree limb inside and his closed got snagged. His boss, so distressed at the accident, suffered a heart attack on site. He had reportedly been working side-by-side with experienced employees, and his boss insists he had been assigned a task that was safe for beginners.

There is new research that now shows work-related injuries are more common among novice employees.  Continue reading

A series of high-profile road construction worker injuries and deaths underscores the need for motorists to use greater caution in construction zones.roadconstruction1

You may recall at the end of April when a 44-year-old woman was charged with drunk driving and two felony counts of serious injury by vehicle after slamming into two North Carolina Department of Transportation workers on Interstate 440. Both workers were severely injured, and one had to have both legs amputated after he became pinned between the driver’s car and his work truck.

But these are isolated incidents, and the problem stretches far beyond the Carolinas, particularly in the summer months, when roadway construction across the country picks up. Continue reading

Workplace deaths in the U.S. have inched upward for the first time since 2010, according to the finalized data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on 2014 death statistics. workersengineers

The preliminary count of workplace deaths that year was 4,679, but the final figure was higher: 4,821. That makes it the highest annual total since 2010. It also brings the fatal work injury rate in the U.S. to 3.4 work deaths per 100,000 full-time (or equivalent) workers. That’s up form the 3.3 fatal work injuries per 100,000 that was reported in 2013.

What these figures mean is that we have 13 work-related deaths every single day in the U.S. That is more than a dozen families who saw their loved one off at the start of their shift and never got to see them come home.  Continue reading

New figures from the National Safety Council (NSC) indicate 1 worker is injured every 7 seconds in the U.S. Each day, that adds up to 12,900 injured workers and 4.7 million every year. worker0

The report shows that younger workers and those who are new to the job are at the greatest risk of injury.

Another recent study, Travelers’ Insurance “Injury Impact Report” revealed more than 25 percent of all workplace injuries happen in the very first year of employment. The Travelers’ report analyzes five years worth of workers’ compensation claims – 1.5 million in all – in hopes of determining how and why workplace injuries in the U.S. occur. The study also wanted to look at how much they cost.  Continue reading

In the first independent assessment of the so-called “opt-out” alternative to workers’ compensation since the ProPublica/NPR think piece last year, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) took on the issue. workers

What researchers discovered is troubling, especially in light of the fact that an opt-out alternative is still technically on the table for workers in South Carolina.

The crux of the research is that these programs – also referred to as “employer alternatives” or “the option” – are bad for workers. They give companies a choice of either buying a traditional workers’ compensation policy or formulating one of their own. Oklahoma has already enacted such a plan, and proposals for similar alternatives have been weighed in South Carolina and Tennessee. What the study authors found was that under opt-out plans, workers are subjected to:

  • An inherent conflict of interest;
  • Barriers to benefits;
  • Unequal treatment;
  • Limited appeals;
  • Little to no independent oversight.

Continue reading

It’s estimated approximately 3 million workers in the U.S. suffer some type of work-related illness or injury every single year. But even those figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are believed to be vastly under-reported. But amazingly, very little to no information about where these workplace injuries happen is related the public or even to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the government entity responsible for enforcement of workplace safety in the country. roadconstruction

But now, OSHA has passed a new rule that requires employers who oversee companies in certain “high-hazard” industries will have to send information about these accidents directly to OSHA. The data will then be available for posting on the agency’s website.

The new rule also contains certain protections against retaliation for employees who report work-related illnesses and injuries.  Continue reading

One of the questions we see crop up frequently in online forums pertaining to North Carolina workers’ compensation is whether workers absolutely need to a hire an attorney or whether they are better off going it alone. gavel1

The answer is that while there is nothing legally preventing you from proceeding with a claim without a lawyer, if you have suffered serious injury, you really should seek legal counsel.

Some examples of situations in which you might not need a lawyer:

  • You missed little or no work due to the injury;
  • The injury was minor, i.e., requiring a few stitches;
  • You don’t have any pre-existing condition;
  • Your employer concedes the injury occurred at work.

But if your workers’ compensation claim is any more complicated than that, discussing it with a lawyer at an initial consultation can give you a sense of the sorts of legal challenges you may encounter and how an attorney can help with your case.  Continue reading

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