If you have been injured at work and file for workers’ compensation benefits, know there is a good chance employer’s insurance company has hired a private investigator to follow you.lens

That’s right: You have to steel yourself for the possibility you may be watched – and this is totally legal. It’s justified by companies who say they just want to make sure the worker is telling the truth about the extent of his or her injuries.

Of course, this idea that workers’ compensation fraud is rampant is a myth. National studies have shown repeatedly that only about 1 to 2 percent of all workers’ compensation cases are fraudulent. It probably seems like it’s much higher than that because media is complicit in helping insurance companies blow these cases out of proportion to justify these tactics. Continue reading

Employees injured in a job-related accident covered by workers’ compensation may also be entitled to personal injury lawsuit proceeds if third-party negligence was also at play.electricwires

That worker has a right to proceed with both a workers’ compensation claim as well as a third-party lawsuit. However, the workers’ compensation insurer will have a lien on that third party recovery. The idea is workers shouldn’t be able to collect twice for the same injury. But to how much are employer insurers entitled?

The highest court in Massachusetts recently took on this question in a pair of two cases wherein lower courts had issued conflicting rulings. The cases were DiCarlo v. Suffolk Construction Co. and Martin v. Angelini Plastering Inc. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was asked to decide whether employer insurers are entitled to collect a lien on damages awarded for pain and suffering. Continue reading

As far as brutal winters go, North Carolina tends to have it better than some of our northern neighbors. Still, we are no stranger to snow and ice, and this can create serious problems when motorists aren’t used to driving in these conditions and they fail to slow down.icewalk

Those who work on the roads in particular face hazards.

Case in point was a crash that recently injured a fellow motorist as well as a worker for the state department of transportation on a snowy highway exit ramp in Illinois. Continue reading

South Carolina courts have long recognized that an employee’s pre-existing health conditions do not prevent that worker from having a compensable work injury – so long as the injury happened in the course of and arose out of the worker’s employment. So workers can’t be denied compensation for a work injury claim simply because he or she was more susceptible to injury than a person who was otherwise healthy. firefighter1

Further, pre-existing injuries that are aggravated by a work injury claim may be compensable. However, there has to be proof of aggravation.

This issue was raised in the recent case of Gill v. City of Charleston, which involved a firefighter injury in West Virginia.  Continue reading

Workers who report their own injuries or the potential for injury as a result of job site safety concerns should not have to fear they will lose their job for it. Sadly, it happens far too often. worksign

It’s called employer retaliation, and it is illegal.

But that doesn’t mean employers don’t try to skirt the rules or inadvertently cross the line. That was part of the reason why last year, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) distributed a guide to employers on best practices for protecting whistleblowers and addressing retaliation.  Continue reading

Roofing is a tough job. The hours are early and long. The physical labor is intense. Exposure to the extreme elements exacerbates all of it.roofing

A study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) Data Center revealed falls from roofs account for one-third of all fall-related construction deaths from 1992 to 2009. Those most at risk were employed by small companies, mostly on residential construction projects. Immigrant workers and Hispanic workers faced higher risks of injuries.

During the study period, 20,500 people died in the construction industry, and of those, nearly 6,600 died in falls. Of those, 2,163 deaths happened when workers fell from the roof.  Continue reading

Permanent total disability involves a Carolina work injury so severe, the plaintiff is unable to continue with his or her current job – or any type of work, for that matter. snowyroads

N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-29 spells out the definition and rate of permanent total disability. There is a lot to the statute, but essentially, if you have lost the use of both hands, arms, legs, feet or eyes or if you have suffered a severe spinal or brain injury or burns, you would qualify for permanent total disability.

But even when a worker’s injuries are profound, you can expect the employer and/or insurer to fight vigorously to avoid a finding of permanent total disability benefits. Take for example the recent Ohio Supreme Court case of State ex re. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. v. Indus. Comm’n. Continue reading

Two twin teenage brothers were seriously injured when the pressure fryer they were operating in a North Carolina fast-food restaurant exploded in an apparent malfunction.fastfood

The 19-year-olds were reportedly working in the kitchen, frying chicken, when the explosion occurred. It’s not clear what caused the malfunction, but the result was hot grease was sprayed everywhere. Both suffered massive injuries. Taken to a specialty burn center in Georgia, one teen suffered burns on 70 percent of his body, while the other suffered burns on 17 percent of his body.

Incidents involving injury to fast-food workers – especially teens – are nothing new. But it’s deeply troubling that they are still happening, considering that we know the source of most injuries and these incidents are largely preventable.

A survey conducted last year by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) revealed a whopping 87 percent of fast-food workers suffered some kind of injury in the past year, and there were 78 percent who suffered multiple injuries.  Continue reading

Authorities in New Jersey recently reported on an incident involving a Port Authority worker who was struck by a hit-and-run driver, who was later located and arrested for DWI and leaving the scene of a crash.workzone

A host of similar incidents occurred in the Carolinas last year, including:

  • A South Carolina construction worker struck and killed on S.C. 170 in Greenville by an alleged drunk driver who fled the scene, but was later caught.
  • A state Department of Transportation worker killed in Goldsboro on U.S. Highway 70 at a construction site, where a 28-year-old driver had driven into the median. The driver, who was impaired, also had two children in the vehicle with her. The worker was survived by his wife and twin 18-month-old daughters.
  • A construction worker was struck on I-85 in Spartanburg County by a hit-and-run driver. He suffered critical injuries.

Continue reading

An employer must provide workers’ compensation benefits to an auto store clerk who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a gunman robbed the store.sad1

The decision was handed down by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the case of Pickett v. Advance Auto Parts. Interestingly, a similar case was also recently decided by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. That case involved a liquor store employee who was robbed at gunpoint and soon after diagnosed with PTSD. Although the employer in that case tried to argue that robbery was a “normal working condition” for which plaintiff should not be reimbursed, the court disagreed and awarded benefits.

So too did the North Carolina appellate court.  Continue reading

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