After witnessing the murder of his law enforcement partner, Charleston County sheriff’s deputy Michael Ackerman said he simply could not cope. There had been a shootout in West Ashley. He watched as his partner was shot to death before Ackerman made the life-or-death decision to kill the gunman responsible. policecar

Anyone could understand how one could suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. However, the only reason he was eligible for assistance through the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation system is because he too had suffered a physical injury. The psychological scars, he said, were the hardest to overcome and he needed treatment, or else he would not have been able to return to work. But under state law, even the death and despair witnessed and experienced by first responders doesn’t qualify as a circumstance that is “extraordinary” or “unusual” for that line of work.

Ackerman and others are fighting that. As he explained to a reporter with The Post and Courier, he’d worked that job nearly a dozen years without ever having to use his service weapon. In seconds, he witnessed his partner’s homicide, was shot himself and had to take the life of a suspect. To say that such an event is not “extraordinary” or “unusual” defies logic. Now, he’s taking it to the legislature.  Continue reading

In almost all states, workers’ compensation provides an exclusive remedy for employees injured on-the-job. What that means is workers cannot sue their employers for job-related injuries or illness; the only relief to which they are entitled from the employer is via workers’ compensation benefits. The trade-off is workers don’t have to prove the company was at-fault, and benefits are supposed to be provided faster. prison1

But what if the worker injured was an incarcerated federal inmate?

These individuals do still have rights (although they are limited) and their work-related injuries are covered under the Inmate Accident Compensation Act, which sets forth procedures for payment of accident compensation resulting from work-related injuries to federal prison inmates or their dependents.    Continue reading

Much has been written about the awful conditions at poultry plants throughout the U.S. (and particularly in the South). But a new report by Oxfam America reveals a whole new level of ugly. restroomsymbol

According to the 15-page report, entitled “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry,” workers at these facilities are so routinely denied the right to use the bathroom at work, many have taken to wearing diapers during their shift. Some lower their food and drink intake to dangerous levels to avoid the urgent need to use the restroom. Women who are menstruating and pregnant often suffer the most. In general, women are biologically more susceptible to bladder-related infections. In many cases, workers are suffering infections, such as urinary tract infections, and bowel and bladder damage as a result of being forced to remain on the line when they desperately need to use the restroom.

Not only does this kind of practice offend workers’ dignity, it is a serious threat to their health. They endure not just the pain and discomfort of being unable to use the restroom, they suffer the emotional scars of humiliation and the severe stress of concern for their job security.  Continue reading

Often when we talk about a work-related injury, we think about a physical injury to a worker’s body. For example, someone falls and injures their back. waterpuddle03

However, one can also legitimately suffer a mental injury as a result of an extraordinary circumstance at work. In those situations, both in North Carolina and South Carolina, the Workers’ Compensation Act does provide an avenue for recovery of benefits.

In South Carolina, the law allows employees who suffer mental injuries that are “induced by physical injury… or by unusual or extraordinary conditions of employment.” In North Carolina, psychological injuries may be compensable if they are a byproduct or result of a physical injury by accident or occupational disease. There have also been some cases in which a psychological injury resulting in a disabling physical condition may be compensable (i.e., a sudden traumatic event at work causes an immediate physical reaction). Continue reading

The attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. regularly work with clients in North Carolina and South Carolina who need to re-open their workers’ compensation claim. manstandingonwall

Typically, these are individuals who are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits as a result of occupational injury, and then those injuries get worse. In some cases, the condition evolves into a permanent injury.

In North Carolina, injured workers have two years from the date their settlement is accepted in which they can re-open their workers’ compensation claim, assuming the settlement was based on their rating of disability. There are certain cases that may not be ripe for re-opening (i.e., those involving clincher agreements). But these are details injured workers will need to discuss with an attorney.  Continue reading

A workers’ compensation appeal in Washington state has affirmed that a worker was entitled to a special jury instruction at trial. He had already been granted a retrial on a separate, unrelated basis, but this was an important point to clarify in the event there were future appeals. brokensidewalk

In the case of Clark County v. McManus, the Washington Supreme Court ruled the plaintiff’s requested jury instruction – which would have indicated plaintiff’s doctor’s testimony should be afforded special consideration – should have been given.

According to court records, plaintiff worked for the county as a street sweeper from 1999 until 2011. he was reportedly forced to quit his job because he suffered a debilitating and degenerative spinal condition that affected his lower back. He attributed this condition to the bumpy ride he endured daily as a street sweeper, plus the layout of the operator’s cab, which was poorly suited for proper ergonomics.  Continue reading

Work-related back injury claims are some of the most common for workers’ compensation. gavel21

That was the underlying reason plaintiff sought benefits in Hartzell v. Palmetto Collision LLC, recently before the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Plaintiff appealed the decision by the appeals court to reverse his medical benefits claim stemming from a work-related back injury. He argued there was substantial evidence to support the original ruling of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to award him workers’ compensation for his back injury. He insisted the injury was reported within the required timeline and therefore the appeals court made a mistake in reversing his award of benefits.

The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded.  Continue reading

Asbestos-related diseases have wrecked havoc on so many workers and families following exposure in a host of various industries, particularly in construction and shipping.chestxray

These latent illnesses are especially challenging from a workers’ compensation perspective because they do not reveal themselves until many years after the fact. Workers who suffered exposure decades prior often don’t receive a diagnosis until years after they have left the job or even retired.

Diseases like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma all stem from exposure to asbestos fibers. In the case of asbestosis and mesothelioma, asbestos exposure via breathing the toxic fibers in through the lungs is the only known cause.  Continue reading

Workplace stress is a serious global problem that results in anxiety, exhaustion, cardiovascular disease and (in cases stemming from co-worker conflict) workplace violence. It’s a problem that has increased in recent years with increased competition, higher expectations, longer hours and the effects of the recession, including layoffs, unemployment and fewer job opportunities. stressed

That’s why it is the focus of this year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, recognized on April 28th. The International Labor Organization released a report on the issue, detailing its commonality and effects.

As our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers know, employees can be compensated for work-related stress when it causes them to either suffer physical injury or when it prohibits them from being able to work or do the work they once did. A good example of this is an employee diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a store robbery and is unable to return to his or her previous position.  Continue reading

In any work-related accident, the sole remedy a worker has against an employer is workers’ compensation. The system is supposed to provide fast, no-fault financial relief when injuries arise out of and occur in the course and scope of one’s work. constructionworkers1

However, this exclusive remedy in workers’ compensation is not applicable to certain third parties. So while you can’t sue your employer, you can take action against, say, the driver of the car that struck you or the manufacturer of the machine by which you were injured.

On a construction site, the question of who is a “third party” and who is not can become muddied. There are so many contracts, subcontracts and various entities involved, it can become tough to parse out the issue of liability. That’s why you must have an experienced construction accident lawyer to help walk you through it.  Continue reading

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