July 4, 2014

Construction Company Cited for NC Worker Death

Construction workers in North and South Carolina and nationwide face some of the most dangerous working conditions. Contractors, property owners, and other employers are responsible for taking action to ensure the safety of all workers on the site. In tragic accident last February, a North Carolina worker lost his life while working on a University of Kentucky construction project. Now officials have cited two private construction companies for serious violations of safety laws. According to reports, the companies will decide whether they are going to appeal the citation and affiliated penalties.


The companies will be meeting at an informal conference with state officials to determine next steps involving the resolution of the construction accident investigation. The tragic accident sheds light both on the dangers of construction work and the need to ensure safety conditions, equipment, and training. Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients and in raising awareness to prevent worker injury. We are abreast of OSHA developments, safety training, and new legislation in favor of North and South Carolina workers. In addition to client advocacy, we are abreast of cases and legal developments that impact construction workers and their loved ones.

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July 2, 2014

Fowler v. Vista Care: How an Employee's TTD Rating Can Affect Workers' Compensation Benefits

Charlotte Workers' Compensation lawyers understand that your Temporary Total Disability (TTD) rating can have a major impact on the amount of benefits you receive after being injured on the job.

surgeon.jpgIn Sherrie Fowler v. Vista Care and Emergency Home Insurance, the Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico ruled on the issue of whether state statutes imposed a limit on TTD benefits.

In Fowler, the appellant, Sherrie Fowler, injured her back on the job while working for Vista Care. As a result of her injuries, she had back surgery in 2003. After three years of treatment, a doctor determined that she reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). In Charlotte, the applicable MMI is set pursuant to Chapter 97 of the North Carolina Code (Workers' Compensation Act). Basically a workers' compensation claimant reaches his or her MMI when a doctor reports that everything feasible has been done to treat the employee's injury. It does not mean that the patient is no longer experiencing pain or that the injury has fully healed. It just means that in the doctor's opinion, there is no point in further treatment, because it won't improve the patient's condition. In other words, the employee has received the maximum level of benefits allowable under a TTD rating and cannot receive any further benefits unless he or she qualifies for a permanent disability.

In Fowler, after the appellant had reached her MMI limit, she applied for a lump-sum payment under the Partial Permanent Disability (PPD) statute.

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July 1, 2014

Lee Law Offices, PA Salutes America's First Responders this Fourth of July

Each year, during the Fourth of July period, millions of Americans will be off from work spending time with friends and family. Many will go to a backyard cookout, and others will go to a local celebration and end the night by watching a fireworks display. Our workers' compensation lawyers understand that while most of us are out enjoying the festivities, there will be those still on the clock, working hard to keep us safe.

There will be police officers directing crowds and patrolling the roads to keep us safe from drunk drivers. There will be EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters staffing sporting events and fireworks displays across the county. These brave men and women are putting the health and safety of others in the community above their own.

fireworks12.jpgAccording to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which examined the occupational health and safety of those working in emergency preparedness and response, these individuals have significantly increased incidence of workplace accidents and illness.

It should come as no surprise that professional firefighters and police officers are high on the list of occupations in terms of fatality rate. Statistically, the fatality rate for these first responders is between three and four times the national average. In the case of firefighters, we often see injuries related to burns or "fire attack," falling debris during search and rescue operations, and smoke inhalation. For police officers, about 90 percent of all work-related injuries are from vehicle crashes and assaults. EMTs and paramedics deal with many of the same on-the-job dangers but also bear the risk of contracting infectious disease through patient contact and accidental needle sticks.

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June 28, 2014

State Office of Risk Mgmt. v. Carty - Workers' Compensation Death Benefits

Workers' compensation laws in South Carolina as well as in many other states hold that such benefits serve as the "exclusive remedy" to work-related injuries. The same applies when a worker dies as a result of injuries. That means you can't sue the employer when you are receiving workers' compensation benefits (and it's usually not a choice if the employer is appropriately covered).
However, Spartanburg workers' compensation lawyers would clarify that the remedy is exclusive to the employer. There is nothing stopping injured workers and/or their dependents from suing a third-party in cases where negligence by that entity may have played a role in what happened.

One such case was recently weighed by the Texas Supreme Court, which after a verdict in favor of a widow and three children was tasked with deciding how the judgment should be apportioned with regard to the workers' compensation insurer, which is entitled to reimbursement. In the case of State Office of Risk Mgmt. v. Carty,the court determined that when multiple beneficiaries recover compensation benefits for injuries sustained by the same worker, the carrier is to treat a third-party settlement as a single recovery, rather than separate recoveries by each beneficiary.

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June 23, 2014

Louie v. BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc.: On New Law and Ongoing Workers' Compensation Cases

Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys know that employers and their insurance companies often try to deny paying benefits by claiming that an employee's injuries were not work-related. In Richard Louie v. BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc., and Ace USA, Richard Louie worked for the appellee (BP) as an auditor. He was a highly paid employee and earned over $100,000 per year. His job required him to travel, and, in January of 2000, he was traveling to London when he suffered from deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This condition resulted in a small clot in his leg traveling to his brain. When the clot reached his brain, Mr. Louie suffered a major stoke that left him disabled. After the stroke, Mr. Louie was left paralyzed on one side of his body. He also suffers from aphasia and muscle spasms. Mr. Louie's DVT was determined to be related to air travel.

plane.jpgAfter suffering the stroke, Mr. Louie filed for workers' compensation benefits. At first, BP claimed that Mr. Louie's injuries were not work-related. Eventually BP agreed to pay temporary total disability (TTD) at a rate of $700 per week. Mr. Louie continued to fight for additional compensation for his on-the-job injuries, and the parties eventually entered into a partial compromise and release (C&R) agreement. A C&R agreement is basically a workers' compensation settlement agreement. In North Carolina, the state Industrial Commission has outlined procedures pertaining to C&R agreements.

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June 22, 2014

Medlin v. Weaver Cooke Constr. - Overpayment Credit Demanded by Employer

It's unnerving to think that months or even years after you, your doctors and your attorneys have established to the North Carolina Industrial Commission and perhaps even the courts that you suffered a work-related injury worthy of compensation, that those benefits might ultimately be challenged. Not only that, but your employer could later accuse you of overpayment, which you could be forced to pay if the court determines you were not disabled for as long as you collected benefits.
This actually happens more than you might think, and our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers know how important it is to have a legal team with experience handling your case as soon as you receive notice from your employer about a potential overpayment.

This was the scenario weighed by the North Carolina Supreme Court recently in the case of Medlin v. Weaver Cooke Constr., LLC. Here, the employer (or in this case, former employer) asserted that the plaintiff's lack of a job was not related to his disability, but rather to the overall poor economic climate.

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June 20, 2014

Williams v. Petromark - Worker Challenges Coming-and-Going Rule

It's a long-held principle in workers' compensation law that if you are injured on the commute to or from work, those injuries are not considered to be work-related, and therefore not eligible for benefits.
However, our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys know there are often exceptions that can be made when the facts are conducive to proving the commute was in fact part of your job.

This was the sort of case before the Kansas Supreme Court in Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC. The justices were asked to decide whether the serious injuries sustained by an oil driller who was in a co-worker's vehicle as they drove home was covered by workers' compensation.

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June 18, 2014

Simmons v. Charleston - When Spider Bites Prompt Workers' Compensation Claim

It's summer: The flowers are in full bloom. The weather is warm. The bees are buzzing - and so are a lot of other insects and other pests, many of which carry much more potential danger.spider.jpg

Spartanburg workers' compensation lawyers recognize that those who work outdoors or in the agriculture industries may be most at-risk for insect or other animal bite-related injuries. However, that's not always the case, and so long as the bite results in injury and arises out of occurs in the course of your employment, it is likely to be compensable.

Hopefully, if you suffer an insect or other animal bite, the worst that happens is a small red mark that is treatable with a first-aid kit and doesn't cause you to miss any work. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Some workers may be allergic to certain types of bites, and may require special or extensive treatment to recover. Beyond that, however, certain types of spider bites in particular may be compensable when they result in serious injury.

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June 16, 2014

Shatto v. McLeod Regional - "Independent" Contractor Hospital Worker Makes Successful Claim

The South Carolina Court of Appeals has finally granted workers' compensation to an "independent contractor" nurse who fell in the operating room in 2007, and has been fighting for benefits since then - even having her case taken all the way to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The appellate court recently reviewed the case of Shatto v. McLeod Regional Medical Center et al. on remand from the state supreme court, which determined that despite claims from the hospital she wasn't an "employee," the facts appeared to indicate otherwise.

In granting the worker "employee" status, the supreme court paved the way for her to then pursue workers' compensation benefits for her injuries. And finally, the appellate court green-lighted them for her.

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June 14, 2014

Burley v. U.S. Foods - The Commission Isn't Always Right

An out-of-state trucker may now pursue workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina for a back injury he sustained out-of-state, based on the fact that the division headquarters was local. This was despite the state's Industrial Commission's initial refusal to accept jurisdiction over the matter.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals later accepted review of Burley v. U.S. Foods, et al. at the plaintiff's request, and ultimately reversed the commission's finding in favor of the plaintiff.

Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers know this case reveals that workers should not necessarily be discouraged by the outcome of the initial hearing. This is not the first time the commission's decision has been successfully challenged, and it certainly won't be the last.

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June 12, 2014

Union Carbide Corporation v. Nix - Third-Party Liability for Work Illness

In South Carolina, the legislature structured workers' compensation to serve as an "exclusive remedy" for workers who are hurt or become ill as a result of job-related actions.
Workers' compensation lawyers in Anderson want clients to understand this means that if you suffer an illness caused by your job, and your employer carries coverage, you cannot sue your employer. However, you are entitled to the workers' compensation benefits, so long as you show your sickness was caused by work.

In many ways, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides. It avoids the strain of litigation and it ensures workers don't have to put up a fight for financial survival every time they are hurt trying to earn a living - as roughly a quarter will be.

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June 10, 2014

OSHA Strives to Prevent Heat-Related Illness to Workers

The summer months are here. While we often associate this time of year with family cookouts and Little League games, workers' compensation attorneys in Winston-Salem know that summer heat means heat-related illness.

According to the United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration Hot Sun Day(OSHA),thousands of employees suffer from heat-related illness each and every year. Many of these workers die from heat exposure. Under the laws governing worker's compensation cases, it is an employer's responsibility to keep workers safe.

While it should come as no surprise that performing labor-intensive tasks in hot temperatures can cause your core body temperature to rise, many employers tend to overlook the added dangers to temporary workers. During the summer, many of people will seek temporary employment. These temporary or seasonal jobs often involve working outside in the hot sun for many hours a week with little time off. Spending all day in the heat is often vastly different from the employee's daily life during the other months of the year.

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June 8, 2014

Beckman v. Sysco Columbia - Multiple SC Work Injuries Considered Under Loss of Earning Capacity Law

Anderson workers' compensation attorneys are familiar with the fact that a single work-related injury to a "scheduled member" (ie., body part) is typically assigned a disability award based on a pre-determined amount.
South Carolina Code 42-9-30 spells out the various schedule of awards based on which body part was injured. So for example, the loss of a thumb entitles a worker to 66 percent and two-thirds average weekly wages for 65 weeks. Meanwhile, the loss of the fourth finger entitles a worker to 66 percent and two-thirds weekly wages for 20 weeks. The loss of an arm entitles a worker to 66 and two-thirds wage compensation for 220 weeks. The list goes on.

However, if a worker sustains injury to more than one body part, this schedule is not to be used. The reasoning South Carolina courts have found (specifically in the 2003 ruling in Wigfall v. Tideland Utilities Inc.) is that when a worker can show additional injuries beyond a lone scheduled injury, it is a common-sense fact that the combined disabling effect may be far greater than the arithmetical total of scheduled allowances. For these workers, the courts have held, compensation needs to be based on total loss of earnings capacity, as spelled out in South Carolina Code 42-9-20.

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June 6, 2014

Willard v. VP Builders - NC Appeals Court Upholds Worker Death Benefit Ruling

The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently upheld an award of workers' compensation death benefits to a widow whose husband had died as a result of pain medication prescribed following surgery to a crushed thumb, which he'd suffered while on the job.
The key issue in this case was whether the deceased had consumed the medication in a manner contrary to what was prescribed. What the commission found - and what the appellate court ultimately upheld - was that there was no proof that he had. Therefore, his widow was entitled to death benefits, as his death was a direct result of the treatment he'd undergone for a work-related injury.

Charlotte worker's compensation lawyers note that this case highlights the fact that not all cases are straightforward matters, but it can be worthwhile to thoroughly explore the legal options with an experienced attorney.

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June 3, 2014

Carter v. Verizon Wireless - Ongoing Coverage for Worker's Knee Injury at Issue

A Greenville worker sustained a work-related injury to her knee back in 2006. At the time, her employer didn't challenge her claim for worker's compensation coverage, finding there was little dispute that the injury was proximately caused by her work.
However, the case recently came before the South Carolina Court of Appeals after the employer challenged ongoing coverage of the injury, arguing the worker's worsening condition and ongoing medical needs were the result of intervening causes.

Greenville workers' compensation attorneys note the court's decision in Carter v. Verizon Wireless, which party affirmed and partly reversed earlier findings. The case is important because those who sustain work-related injuries may not always be in top physical shape, but that doesn't mean that they aren't entitled to ongoing benefits when the underlying condition worsens.

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