November 13, 2014

NC Industrial Commission Targets Scofflaw Firms With No Worker Injury Coverage

North Carolina Industrial Commission leaders met recently to discuss policy changes geared toward granting the authority more power to penalize scofflaw business that fail to secure legally-mandated workers' compensation insurance.
This has been a major problem in recent years, as the News & Observer reported back in 2012. The publication found tens of thousands of businesses in the state put workers at grave risk by failing to purchase workers' compensation insurance that would cushion the financial blow for injured employees. Unfortunately, the NCIC typically fails to act until someone is actually hurt, doesn't get a paycheck, is stuck with mounting medical bills and finally reports the company. Even then, the newspaper noted, the commission rarely enforces penalties and efforts to reimburse workers for the cost of health care could take years.

All companies with three or more employees are required to buy insurance or formally certify to the state that it can cover the expense of on-the-job worker injuries. However, the commission doesn't actually ask for this information, and instead contracts with a third party to maintain a database. But until very recently, there had not been a formal effort to track down those companies that aren't abiding by the law. Instead, the commission acts when a worker is hurt and asks for intervention. By then, the worker is facing down poverty - foreclosure, bankruptcy and wrecked credit.

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November 10, 2014

Hall v. North Carolina Services Corp. - Workers' Compensation Liens

Workers' compensation is known as the "exclusive remedy" for employees injured in the course and scope of employment. That means except for in very rare circumstances, you can't sue your boss, employer or co-worker for negligence that resulted in a work-related injury.
However, there is nothing in the law that says you can't pursue third-party tortfeasors for negligence resulting in your work-related injury. What you should understand, however, is that your employer may assert subrogation rights - i.e., a lien - on all or part of any third-party award, depending on the facts of the case.

Subrogation is a type of legal right that allows one party (your company's insurance carrier) to make a payment actually owed by another (i.e., third party tortfeasor) and then collect the money from the party that owes the debt after the fact.

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November 7, 2014

Beard v. Wakemed - Healthcare Workers Often Suffer On-the-Job Injury

Health care is the most dangerous industry for injuries and illnesses, according to researchers with think tank Public Citizen. Consider that 45 percent of all workplace violence incidents in the U.S. resulting in lost work days occur in the health care industry. Meanwhile, the number of work-related back injuries among orderlies, attendants, nurses and nurses aides are higher than for any other industry, and they cost an estimated $7 billion annually. stethascope2.jpg

In general, the rate of injuries requiring time of work was four times higher for health care workers than for all workers nationally. Despite this, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) conducts relatively few inspections, according to study authors. Even when inspections are carried out, there is often an absence of defined safety standards.

So it's unsurprising that a large number of workers' compensation cases in North Carolina involve health care workers.

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November 5, 2014

Workers' Compensation for Truckers in North Carolina

Recently in Virginia, a North Carolina truck driver was fatally struck on I-95 after he stopped by the side of the highway to check his rig.
The question of whether his surviving family will be able to collect workers' compensation benefits may depend on one question: His status as a worker.

In most workers' compensation cases, an employer's assertion that a worker is not an "employee" but rather an "independent contractor" is one that can be fatal to a claim for workers' compensation benefits.

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November 3, 2014

Fox v. Sara Lee Corp. - Workers' Compensation for Sexual Assault at Work

A recent report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated there are more than 12,000 reports of sexual harassment to that agency annually. The actual number of incidents is almost certainly far higher. The official figures also don't necessarily include the number of sexual assaults at work. Every two minutes in the U.S., a woman is sexually assaulted, and nearly 40 percent of those instances involve someone they know - including potentially co-workers, customers, etc.
In these instances, is workers' compensation the exclusive remedy for employees who are sexually assaulted on-the-job or at a job site? The answer is: It depends.

Workers compensation laws, as enacted in all 50 states, provide payments to workers who are injured during the course and/or scope of employment. With few exceptions, these laws provide exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, and thus bar workers from filing civil lawsuits against their employers.

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October 31, 2014

Average Salaries for the Most Dangerous U.S. Jobs

While many high-risk jobs are in widely known--industries such as logging, fishing, and firefighting--a new report reveals only a few of these high risk industries are also lucrative. A research company set out to find out the most dangerous jobs in America and how much workers were making. According to the study, which was recently published in Time Magazine, many workers are taking on significant risk for less than average salaries.


According to the BLS, the average wage for all professions was $34,750. Compared to wages collected by those in the most dangerous positions, only 4 of the top 10 dangerous jobs pay more than $10,000 above the average. The others pay around median or less than average. The highest paid dangerous job was airplane pilots who made an average of $129,600 per year.

So what are the most dangerous jobs in America and are they worth it? Here is a summary according to the FindtheBest data combined with wages posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census:

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October 28, 2014

Ebola and Dangerous Health Care Working Conditions

With two nurses from Dallas, another doctor from New York, and now with another nurse being quarantined after providing services to Ebola patients in West Africa, working conditions for health care workers are under scrutiny. The life-threatening threat has spiked concern among residents, politicians, and members of the health care working community--both in training and establishing protocol and how workers should be treated to prevent future spread.


After the death of a Liberian who was infected with Ebola, a nurse responsible for treating him became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States. Local, state, and federal officials scrambled to determine how she had contracted the disease, despite wearing protective gear. Officials were also concerned about how to prevent future cases, and to minimize the risk of treating patients.

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October 26, 2014

Can Injured Workers Recover Damages for Pain and Suffering?

In the event of a workplace accident, victims do not have to prove that the company or another employee was at fault. Even if the injured worker was ultimately responsible for the accident, he or she is still entitled to workers' compensation. The only requirement to qualify for workers' compensation is that the injury occurred "while in the course of performing work-related duties." In personal injury law, victims are entitled to compensation for personal and financial damages, including pain and suffering. One of the trade-offs in workers' compensation law, is that victims are not entitled to direct payments for pain and suffering.


While you have likely heard about plaintiffs taking defendants to court in personal injury litigation, workers' compensation claims do not usually involve a dispute of facts. In most cases, a worker will file a claim after injury, and collect compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. Though injured workers are not able to collect for pain and suffering, they do benefit from the quicker turnaround of the workers' compensation system.

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October 24, 2014

Marta v. Reid: On Penalties for the Late Payment of Workers' Compensation Benefits

Marta v. Reid, an appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Georgia, involved the issue of whether there is a penalty for the late payment of workers' compensation benefits.

1018806_the_color_of_money.jpgThe facts in the case were not disputed by either party. Claimant filed for workers' compensation benefits following a 1999 on-the-job injury. A short time after filing the claim, employer started making payments. Claimant was determined to be entitled to 32 payments under a temporary total disability (TTD) rating.

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October 23, 2014

Gits Mfg. Co. v. Frank - Disability Under Odd-Lot Doctrine

While most workers' compensation claims are going to hinge heavily on the degree to which a person is injured, there is another consideration: employment potential.
This is where the "odd-lot" doctrine comes into play. This is a legal consideration that provides that while a worker may not be completely unable to work, his condition is such that he won't be regularly employed in any reasonably stable area of the labor market that would fit his services.

In these situations, it is the worker who shoulders the burden of proving there is a lack of opportunity for someone suffering from his particular condition, taking into account his education, experience and age. Usually, this is achieved by showing a worker diligently yet unsuccessfully sought work, but the only positions available were menial tasks for which there isn't a stable job market.

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October 20, 2014

Bass v. Harnett County - Failure to Immediately Report Work Injury Can Damage Case

Back injuries are among the most common type of work-related physical injury employees sustain. It's also one of the toughest to prove work-related causation, especially where previous issues existed.
That's why immediate medical attention of a back injury - no matter how seemingly minor - is always advised by workers' compensation lawyers. Receiving an assessment right away can help rule out later assertions that the injuries in question are related to pre-existing conditions, and therefore not compensable.

In order to be payable under state workers' compensation laws, most claims have to begin with an "injury by accident." Back injuries are one of the exceptions, with N.C.G.S. 97-2(6) allowing some injuries don't necessarily rise out of an "accident," but rather a "specific traumatic incident of the work assigned."

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October 17, 2014

Humphrey v. Lowe's - Voluntary Exit in Workers' Compensation Claim

Temporary total disability benefits (TTD) are benefits available to a worker while he or she is unable to perform key job duties because of a job-related injury. These benefits may be available even to former employees under workers' compensation, but there are exceptions. forklift1.jpg

For example, if a worker removes himself from the workforce voluntarily and for reasons not related to his injury, he may not be able to collect TTD. He may still be entitled to coverage of certain medical costs directly stemming from the injury, but TTD could be denied.

This was the case recently in Humphrey v. Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, Inc., though details of employee's departure are sharply disputed.

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October 14, 2014

Barzey v. City of Cuthbert: On Workers' Compensation Death Benefits and Other Heirs

In workers' compensation claims that involve an employee who died as a result of a workplace accident, benefits can be paid as either a lump sum death benefit or in monthly installments for a certain period of time. One question that may arise is who is considered a beneficiary of a deceased employee for the purposes of a workers' compensation death benefit award.

tyne-cot-cemetery-892543-m.jpgBarzey v. City of Cuthbert, a case from the Supreme Court of Georgia, dealt with this issue. In Brazey, the mother of a deceased worker challenged the constitutionality of barring her from collecting the workers' compensation death benefits award for her son.

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October 9, 2014

Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications: Defining a Workplace Injury in South Carolina

Sometimes employers require employees to go to various teambuilding activities and company retreats. A question arises as to whether an injury during one of these company events is considered as on-the-job for the purposes of workers' compensation.

kickball-606231-m.jpgIn Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications, the Supreme Court of South Carolina addressed the issue of whether an employee injured at a company kickball game was eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.

According to court records, petitioner was employed as the Director of Creative Solutions at a marketing and PR company. He was required to attend meetings twice a month, where the importance of team building activities was frequently discussed. Petitioner came up with the idea of a company kickball game, and his employer gave him a budget to spend on shirts and food for the game.

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October 7, 2014

North Carolina Workers Killed on the Job: Proving a Workers' Compensation Claim

Sometimes an accident is simply an accident where nobody is at fault. In the context of most personal injury cases, the plaintiff tries to establish that, while we often use the term accident, it was actually negligent conduct by the defendant that caused personal injury or wrongful death. This is required for a plaintiff to collect. However, in a workers' compensation claim, an injured employee can receive benefits if he or she was injured on the job, even if the injury really was caused by an accident that nobody could have prevented.

wood---tall-838468-m.jpgAccording to a recent news report from the News & Observer, a worker was killed at a wood products company in Moncure, North Carolina when a large piece of machinery fell on him. Authorities are saying that the 29-year-old worker's death is under investigation, but they have not released details. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been contacted, as it is their responsibility to investigate all work-related deaths and other serious injuries in the United States.

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