March 25, 2014

Court: Workers' Comp Laws Bar Estate From Wrongful Death Case

The estate of a residential treatment counselor who worked at a mental health clinic will not be allowed to proceed with its wrongful death action against two administrators at the facility, according to a recent ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
Although the ruling in Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo is technically only applicable in that state, our Asheville workers' compensation lawyers know that the reasoning is based on a legal principle that is relevant to North Carolina injured workers and their families.

The basis of the decision is this: Workers' compensation laws serve to act as an exclusive remedy to injuries that arise out of the course of employment. That means that eligible employers are usually immune from personal injury or wrongful death claims that result from workplace hazards. Personal injury actions and wrongful death claims resulting from work injuries must be filed against third parties other than the employer.

Continue reading "Court: Workers' Comp Laws Bar Estate From Wrongful Death Case" »

March 24, 2014

OSHA Postpones Crane Operator Certification Requirements

Not long ago, three construction workers in Raleigh were injured while working on a project at North Carolina State University when they were struck by a steel beam dropped from a crane. crane.jpg

The incident is still under investigation, but word of the accident emerged around the same time that officials with the Occupational Health & Safety Association announced they would extend the deadline for crane operator training requirements - by three full years.

The new rules, which were supposed to go into effect this November, have been pushed back until November 2017. Once they do go into effect, anyone who operates a crane will have to be either certified by an approved organization or qualified by an audited employer program.

Continue reading "OSHA Postpones Crane Operator Certification Requirements" »

March 22, 2014

Proof of Casual Relationship Required for Compensable Work Injuries

The lingering effects of a work-related injury can last a lifetime. If a worker has to undergo continuing treatment for that earlier injury, our Winston-Salem workers' compensation lawyers will fight to make sure that the new expenses are covered.
It's important for workers in these situations tounderstand that proving correlation between current medical treatment and a previous work injury can be a complex matter. However, it's imperative that there be ample and continuing documentation proving that the two are connected. Otherwise, an administrative law judge could reject your claim.

That's what happened in the recent case of Bodily v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div., which was reviewed by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Continue reading "Proof of Casual Relationship Required for Compensable Work Injuries " »

March 19, 2014

Old Work Injuries Can Factor Into Newer Injury Findings

Workers whose jobs have caused them to sustain repeated and worsening injuries should present a case to the North Carolina Industrial Commission that reflects the entire picture. Old work injuries can become factors in determining the extent to which a worker can be compensated for new injuries.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation lawyers know that employers will push back on these cases, arguing that each injury is separate and unrelated in the hopes of lessening their liability. However, an experienced attorney can help connect the dots for an administrative law judge by presenting documentation and medical expert testimony countering the employer's stance.

This is what happened recently in Mike Brooks, Inc. v. House, in which a workers' compensation claim made it all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Court records indicate an administrative law judge determined the worker had suffered permanent total disability as a result of multiple work-related injuries. A district court affirmed this ruling, but the appellate court reversed it. Then, the state supreme court later reversed the appellate finding, once again deciding in favor of the worker.

The employee in question had made a career as a commercial truck driver. The record reveals that in 2002, he was involved in a crash that resulted in injuries to his shoulder, neck and cheek bone. Two years later, he again injured his neck while attempting to push a large tire onto a rack. He filed a workers' compensation claim based on a finding of 26 percent industrial disability.

He returned to work after that, and in 2005, began working for the company that later became a party to his workers' compensation lawsuit. Two years after he started working for this firm, he slipped and fell in an icy parking lot while retrieving cargo from the back of his truck. The result of his fall was a serious back injury. He had to undergo surgery and physical therapy, though he was eventually allowed to return to work with significant restrictions. Later, he returned to work with no restrictions, though he was deemed to have a lingering disability rating of 5 percent.

His back pain continued for many months, with him disclosing to his supervisors that it was "tearing me up" and he was placed on pain medications. Several months later, as he pushed open a heavy door while at work, he felt an immediate burning in his back, as if he had been stabbed by a hot poker.

Doctors noted possible nerve damage. After ordering an MRI, his doctor advised him to stop working. Several surgeries were performed on the worker's back in order to fuse his spine.

By the following summer, he was given the green light to return to work, but with significant restrictions on bending, twisting and lifting. He was rated at 23 percent impairment. The worker never returned to work for that particular company.

He filed a petition for workers' compensation benefits, Two doctors testified at an administrative law hearing that his injury slipping and falling on the ice was a "substantial contributing factor" to all of the back problems for which he had been subsequently treated.

The administrative law judge agreed, finding that the worker had sustained permanent total disability and rejecting the employer's assertion that the later injury involving the heavy door was separate and distinct. He also rejected the employer's claim that the injuries he incurred while working for his previous employer were far more significant.

The administrative law judge's decision was upheld by the district court. However, the appellate court found that the testifying experts lacked critical information regarding the worker's older injuries.

The Iowa Supreme Court reversed, finding that the district court's ruling was "supported by substantial evidence when the record is viewed as a whole."

Continue reading "Old Work Injuries Can Factor Into Newer Injury Findings" »

March 16, 2014

Temp Workers, Workers' Compensation & Staffing Agencies

The United States is often considered advanced in areas of employee rights. However, the U.S. is behind in the protections provided to temporary workers when compared to other countries.


Our Asheville worker's compensation lawyers know that the temporary workers in the United States deserve better treatment and more beneficial employment laws.

Arecent articlecompared the fate of a temp worker in the United States with what might have happened in other countries with more favorable laws for temporary workers.

Continue reading "Temp Workers, Workers' Compensation & Staffing Agencies" »

March 14, 2014

Private Prison Industry is Responsible for a Growing Number of Work Injuries

The private prison industry is one ofthe most dangerous places to work, according to research from the United States Department of Labor.


Our Anderson worker's compensation lawyers note the private prison industry is one of the most dangerous sectors for employees in the United States.

The industry is responsible for 459 injuries per 10,000 full time workers while the average for the private sector and state and local governments is 112 injuries per 10,000 full time workers.

Continue reading "Private Prison Industry is Responsible for a Growing Number of Work Injuries" »

March 10, 2014

Carolina Farm Injuries a Spring Risk

As spring arrives, there will be an increase infarming injuries throughout the Carolinas.


Our Asheville worker's compensation lawyers know that as the warmer weather comes around it brings with it increased farming activity and the end result is more farm injuries.

The fertilizer industry in particular suffers a number of injuries. For this reason, the Agricultural Retailers Association is partnering with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Fertilizer Institute to attempt and reach over 7,000 agricultural producers, distributors, retailers, and other facilities in the fertilizer sector to caution employers about safety concerns.

Continue reading "Carolina Farm Injuries a Spring Risk" »

March 8, 2014

National Severe Weather Safety Week - Does Your Company Have a Plan?

In a combined effort, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has teamed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to institute national severe weather safety week. During the week two participants aim to encourage the public to prepare to respond in the event of severe weather.


Our Asheville worker's compensation lawyers know that severe weather, such as tornadoes, can strike without warning and all employers should establish a plan for a severe weather emergency.

Severe weather can be deadly, particularly when there is no plan in place and workers are not equipped to handle the emergency. All businesses should develop an emergency plan that includes a number of basic and simple steps to implement procedures aimed at saving lives in the event of a severe weather emergency.

Continue reading "National Severe Weather Safety Week - Does Your Company Have a Plan?" »

March 4, 2014

Know Your NC Workers' Compensation Rights

It's not unheard of that a company, faced with a potential workers' compensation claim, will attempt to suppress that claim by discouraging the worker from reporting it.
Not only is this unethical, it's illegal. Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys are staunch advocates for workers' rights, and we believe it's imperative that employees be informed about what to do if they're hurt on the job and how to respond to suppression tactics or retaliation.

A good example of this arose recently in Ohio, where the Occupational Health & Safety Administration alleges in a recently filed lawsuit that a phone company initiated more than a dozen unpaid suspensions in the course of two years to worker who reported on-the-job injuries. This kind of retaliatory action not only impacts the 13 workers directly involved, but it sends a clear message to anyone else thinking of filing a workers' compensation claim: Beware.

Continue reading "Know Your NC Workers' Compensation Rights" »

March 2, 2014

NC Farm Worker Chemical Exposure Focus of New Proposed Rule

Work-related harm from hazardous chemicals sometimes extends beyond just the worker themselves. We've seen this in cases where those who worked closely with asbestos brought illness home to their families each night as loved ones breathed in the deadly fibers carried on work clothing. barbedcountryside.jpg

In 2007, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported on the case of three North Carolina farm workers who gave birth to infants with congenital anomalies consistent with pesticide exposure. State investigators found numerous pesticide safety problems, but they were unable to prove any clear violations by the employers.

Farm workers in general tend to be some of the most vulnerable employees in the workforce, prone to high levels of heat stress, musculoskeletal pain, respiratory illness and injuries and illness due to work with dangerous equipment and exposure to toxins.

Continue reading "NC Farm Worker Chemical Exposure Focus of New Proposed Rule" »

February 27, 2014

Fighting for South Carolina Workers' Compensation Coverage

It is to be expected in filing Anderson workers' compensation claims that there is a high likelihood the company will challenge the assertion that the injuries involved are compensable. shoelace.jpg

In South Carolina, in order for a claim to be compensable, the worker must have suffered a personal injury or death by an accident that arose out of and in the course of his or her employment.

Basing an argument on this definition, many workers' compensation defendants will attempt to assert that the injuries were the result of a pre-existing condition - not a work-related accident. You should know, however, that even those with pre-existing medical conditions can still receive workers' compensation, so long as you can show that work complicated or worsened their condition.

Continue reading "Fighting for South Carolina Workers' Compensation Coverage" »

February 26, 2014

Court Rejects Contractor Liability for Subcontractors on Multi-Employer Work Sites

The Utah Supreme Court has issued a ruling stating that a federal law making general contractors at multi-employer work sites responsible to correct unsafe work conditions that could cause injury to subcontractor employees runs contrary to state law.
The immediate impact on those seeking to file a Greensboro workers' compensation claim is probably minimal, as it is an out-of-state ruling and doesn't directly pertain to benefits. However, decisions by state supreme courts tend to be given a lot of weight when courts in other jurisdictions face similar issues. Plus, any action that erodes worker safety is likely to result in more workers' compensation claims overall.

By holding both subcontractors and general contractors on job sites responsible to ensure employee protection, the multi-employer work site doctrine, per Occupational Safety & Health Administration policy CPL 02-00-124, seeks to bolster protection for all workers. A ruling like this serves to undercut that purpose.

Continue reading "Court Rejects Contractor Liability for Subcontractors on Multi-Employer Work Sites" »

February 24, 2014

Workers' Compensation Benefits for "Unexplained" Work Injuries

In order to prove that an injury is compensable under workers' compensation law, courts have typically held that you must prove that the condition occurred by accident "arising out of and in the course of the employment."
In many cases, this means that you have to show that but-for the conditions and obligations of employment, the worker would not have been in a position to sustain the injury.

In North Carolina, the section of the law addressing the "arising out of and in the course of" is found in G.S.97.2-6 of the state's Workers' Compensation Act. Winston-Salem workers' compensation attorneys recognize that in cases where the injury may have happened at work but is unexplained, benefits may be tougher to secure - though certainly not impossible.

Continue reading "Workers' Compensation Benefits for "Unexplained" Work Injuries" »

February 23, 2014

Workers' Compensation and Asbestos-Related Illness

There is no question that asbestos-related disease is one of the biggest job-related cancer concerns in the U.S. today, comprising one of the largest percentages of occupational deaths and related costs.
That said, the question of whether asbestos disease sufferers should file a Charlotte workers' compensation claim is one that should be approached carefully. One of the general principles of workers' compensation law is that by filing for these benefits, workers give up the right to sue their employer for their occupational injuries.

In general for a lot of people, the trade-off is worth it because they don't necessarily have to prove that the employer was negligent or at-fault for the injury, only that the injury occurred at work or arose out of the conditions of employment. Workers' compensation claims also tend to be less costly than civil litigation and are generally not as drawn-out of a process. Legislators have designed it to be this way for workers to quickly receive benefits, recover, and hopefully return to the workforce as soon as possible.

Continue reading "Workers' Compensation and Asbestos-Related Illness" »

February 22, 2014

Report: North Carolina Hospital Staffers Risk Work Injury

For most people, hospitals are supposed to be a place of healing.
However, for those who work there, it can be an extremely dangerous place. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently released a report indicating that hospitals are one of the riskiest places to work, with some 255,000 work-related injuries and illnesses reported in 2011.

Bear in mind, those were only the reported instances of illness and injury, and that broke down to about 7 work-related illnesses and injuries for every 100 full-time workers. Our Winston-Salem workers' compensation lawyers recognize that this is about double the rate for the private industry as a whole.

Continue reading "Report: North Carolina Hospital Staffers Risk Work Injury" »