September 6, 2014

Gov. McCrory's Appointment to N.C. Industrial Commission Sparks Ire

The recent appointment of Charlton L. Allen to serve as commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission has raised concern and sparked ire in among workers' advocates, following the release of troubling evidence that Allen's views are prejudice against workers and also minorities.
Gov. Pat McCrory held firm to his choice to appoint Allen, an attorney from Mooresville who previously served as the Republican party chairman for Iredell County, even after red flags were raised. There is concern that someone with such reportedly dubious views on race and equality will not fairly weigh the rights of all workers who appeal to the commission seeking review of their request for benefits.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers recognize the commission, a quasi-judicial authority, has historically been split down the middle, with three pro-business commissioners and three pro-workers. This approach has worked well to maintain balance and fairness. However, some have expressed concern that Allen's views go beyond the liberal/conservative divide.

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September 3, 2014

Black Lung Work Illness Benefits Upheld for Former Smoker

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld a lower court's decision to grant federal Black Lung benefits to a former coal miner, despite the fact that his years as a cigarette smoker had raised questions regarding the source of his illness.
The case of Central OH Coal Co. v. Dir.r, Office of Workers' Comp. Programs reveals that when it comes to federal benefits for "black lung," there is much in the worker's favor, assuming he has an experienced Asheville work injury lawyer to advocate on his behalf.

The Black Lung Benefits Act allows for payment to workers deemed 100 percent disabled due to pneumoconiosis, which is a chronic dust disease of the lung caused by coal mining. It's distributed through the U.S. Department of Labor, unlike workers' compensation benefits, which are overseen by the state.

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September 1, 2014

LeFiell Mfg. v. Super. Ct. - Limited Exception to Workers' Compensation Exclusive Remedy Principle

In North Carolina, as in virtually every other state, workers' compensation is considered the "exclusive remedy" for employees who have suffered on-the-job injuries or related illnesses.
What this means is workers who are eligible for workers' compensation benefits may not sue their employer in court for injuries sustained in the course of employment. There may be the potential for third-party liability lawsuits, but generally, the employer is off-limits in terms of litigation.

There is, our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers know, a limited exception. It started with the 1992 North Carolina Supreme Court decision in Woodson v. Rowland. There, justices decided employees (or their personal representatives) could sue their employer in civil court when an employer engages in misconduct knowing it is substantially certain to cause serious injury or death to employees.

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August 31, 2014

Purcell v. Friday Staffing - Concealment of Prior Work Injury Results in Claim Dismissal

When a worker sustains an on-the-job injury, he or she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits, regardless of whether the injury involves the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. So long as the aggravating injury occurred at work, the incident is compensable. industrial.jpg

Of course, there may be exceptions, as the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Purcell v. Friday Staffing reveals. As our Charlotte work injury lawyers understand it, the biggest issue was not whether the employee's injuries were job-related. However, her alleged concealment of a prior work injury before securing the second job, where the second injury occurred, meant she forfeited her benefits.

According to court records in the Purcell case, the worker reportedly sustained a serious injury to her back while working for a printing company. She was treated with surgery, and initially restricted from engaging in any kind of bending, lifting, stooping or twisting. After a while, she was rated to have a 7 percent partial disability to her back.She was to continue physical therapy and restrict her lifting to prevent further degeneration of her condition. She was encouraged by her doctor to find sedentary work.

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August 26, 2014

Morgan v. Interim Healthcare - Refusal to Accept Suitable Employment

The purpose of workers' compensation is to give workers and employers a straightforward process by which to request and offer benefits to those who have been injured at work, without the hassle of a lawsuit. The ultimate goal in most cases is for the worker to return to gainful employment, whenever possible.
A worker who refuses to seek or secure employment when the commission deems the worker eligible to do so may risk forfeiting these benefits. Such was the case recently in Morgan v. Interim Healthcare, before the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Our Asheville workers' compensation lawyers know there may be situations in which the North Carolina Industrial Commission overestimates a worker's ability to return to the workforce. An advocate in these circumstances is necessary.

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August 23, 2014

Multiple Employers and Repetitive Trauma Injuries

The term "work injury" conjures a construction fall or a truck crash - something severe and sudden. However, some of the most common types of work-related injuries for which people seek workers' compensation in Rock Hill are those related to repetitive motion. dentist04.jpg

Repetitive motion disorders are those muscular conditions that result from repeated motions performed in the course of normal work activities. Among the more common conditions: tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, bursitis, tenosynovitis, ganglion cyst and trigger finger. Essentially, these conditions are caused by too many uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion or some awkward or unnatural position, such as twisting or overexertion.

While these work-related conditions are certainly worthy of benefits, they tend to be more challenging for the fact that they occur over time. If a worker has been employed by multiple companies over the course of that time, it's important to have an experienced workers' compensation lawyer help conduct a thorough analysis of which employer may be responsible for covering benefits.

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August 22, 2014

North Carolina Lumber Mill Worker Killed in Forklift Accident

According to a recent report, a North Carolina factory worker was killed in an on-the-job accident. The worker was employed at a large lumber mill in Pitt County when a forklift overturned. The worker was a machine operator who had been employed at the mill for seven-and-a-half years before his death.

oak-boards-202348-m.jpgThe mill employs nearly 200 people and is closed until further notice. The state workers' safety department is conducting an investigation into what went wrong. It has also been reported that this company has had four serious safety violations listed on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.

As your Winston-Salem workers' compensation attorney can explain, while most people think of workers' compensation in terms of an on-the-job injury, the deceased employee's family can file a claim for death benefits under the program.

Workers' compensation death benefits are designed to pay for the costs associated with the worker's death, including medical expenses and the funeral, as well as lost wages. The method of payment will depend on what type of settlement is reached between the workers' compensation insurance carrier and the claimant. Sometimes there is a lump sum payment and other times there are payments made over time on regular intervals.

It should be noted significant negotiation or litigation may be necessary before the workers' compensation carrier agrees to a reasonable settlement. Even if your employer fully supports the payment to the surviving family, the insurance company may still deny a claim, because it is in their financial interest.

Normally, the worker's estate is required to file a claim for death benefits with the employer and is prohibited from suing the employer in a wrongful death negligence action. However, there may be exceptions to this prohibition if there is a third party that could be held liable for a worker's death.

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August 20, 2014

Potter v. McCulla: Repetitive Stress Injuries and Workers' Compensation

Our Spartanburg workers' compensation lawyers understand that a claim involving an employee who has changed jobs may require additional litigation.

dental-office-751830-m.jpgPotter v. McCulla, a case from the Nebraska Supreme Court, involved a plaintiff who began working as a dental hygienist in the early 1980s. She worked four days a week. Around 2007, she began experiencing neck pain that got worse throughout the workday. She believed it was caused by the angle at which she was required to lean while working.

When the neck pain did not go away, she saw a doctor who prescribed oral steroids for the pain and ordered that she have physical therapy, but did not restrict her work activities.

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August 17, 2014

Plane Bound for Asheville, North Carolina Suddenly Dives, Injuring Workers and Passengers

According to a recent article for Fox News, a plane bound for Asheville was forced to make an emergency landing after it suddenly made a significant dive. While diving, a flight attendant hit the ceiling and then fell on a passenger, injuring him. A drink cart also caused an injury. A total of six people were reported hurt.

propeller-1428908-m.jpgAs your Asheville workers' compensation attorney can explain, when employees, such as flight attendants, are injured on the job, it is likely that they will have to file a claim under the state's workers compensation program rather than filing a civil negligence lawsuit.

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August 15, 2014

Graven v. N.C. Dept. of Public Safety - Injuries From Holiday Lunch Accident Not Compensable

The North Carolina Supreme Court has denied workers' compensation coverage to two state workers seriously injured in an automobile accident while returning from a holiday lunch in a state-owned vehicle driven by a state employee.
In the consolidated appeal of Graven v. N.C. Dept. of Public Safety, the court held the injuries did not occur within or arise during their term of employment, as the lunch, although encouraged by supervisors, was not a mandatory work function. Further, the vehicle in which they were passengers was not authorized for transport to the lunch, and a supervisor would later testify that if a request had been made for such use, it would have been denied.

The decision is a devastating blow for the two state highway patrol technical services workers, one of whom was paralyzed from the chest down and the other of whom suffered head trauma. Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers recognize this case reveals the importance of proving to the court that an injury was directly related to one's work. Here, the totality of the exact circumstances was critical to the court's findings. This is why our workers' compensation attorneys dedicate so much time to analysis of the case prior to trial.

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August 13, 2014

State Accident Fund v. SC Second Injury Fund - Reimbursement for "Second Injuries"

Workers who are injured on the job in South Carolina are entitled to receive compensation for those injuries, even if they suffered a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the injury.
In these instances, our Rock Hill workers' compensation lawyers know that employers and insurers have the option of seeking some degree of reimbursement from the state's "Second Injury Fund." In order to collect, employers/insurers have to show the costs for treatment for a worker's injury exceeded what otherwise might have been paid because the incident resulted in a "second injury" that aggravated a pre-existing condition.

This would seem like a boon to employers, but many are trying to do away with it, arguing it tends to cost them more than what they are ever repaid. This is why employers and insurers fight so hard to avoid paying any benefits in cases where a "second injury" is alleged. Injured workers are still entitled to benefits, but they should expect a tougher fight. An experienced attorney can help ensure workers receive the rightful degree of compensation.

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August 11, 2014

Poole v. University of North Carolina - Vocational Rehabilitation Often Mandated

Individuals who are awarded workers' compensation benefits must understand that this money often comes with certain requirements they must meet in order to continue collecting.
Among one of the more common requirements is the one to attend vocational rehabilitation services. This is a state-run organization, operated under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services, that offers training, education, counseling, transportation and job placement for individuals who have suffered a disabling work injury. The idea is to minimize the amount of time the worker receives benefits, and also to help the worker find sustainable employment, even if he or she can no longer do the work they once did.

Asheville workers' compensation lawyers understand that not all injured workers are going to benefit from such a service, especially when doctors have offered opinions indicating the worker may never be employable again. Even so, a refusal to participate, barring a medically-solid reason, could be grounds for revocation of benefits.

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August 6, 2014

Philbeck v. University of Michigan - Court Finds Work Injury Unexplained, Not Idiopathic

In order to obtain an award of workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina, three elements must be proven:

  • That the injury was caused by an accident;

  • That the injury was sustained in the course of employment;

  • That the injury arose out of the employment.

In cases where the exact cause of the injury is not fully explained, employers will often seek to argue the injury was caused by idiopathic conditions. That is, that the worker suffered some medical condition unrelated to his or her employment that was the root cause of the accident and injury. gavel7.jpg

Charlotte workers compensation lawyers know that if the employer is successful in making a strong case for this, the injury will not be compensable.

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August 3, 2014

Levi v. Northern Anderson County EMS - Exclusive Remedy and Appealability

In South Carolina, as in all other states, workers' compensation is designed to serve as the "exclusive remedy" to injuries sustained in the course of employment.
Our Anderson workers' compensation lawyers recognize this means workers can't sue their employer for damages and also collect workers' compensation benefits. Additionally, per the precedent established in the 2006 case of Kimmer v. Murata of Am., Inc., employers must be given notice of settlement with third parties, or else the worker is barred from seeking workers' compensation benefits.

In the recent case of Levi v. Northern Anderson County EMS, this issue, along with a question of appropriate appealability by the employer, was raised. The South Carolina Court of Appeals ultimately reversed an earlier order dismissing her workers' compensation claim. The lower court had held that by accepting a $550 check from a third party without notifying her employer, she had forfeited her right to collect workers' compensation. The appellate court rejected this finding.

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August 1, 2014

Fore v. Griffco of Wampee, Inc. - Caution in Communications Regarding Work Injury

Increasingly, employers seeking to refute work injury claims are culling information from a variety of sources, including your digital profile, employment records and witness statements.
It's easy to underestimate how an offhand remark or photograph online may affect your Spartanburg workers' compensation claim. The recent case of Fore v. Griffco of Wampee, Inc. before the South Carolina Court of Appeals reveals how such items can find their way into evidence.

This case started with what was unquestionably a compensable work injury in South Carolina. For three years starting in 2005, the worker was employed as a meat cutter, and was responsible for unloading trucks, cleaning and rotating coolers and typically carried items weighing between 40 and 80 pounds every day. Then in 2008, the worker was injured when she bumped into a piece of heavy equipment while carrying some 60 pounds of meat.

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