North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Carolina Work Accident

Last May, members of the South Carolina General Assembly introduced S. 674, which would amend the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act and allow employers to provide alternative, private injury plans to workers that are less structured than the state-mandated versions. workboots

In February, the measure was quietly ushered into the Senate Committee on Judiciary. However, the measure has remained untouched in the wake of two key decisions in Oklahoma. That state was one of the two pioneers of the workers’ compensation opt-out system (the other is Texas). Recently, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled in Vasquez v. Dillards the 2013 opt-out statute is unconstitutional.

But is that the end of the matter? Not in Oklahoma and not necessarily in South Carolina or in Tennessee, the other state weighing an opt-out option.  Continue reading

Employees injured in a job-related accident covered by workers’ compensation may also be entitled to personal injury lawsuit proceeds if third-party negligence was also at play.electricwires

That worker has a right to proceed with both a workers’ compensation claim as well as a third-party lawsuit. However, the workers’ compensation insurer will have a lien on that third party recovery. The idea is workers shouldn’t be able to collect twice for the same injury. But to how much are employer insurers entitled?

The highest court in Massachusetts recently took on this question in a pair of two cases wherein lower courts had issued conflicting rulings. The cases were DiCarlo v. Suffolk Construction Co. and Martin v. Angelini Plastering Inc. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was asked to decide whether employer insurers are entitled to collect a lien on damages awarded for pain and suffering. Continue reading

Some good news coming from the North Carolina Labor Department: Workplace deaths were down in 2015, according to official data.constructionworker

Still, it’s not necessarily enough to rejoice in a dramatic trend.

The Department of Labor reports there were 41 people killed in workplace accidents throughout the state last year, versus 45 killed in 2014.

First, let’s keep in mind: These are preliminary figures. The 2015 figure could increase slightly as pending investigations are completed or if a worker injured in an accident last year dies of those injuries this year.  Continue reading

Far too many North Carolina companies are putting employees at risk by failing to secure the appropriate workers’ compensation insurance to ensure benefits in case they are hurt on the job. workers

The North Carolina Industrial Commission, the agency responsible for enforcing workers’ compensation law and overseeing claims, reports it has been cracking down on companies that try to evade their duty to workers and taxpayers. In the last year, the commission reports it has collected $1 million in civil fines from companies that were not properly insured. Further, some 100 employers were charged with criminal misdemeanors for willfully violating the law.

State law mandates that any company that has more than two employees has to provide workers’ compensation coverage – at no cost to the workers. It’s part of the “grand bargain” workers made with corporate America years ago when they forfeited the right to sue their employers for work injuries. In exchange, companies are supposed to keep this insurance and promptly pay out claims for medical expenses and lost wages due caused by work injuries or illnesses.  Continue reading

Families of three workers killed in a North Carolina scaffolding accident have filed a lawsuit against four companies that were either central to work on the project or supplied the scaffolding necessary to complete it. scaffolding1

The March 2015 accident killed three men, two of them 33-years-old and a third was 41. All lived in this state. A fourth worker, 53, was treated for serious injuries but survived. The men worked for a subcontractor that was helping to erect a $54 million office building on Fayetteville and Lenoir Streets, adjacent to the Raleigh Convention Center and the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center.

News reports indicate the problem was the scaffolding mast climber. This is a type of equipment that goes up and down the side of a building to take workers to different floors. These men were working to take the scaffolding down when one of the tracks snapped off and came crashing to the ground in a huge mass of metal.  Continue reading

Lumber mills and saw mills are among the most dangerous occupations for North Carolina workers. There are a number of saw mill and lumber sale locations in Greensboro and throughout the state. woodpile

Recently, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reported that in Region 4 – which covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky – there have been a series of violations at lumber mills that jeopardize worker safety. The agency has levied fines against employers that fail to ensure employees have a safe work environment – something to which they are entitled.

The first involves a lumber mill in Alabama, which despite repeated warnings, OSHA says continues to expose workers to the risk of amputations, falls and other fatal workplace accidents. Following an inspection in October, the agency cited the mill for two repeated and seven serious safety and health violations. An inspection of the facility was initiated after a worker was injured and had to be hospitalized in an incident that was unrelated. Continue reading

Per the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, Article 1, Section 97-31, there are is a schedule of injuries. This provision serves as a guideline for how much an injured worker should be awarded for certain losses. gavel2

For example:

  • Loss of a thumb – 66 and two-thirds percentage of the average weekly wages for 75 weeks
  • Loss of a great tow – 66 and two-thirds percentage of the average weekly wage for 35 weeks
  • Loss of a hand – 66 and two-thirds percent of the average weekly wage for 200 weeks
  • Loss of a foot – 66 and two-thirds percent of average weekly wage for 144 weeks
  • Serious facial or head disfigurement – a proper award not to exceed $20,000

The list goes on like this. Many other states have similar guidelines, and they are fairly straightforward. However, as the recent case of Goff v. W. Va. Office of Ins. Comm’r shows, sometimes there are complicating factors. Continue reading

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports two workers are killed monthly in the U.S. due to trench collapses. Employers owe their workers a duty to create a hazard-free work environment that doesn’t imperil employees and put them at risk for serious injury or death. constructionsite1.jpg

Cave-ins in particular pose a grave risk, and are more likely to be fatal than other types of excavation-related accidents.

The recent case of Fernandes v. DAR Development Corp. involved a worker who was injured as a result of a trench collapse. The case, a third-party work injury lawsuit, was recently before the New Jersey Supreme Court.
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A construction company has been ordered by federal regulators to pay nearly $425,000 in penalties for six egregious violations of workplace safety leading to the near-death of a worker who was buried in an eight-foot trench. pipework.jpg

The collapse happened fast, within a matter of seconds. His co-workers rushed to his side and helped to dig him out with their bare hands. Then, just moments after they pulled him to safety, the trench, which was unprotected, collapsed again.

The worker was severely injured and had to be hospitalized.

Now, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the company was found to violate 16 total safety violations, with of those being the more serious, “willful violations” for failing to protect its workers. OSHA investigators say the construction company was aware the site was dangerous, and yet did not take the necessary, adequate measures to protect workers.
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About one year ago, investigative reporters at NPR and ProPublica teamed up to examine in-depth the impact of recent legislative changes to the workers’ compensation system nationwide. Numerous state-level reforms in more than 30 states appeared to be targeting protections that once provided the critical foundation of the programs.
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What those investigators did not know was at the same time, federal investigators launched their own inquiry – and released their almost identical findings on the very same day.

Both reports – one from NPR/ProPublica and the other from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – detail changes that have had devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious on-the-job injuries each year. These changes have been almost exclusively driven by large corporations and insurance companies, which have pushed the narrative that costs for these programs are out-of-control – despite direct evidence that workers’ comp payouts have never been lower.
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