North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in North Carolina Personal Injury

When a worker is injured in the course and scope of employment, but also due to the negligence of a non-employer third party, that worker may be entitled to pursue both workers’ compensation and personal injury compensation. However, these kinds of claims must be handled carefully, and preferably by a law firm that can handle both.emergency

That’s because the employer/ workers’ compensation insurance company may be entitled to impose a lien on benefits obtained in the personal injury lawsuit. That doesn’t necessarily mean plaintiff would receive nothing for the additional trouble of pursuing a personal injury case, but it must be above board, or else risk forfeiture of the right to collect workers’ compensation insurance.

That’s what happened in the recent case of Easter-Rozelle v. City of Charlotte, recently before the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Continue reading

Plaintiff in North Carolina Appeals Court workers’ compensation case of Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC et al. undoubtedly had been through an enormously difficult time.handsholding.jpg

Her adult brother, for whom she was a 24-hour caregiver through a residential care program, died suddenly. Making matters worse was that on the day of his death, she suffered a serious injury when she rushed to his side to help him as he had fallen onto the floor and lost consciousness. Another injury was later discovered which she asserts was related to the incident.

On top of all that, she had to fight her employer to prove the injury was work-related, that those injuries were causally related to the incident and that she was entitled to temporary total disability. She was not successful on each of those fronts.
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Every year at this time, companies across the country are hosting holiday parties, lunches and other gatherings. These events are usually not directly related to work, and are intended to simply give the team a break, boost morale or celebrate a good year and thank all for a job well done.
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But of course, injuries can occur at any time. Holiday parties may in some cases result in an increased risk of injury if alcohol is served or if there is a need to drive off site to the event.

Whether injuries stemming from these incidents will be compensable is a difficult question, and the answer is going to rely on a host of factors, including:

  • Whether the company required or expected workers to attend
  • Employees were paid to participate
  • The incident occurred on company property and the property contained an unsafe condition the employer failed to timely correct
  • The employer directly or impliedly endorsed the event and/or derives a benefit from it

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Nearly every employee in North and South Carolina is covered by the workers’ compensation system. In industries and jobs where the rate of accidents and injuries is higher, employers may have greater workers’ compensation claims and costs. According to a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), hospitals in North Carolina pay higher costs for work-related injuries than in most states. The report, titled “CompScore Medical Benchmarks for North Carolina,” assessed medical costs between 2007 and 2012 and compared the data to 15 other states. The report concluded that overall, medical payments were higher in North Carolina than in other states.

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In addition to the overall costs, there were also varying medical payments depending on the provider. According to the analysis, North Carolina had the highest cost per claim among the states evaluated in the WCRI study. Despite the higher cost of hospital care, the state had lower “nonhospital” costs related to workers’ compensation. Public health officials, legislators, and hospital officials have worked to tackle the issue of rising health care costs in North Carolina and nationwide. In 2009, the state made significant headway in reducing the hospital outpatient reimbursement rate. For most hospitals this rate fell from 95 percent to 79 percent of charges.
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Construction workers face some of the most dangerous working conditions when on the job. In a recent tragedy, one man was killed and four workers were injured when a pedestrian bridge collapsed at the Wake Technical Community college campus in Raleigh. According to reports, the injured workers were rushed to the hospital after the collapse. On man suffered severe back and neck injuries, another broke his leg and a third was being treated for pain. Three of the four injured workers were forced to undergo surgery after the accident.

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Construction sites are dangerous because of faulty support, heights, potential problems with electricity and a host of other conditions that can pose a risk to workers. In the event of an accident, victims and their loved ones have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim and to collect financial benefits to cover lost wages and medical expenses. Though workers cannot traditionally bring claims against their employers, they can bring personal injury claims against third-parties, including property owners, manufacturers, and other subcontractors.
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Freak accidents can occur on construction sites or in other work zones, especially when proper safety precautions are not in place. In a tragic case, a construction worker was killed when a tape measure fell over 50 stories and struck the worker on the head. According to reports, the 58-year-old man was bringing dry wall to the site when he was struck with a tape measure that had fallen from the belt of a worker on the high rise. The object was only 1-pound, but had the power to kill the man who stood below.

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Witnesses reported that before it struck the victim, the tape measure hit another piece of metal approximately 15 feet from the ground, the ricocheted before it caused the fatal injury. The case is a reminder of the importance of proper training and equipment on a worksite. Usually construction sites are gated and include signs that remind workers, visitors, and others that it is a ‘hard hat area.’ According to reports, the victim was not wearing a hard hat at the time of the accident. He had stopped at another man’s truck to have a conversation. Witnesses say it was a clear case of “wrong place, wrong time.”
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Law enforcement officers face dangerous working conditions when on the job. In addition to the potential for assault or violence, officers could be at risk of a car collision or other accident. In a recent case, a South Carolina sheriff’s deputy was injured in an automobile accident that also resulted in the death of a woman.

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According to reports, the sheriff’s deputy was riding with his partner when he lost control of the patrol car. Police reports indicated that after losing control, he struck another vehicle resulting in the death of a 45-year-old woman and four other passengers. The sheriff is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and is filing additional lawsuits against Anderson County and the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
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In the event of a workplace accident, including an injury or fatality of an employee, it is likely that there will be both an internal investigation as well as an OSHA investigation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for ensuring that employers maintain safe working conditions. If an investigation reveals regulatory violations, OSHA also has the authority to fine the responsible entity or entities. South Carolina OSHA is going to be investigating an explosion that injured three workers at an Edgefield plant.

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According to reports, two employees are in critical condition as a result of the explosion.
Workplace accidents should be investigated by OSHA as well as an independent advocate who can help to preserve evidence and protect the rights of workers. Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to raising awareness to increase workplace safety. Our team will also investigate any workplace accident to identify misconduct, regulatory violations, or wrongdoing. In addition to helping victims recover compensation, we are also prepared to take on third-party claims against all responsible individuals or entities.
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Emotional and mental turmoil resulting from workplace violence can be debilitating, in some cases manifesting in the form of a chemical dependency. As such, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in Kim v. Gen-X Clothing, Inc., that the resulting treatment for such dependency should be compensable.
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Asheville workers’ compensation lawyers recognize this ruling as important because it represents a shift in attitude with regard to our understanding of chemical dependency. Specifically as it pertains to workers’ compensation, treatment for chemical dependency can be covered when the claimant can show it is directly related to a traumatic workplace incident.

That’s not to say it will be an easy win, but this case shows it is possible.
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Last month, a gunman burst through the doors of a Greensboro lumber company, killing three and critically wounding a fourth. Authorities later found him at his home, also critically wounded from a self-inflicted gunshot, a rambling manifesto beside him. gun1.jpg

Our North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys understand authorities soon learned that the shooter also worked at the plant. They are exploring the possibility that he may have lashed out after suffering some form of workplace harassment.

The incident unfolded at the same time the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report. The annual study analyzes the fatal workplaces injuries that occur each year in the U.S. – including those that involve violence.

What the agency discovered was that homicidal acts carried out at work overwhelmingly involved firearms – about 80 percent.

Between 2006 and 2010, an average of 550 employees were killed annually in work-related homicides. In 2010, the most recent year with available data, there were nearly 520 workplace homicides, accounting for more than 10 percent of all workplace fatalities this year. Of those, nearly 80 were multiple-fatality homicides, just like in Greensboro, where two or more people were killed.

It’s also worth noting that despite the term “going postal,” the vast majority of these incidents didn’t involve government workers. In fact, 83 percent of these incidents occurred in private-sector businesses. About a dozen incidents occurred in schools, but that really only accounted for about 4 percent. The retail trade industry meanwhile accounted for nearly 30 percent of all fatal workplace shootings. The leisure and hospitality industry accounted for 15 percent, while transportation and warehousing accounted for 8 percent.

And again, we’re only talking about those incidents that result in death. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration estimates that roughly 2 million workers suffer some form of workplace violence each year.

What all of this tells us is that situations like what happened in Greensboro last month aren’t some tragic fluke. It’s a serious problem that requires the careful consideration by employers to put preventative systems in place.

Some things to keep in mind when deciding what type of systems might be most effective:

  • Four out of every five workplace homicide victims are men;
  • Robbers and other assailants accounted for more than 70 percent of homicides to men, but 37 percent of those involving women;
  • Relatives or acquaintances were responsible for nearly 40 percent of workplace homicides involving women;
  • Individuals with no prior personal relationship to the victims accounted for about two-thirds of all workplace homicides.

OSHA recommends adoption of the following measures:

  • Secure the workplace. Where it may be appropriate, install video surveillance, alarm systems and extra lighting. Also, minimize access to outsiders with the use of ID badges, guards and electronic keys.
  • Set up drop safes so you limit the amount of cash on hand.
  • Offer field staff cell phones and handheld alarms and require them to keep in regular contact throughout the day.
  • Tell employees to never enter any place where they feel unsafe.

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