North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

Non-profit news organization ProPublica has been doggedly covering the issue of eroding workers’ compensation benefits throughout the country in recent

Now, in a recent report, an investigation sheds light on the explosive growth of an industry that is thriving off “cost-cutting” workers’ compensation benefits. These companies, billing themselves as “cost containment” entities, offer services ranging from negotiation of medical bills to claim management to arrangement of medical providers, defense lawyers and expert witnesses in workers’ compensation cases. All promise to lower costs for companies by “getting workers working again more quickly.” But the reality is, these companies are raking in enormous profits and wield tremendous influence on the outcome of workers’ compensation cases – often to the detriment of workers.

As evidence of this cottage industry’s success, ProPublica detailed one of the 150 or so national conferences the industry holds annually – about one every other day. The scene: Las Vegas. Acrobats dangling from the ceiling. Neon lights. Techno music. Scantily-clad female dancers on poles. Open bars and free chocolate truffles. Designer handbag giveaways. Free Hummer limousine rides. Photo-ops with Olympians and celebrities. Rock star performances. And a live alligator. Continue reading

As it now stands, there are two types of workers: Employees and independent contractors. Now, a number of technology firms, like Uber and others, are seeking the creation of a third category of worker, somewhere in between.iphone1

In workers’ compensation law, the categorization of an worker is critical. Employees, by-and-large, are covered by workers’ compensation insurance if they are injured or become ill on-the-job or in the course and scope of employment. Independent contractors, meanwhile, cannot expect these protections.

The former should receive relatively quick response from the company on coverage of medical bills and a portion of lost wages and/or death benefits. For them, negligence is generally not a factor that precludes them from benefits, though they are generally less than what one might receive prevailing in court. Independent contractors can take the companies for which they work to court for injuries or illness, and they can even receive compensation for losses like pain-and-suffering (not available to workers’ compensation recipients) – but they have to prove negligence. Continue reading

Workplace violence is a serious problem in many settings. However, it is especially pervasive within the health care industry, where aides, nurses and doctors provide hands-on treatment to individuals who may be unstable and combative. nurses

Health care workers suffer assaults that include hits, scratches, kicks, bites, threats and harassment on a regular basis. In fact, a 2014 survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of nurses reported being attacked while on the job last year. An article published in Scientific American last year highlighted a Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicating health care workers suffer the most non-fatal workplace violence of any profession – by a wide margin. In fact, attacks on these professionals account for about 70 percent of all non-lethal workplace assaults resulting in days off work.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina Legislature passed a law, which went into effect Dec. 1, 2015, making it a felony to commit acts of violence in North Carolina hospitals. The hope is that this will significantly curb such incidents. On the same day that law went into effect, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled a new webpage created to provide health care workers and employers strategies to prevent workplace violence.  Continue reading

When accepting a workers’ compensation settlement, affected employees need to understand they are making a decision that could well impact the rest of their lives. Courts consider these “clincher” agreements to be binding, enforceable contracts. That means regardless of whatever complications or circumstances arise afterward, the agreement is going to stand. client1

That’s why it’s imperative that all possibly foreseeable expenses and outcomes be carefully weighed by claimant’s attorney before approving the terms.

Recently before the Alaska Supreme Court was the case of Municipality of Anchorage v. Stenseth. Here, claimant had to repay the city a portion of benefits and costs relating to his workers’ compensation claim after he was caught distributing some of the medications he received as part of the settlement. Continue reading

Two workers were killed and a third seriously injured recently at a North Carolina transformer plant in Goldsboro, about two hours east of Greensboro. transformer

According to news reports, one of the workers fell into a transformer, and the two others went in to save him. However, they too became unresponsive. Although authorities have identified the three men involved, indicating the deceased were ages 51 and 33 and the injured was 40, they have not indicated which of the three fell in, or how exactly the two decedents died. The 40-year-old survivor was reportedly being treated at the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital in critical condition days after the accident.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has launched an investigation into the incident – and it apparently is not the first. Continue reading

A landscaping worker employed by the North Carolina city of Greenville, about 2.5 hours east of Greensboro, was injured while driving a city truck. A third-party driver ran a red light and crashed into him. The force of the collision caused his truck to collide with a tree, breaking the windshield and causing the airbags to deploy with force.
Plaintiff was transported to a local hospital and treated for bruises on his head, broken ribs and a number of injuries to his pelvis, neck, back and hip. An MRI revealed a concussion, but he was discharged from the hospital the next day.

That was five years ago. The issue of his workers’ compensation benefits has been an ongoing one, recently weighed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Wilkes v. Greenville. Plaintiff recently appealed a finding by the North Carolina Industrial Commission indicating his injuries weren’t work-related and that he was no longer entitled to receive temporary total disability benefits. The appellate court reversed in part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.
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Ride-sharing company Uber is now available for services in North Carolina in Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Outer Banks, Piedmont Triad, Raleigh-Durham and Wilmington. In South Carolina, it’s available in Charleston, Columbia and Greeneville.
This is a convenient service for users hoping to catch a quick, affordable ride in a clean vehicle, ready to pick them up at their location within minutes.

But Uber has never fashioned itself a company that provides rides. Rather, it has insisted, it is a technology company that connects riders to rides. Drivers, the company insists, are independent contractors who must pay for their own liability insurance, are paid by the ride and aren’t entitled to benefits such as unemployment or workers’ compensation.
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Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses, lost wages and other costs when an employee has suffered a work-related injury. But these injuries need not always be physical in nature.sadness4.jpg

There are some cases in which emotional injuries or psychological injuries may be compensable. For example, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in the 1986 case of Hogan v. Forsyth Country Club that emotional injuries sustained due to workplace incidents may in fact be covered. To limit these claims for emotional distress, courts have ruled, would be against public policy.

When work-related, psychological conditions are the result of a work-related accident, workers’ compensation claims are not barred, courts have held.
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Workers’ compensation is intended to provide accessible, adequate coverage of medical bills and lost wages to workers who have suffered an on-the-job injury.
Injuries that do not occur at work or aren’t work-related generally aren’t going to be covered. However, there may be some exceptions if the work injury aggravates a pre-existing condition or if a subsequent, non-related work injury exacerbates a previous work injury.

The case that highlights one of these possibilities is Washington County Sch. Dist. v. Labor Comm’n, weighed recently by the Utah Supreme Court. Justices were asked to address the causal connection an employee has to prove between an initial, compensable workplace injury and a subsequent non-workplace injury in order to obtain workers’ compensation coverage for the second injury.
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The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the award of workers’ compensation benefits to plaintiff in Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., over objections by employer that worker hadn’t suffered a compensable injury, wasn’t injured in the course of employment and wasn’t entitled to temporary total disability benefits.
According to court records, the injury was sustained while plaintiff was playing “laser tag” at a company-sponsored event in Charlotte. The game was part of a three-day conference and plaintiff’s attendance was mandatory. Normally, he was based in Asheville, but the conference was in Charlotte, and he wasn’t allowed to bring his wife or children with him. He was paid normal salary for his time there.

During the day, the company discussed the previous year’s sales, new products, new sales strategies and offered opportunities to meet with vendors and colleagues in other locations.
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