North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation Procedures

Construction work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, and demolition work is even more dangerous that the average construction project. Some demolition projects involve teams using carefully placed explosives, so a large building implodes and neatly collapses on itself, but the vast majority of demolition work involves people with power saws and sledgehammers taking a building down piece by piece.
According to a recent news article form ABC 7 News, a demolition worker was just killed when a building in which he working in midtown Manhattan collapsed around him.

dangerhardhat.jpgAuthorities have said one worker was killed and another was injured when the building internally collapsed while they were inside. Specifically, a large portion of the ceiling broke lose from its support on the rear side of the building and started falling from the top of the eight story structure. As it fell, it crashed through floor after floor, crushing one worker who died on the scene and injuring the other. The worker who was killed is believed to have died as soon as the debris landed on him and did not suffer.
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North Carolina has very diverse economic base. There is still a great deal of manufacturing in part of the state, as well as a strong technology sector in the area known as the Research Triangle. However, agriculture still makes up a very large portion of jobs in the state economy, and among the different types of agriculture, poultry farming is particularly prevalent, as are pig farms.

chicken-1403659.jpgWhile we used to have mainly privately owned farms with a decent number of chicken coops, many of these family farms have been bought out by what we now call super farms, or they were otherwise forced to close. This is also true of the pig farms, which have been closed to make way for major national producers such as Smithfield, which has large operations centers in the state of North Carolina.
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A worker at an Abercrombie & Fitch distribution center was killed when he crashed his forklift into another forklift at the distribution center according to a recent news article form the Columbus Dispatch. Authorities say worker was in his mid to late 40s. They have not released the name of employee who was killed on the job, so his family could be notified first.

Forklift Picture for Equipment Accident blog post.jpgImmediately after the forklift collision, someone at the distribution center called 911, and first responders arrived at the warehouse. This particular facility was just across the street from the company’s headquarters, so corporate executives were also on site following the worker’s death.
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Kingery v. Sumitomo Elec. Wiring, an appeal from the Supreme Court of Kentucky, involved a claimant who was injured in 1989. She applied for workers’ compensation after being injured on the job and was awarded benefits.

gaveljan.jpgSpecifically, the type of injury was a repetitive stress injury (RSI). According to claimant’s testimony, she was required to reach over her head and hang coils of electrical wire on pegs. She had to do this all day and was required to hang approximately three wire coils per minute. Due to the fact that she was only four feet, eight inches tall, she had to really strain her body to reach the pegs, which were over maximum reach without straining. After working for the employer for about a month, she began to experience pain in her upper back and neck.
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According to a recent news report from The News & Observer, an investigation conducted by the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), has issued findings stating that it was a lack of training that contributed to the death of an electrician in Raleigh. This worker was three months short of reaching his retirement and receiving benefits.

lifts.jpgThe 62-year-old electrical worker was killed when a telescoping lift fell on him. The lift was rated as weighing 800 pounds. He died shortly after the lift landed on him. With the report, the Department of Labor issued a citation in the amount of $5,600 for failing to insure worker’s place of employee was free from recognized hazard likely to result in death or serious bodily injury. While the amount of this fine may seem somewhat strange, it should be noted that the maximum allowable fine for such a violation is $7,000.
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Earlier this year, South Carolina Rep. David Hiott (R-Pickens), introduced a measure to the state legislature that would allow employers to opt-out of the state workers’ compensation program, and instead implement their own injury benefit plan alternative.
Tennessee is considering a similar measure, and the option is already available in Texas and more recently, Oklahoma.

This is our second in a two-part series which looks more closely at the first in-depth analysis of these programs and what they mean for workers. Veteran reporters from NPR and ProPublica teamed up to conduct research of benefit plans of more than 120 companies that are participating in these opt-out plans. What they found was by-and-large, these plans offered workers lower benefits, restricted access to benefits and very little control over the medical care they received or benefits obtained.
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North Carolina law has well established that if a person is injured in the course and scope of employment, he or she is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to help cushion the financial blow.
These benefits are available even if the injury involves a pre-existing condition that was aggravated as a result of a work-related incident. It also, as the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Morrison v. Wal-Mart reveals, is applicable in cases where a work-related injury is exacerbated by a non-work-related incident.

The court in Morrison ruled that the commission did not err in granting workers’ compensation benefits to a worker who had suffered a job-related injury that got much worse following a car accident months later.
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There are a lot of ways one could get injured when working at a coffee shop. Burn injuries are an obvious type of injury that comes to mind. A worker could also get injured from having something fall on him or her in the supply room, or slipping and falling on a wet floor.

However, “Getting struck by a vehicle” is probably not on the list of likely scenarios.

1339587_catering_-_coffee.jpgHowever, according to a recent news article in the Winston-Salem Journal, one worker had come to the coffee shop early in the morning and began setting things up to serve customers their morning coffee. The store’s patio furniture stays out all night, but like many other businesses with out door furniture, employees run a cable lock through the chairs and tables to deter any theft.
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All risks causing injury to employees can be brought within one of three claims:

  • Risks that are distinctly associated with employment;
  • Risks that are personal to the claimant;
  • “Neutral risks,” which have no particular employment or personal character.

The first are almost always compensable. These are injuries that happen on the job and are connected with one’s job performance. The second are typically not compensable, though there are exceptions. These would be injuries like choking while eating your lunch or suffering a seizure at work that wasn’t caused by anything work-related.

Then there are neutral risks. These often garner the most controversy when it comes to courts weighing workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, these are injuries that will generally be covered if they occur on business property, and may be covered if they occur off the property, assuming the risk to complainant is higher than that experienced by the general public due to his or her employment. An act of God may be considered a neutral risk.
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Workers who are severely and permanently injured as a result of an occupational accident or illness may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
There are many different ratings of disability following a work injury in North Carolina or South Carolina that may entitle a worker to long-term benefits. However, only permanent total disability (PTD) benefits may be paid for he duration of one’s life. All others cut off after a maximum 500 weeks (almost 10 years). That includes workers’ compensation death benefits.

But the instances in which lifetime benefits may be afforded are rare and include only the most serious of cases: Severe brain injury, quadriplegia, paralysis or extensive burns over more than a third of the body.
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