North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation Procedures

South Carolina courts have long recognized that an employee’s pre-existing health conditions do not prevent that worker from having a compensable work injury – so long as the injury happened in the course of and arose out of the worker’s employment. So workers can’t be denied compensation for a work injury claim simply because he or she was more susceptible to injury than a person who was otherwise healthy. firefighter1

Further, pre-existing injuries that are aggravated by a work injury claim may be compensable. However, there has to be proof of aggravation.

This issue was raised in the recent case of Gill v. City of Charleston, which involved a firefighter injury in West Virginia.  Continue reading

Authorities in New Jersey recently reported on an incident involving a Port Authority worker who was struck by a hit-and-run driver, who was later located and arrested for DWI and leaving the scene of a crash.workzone

A host of similar incidents occurred in the Carolinas last year, including:

  • A South Carolina construction worker struck and killed on S.C. 170 in Greenville by an alleged drunk driver who fled the scene, but was later caught.
  • A state Department of Transportation worker killed in Goldsboro on U.S. Highway 70 at a construction site, where a 28-year-old driver had driven into the median. The driver, who was impaired, also had two children in the vehicle with her. The worker was survived by his wife and twin 18-month-old daughters.
  • A construction worker was struck on I-85 in Spartanburg County by a hit-and-run driver. He suffered critical injuries.

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Construction workers are often at serious risk of injury and even death, particularly when industry safety practices are not followed. steeltube

Claims for compensation in these matters – whether through the workers’ compensation system or by third party liability lawsuit – are often complicated by the fact that many construction sites have a number of entities and employers and contractors involved.

In the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Bullard v. Peak Steel, plaintiff sought compensation via a third-party liability lawsuit against the construction company on whose site her husband was fatally injured. Trial court had dismissed the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it concluded the worker was in fact an employee of the defendant, meaning the Industrial Commission had jurisdiction over the claim. The appellate court ultimately affirmed this conclusion, meaning workers’ compensation death benefits would be her only recourse at this point.  Continue reading

Many North Carolina workers’ compensation claims will ultimately settle by way of a “clincher agreement.” This is a compromised agreement or settlement between an employer, the insurance company and the injured worker. mineelevator

In most cases, this involves a lump sum cash settlement and coverage of certain medical expenses in exchange for release of all future reliability against both the employer and the insurer. It’s imperative in these negotiations to ensure your attorney is actively involved in the process. These agreements are essentially contracts, and there could be lifelong implications. Workers have to be sure that not only are immediate and outstanding medical expenses will be covered, but future claims as well. That may require extensive medical analysis and an in-depth look at future costs.

It was  a “clincher agreement” that was at the center of Newlon v. Teck American, Inc., a case recently before the Montana Supreme Court. Continue reading

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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