Recently in North Carolina Workers' Compensation Category

June 9, 2015

Taylor v. Howard Transportation, Inc. - Jurisdiction in NC Workers' Comp Cases


Work forces today are more fluid than ever. Employees work from home. Some may travel extensively out-of-state as part of their work.
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While these things can benefit industry and commerce, they can muddy the waters where workers' compensation is concerned.

Specifically where accidents occur out-of-state, the N.C. Gen. Stat. ยง 97-36 says that when workers are injured in an accident that occurs out-of-state, employees and/or dependents are entitled to workers' compensation benefits only in the following circumstances:


  1. If the employment contract was made in North Carolina

  2. If employer's principal place of business was in North Carolina

  3. If worker's principle place of employment was in North Carolina

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June 3, 2015

South Coast Framing v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Board - Death Benefits After Drug Overdose


One of the most common forms of treatment for pain following a work injury is medication. We are often lulled into a false sense of security about the safety of pain medication.
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Not only is it highly addictive, but certain combinations can be dangerous too.

Illness or death caused by prescription medication taken in accordance with a doctor's orders for a work-related injury may be compensable - as much so as the underlying injury that prompted the person to receive the medication. (There could also be grounds for a medical malpractice claim, though that would be an entirely separate matter.)

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April 25, 2015

Tribal Worker Killed in North Carolina


When people think of workers' compensation, they typically think in terms of an employee being injured on the job and missing work. However, some work-related accidents are fatal, and surviving family members will be required to file a workers' compensation claim seeking death benefits to cover medical bills related to employee's fatal injury or illness, lost wages, and funeral expenses under state workers' compensation regulations.

crash4.jpgAccording to a recent article from ABC News 13, a tribal transportation worker was killed in an on-the-job car accident in Cherokee, North Carolina. The accident occurred between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

One witness said she was getting ready for work around that time when she heard a loud crash. She did not know what happened until she was driving to work and saw police had blocked the road ahead of her. All she could see was a truck in the grassy area alongside the travel lane. She later learned her daughter's boyfriend had witnessed the fatal work-related accident and rushed to assist victim. The boyfriend found the injured employee and stayed with him, talking to him until paramedics arrived. He said the victim's head was essentially in his lap till help arrived.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of this tragic on-the-job accident but have released a statement saying victim was an employee for the Tribal Department of Transportation driving an agency truck when he collided with an SUV traveling in the opposite direction. One of victim's coworkers said she believes victim was driving straight, and the driver of the SUV allegedly crossed over the double yellow center line of the roadway and crashed into victim's truck.

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April 11, 2015

Williams v. Best Cartage Inc. - NC Workers' Compensation for Knee Replacement


A semi-truck driver who suffered a knee injury during a fall while exiting his truck when he stopped for breakfast will receive workers' compensation, according to a recent decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
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The employer appealed the initial grant of benefits on grounds commission erred in failing to identify a specific reason for plaintiff's fall and secondly in concluding plaintiff's knee injury was causally related to his work accident and therefore compensable. Plaintiff's pre-existing arthritis was a primary point of contention in this case.

But the appellate court affirmed, meaning plaintiff will receive benefits for his knee replacement.

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March 8, 2015

Patton v. Sears Roebuck - NC Appeals Court Weighs Asbestos Work Injury Case


Workers who have suffered injury as a result of asbestos exposure on the job are likely to be facing serious health consequences and do have several avenues for compensation.
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That may involve product liability litigation against the makers of the dangerous products, but in some cases it can also involve claims for workers' compensation. While workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for work-related claims, that only pertains to liability of an employer. Third party claims (such as those against manufacturers of dangerous products) are not barred by this rule.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed an award of worker's compensation death benefits to survivors of a worker who died of illness caused by decades-old work-related exposure to the deadly asbestos fibers.

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February 10, 2015

Demetres v. East West Construction, Inc. - Near-Fatal Bulldozer Injuries and Exclusive Remedy


After being nearly killed by a subcontractor employee operating a bulldozer, a former general contractor supervisor, of North Carolina, attempted to pursue a negligence lawsuit against the subcontractor and its worker.
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However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in Demetres v. East West Construction, Inc. the subcontractor was protected per the exclusive remedy provision of Virginia's workers' compensation law.

Exclusive remedy means injuries arising out of and in the course of one's employment are only compensable by workers' compensation - so far as the employer is concerned. While third-party negligence lawsuits are sometimes pursued, co-workers, sub-contractors and general contractors may be protected under this provision too, depending on the details of the relationship and incident.

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January 29, 2015

Making Workplace Accident Prevention a 2014 Goal


The New Year means it is time for resolutions. Employers need to resolve to take workplace seriously safety this year and to do what they can to try to improve work conditions. business-men-silhouette-1014502-m.jpg

Employees can also do their part to protect themselves this year. Workers should resolve to know their rights when it comes to safety issues and to speak up if they believe something is wrong on their job site.

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January 19, 2015

Gun Policies affect Workplace Violence Concerns in North Carolina


In the United States, there are now 22 different states that permit employees to bring guns to work and leave the guns in their cars in the office parking lot. North Carolina was one of the most recent states to approve these new gun laws, along with Tennessee and Missouri. According to WBUR, the loosening of gun laws in North Carolina and other states have left employers debating on what to do to ensure the safety of the workplace. black-and-white-gun-1409524-m.jpg

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), almost two million Americans report victimization by workplace violence each year. There are likely many more cases of violence that are not reported and tallied.

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January 17, 2015

Schultz v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board - Coming and Going Rule Exception


While workers' compensation law can vary from state-to-state, generally the coming-and-going rule is universally recognized as barring coverage of benefits. That is, if a worker is on her way to or leaving from her place of employment, any injuries sustained in the course of that commute are not compensable because they don't occur within the ordinary course of employment.
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However, courts across the country have come to different conclusions about what exactly "coming and going" is and how it should be interpreted.

Many states, including North Carolina, have accepted the "premises exception" to the coming and going rule. This essentially holds that injuries arising on the employer's premises (i.e., a parking lot, stairway, etc.) would be payable, even though the worker was hurt while going to or leaving work.

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January 5, 2015

Seamon v. Rand and Travelers - Repetitive Motion Injury Compensation Affirmed


In many workers' compensation cases, the illness or injury at issue is one that occurs over time or in some cases can occur naturally for some people, due to genetics or other factors. In these situations, no one doubts the severity of the condition, but proving causation between work-related duties and the injury/illness is central.
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Such was the case in Seamon v. Rand and Travelers, recently reviewed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, following a decision favoring plaintiff by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

At issue was a condition known as distal occlusive disease and thrombosis in one hand and aneurysms in both hands, resulting in blood clotting in his fingers. Clots had to be surgically removed from plaintiff's hands, and several fingers were amputated.

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December 12, 2014

North Carolina Pays High Price for Medical Treatment of Workers


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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December 5, 2014

OSHA Investigates: Man Killed By Falling Tape Measure


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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November 30, 2014

Cuomo v. Crane Co. - Asbestos Exposure Work Injury Claim


In North Carolina, workers who have suffered on-the-job injury or illness must file a claim in a timely manner. The North Carolina Industrial Commission allows some latitude to injured workers who fail to file written notices of injury with an employer, but all are bound by the requirement that a claim must be filed with the commission within two years of the incident resulting in injury. Otherwise, the claim is forever barred.
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Because the exceptions to this rule are extremely narrow, it's imperative workers suffering occupational injury or illness contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer right away.

One of the very few exceptions that may be recognized would be occupational illness stemming from asbestos exposure. The reason exceptions are made in these cases is because workers generally do not know whether exposure to asbestos at work has caused them injury or illness until the very late stages of asbestos-related disease (such as asbestosis and mesothelioma). Until symptoms appear, often decades after the fact, workers would have no indication of illness.

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November 3, 2014

Fox v. Sara Lee Corp. - Workers' Compensation for Sexual Assault at Work


A recent report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated there are more than 12,000 reports of sexual harassment to that agency annually. The actual number of incidents is almost certainly far higher. The official figures also don't necessarily include the number of sexual assaults at work. Every two minutes in the U.S., a woman is sexually assaulted, and nearly 40 percent of those instances involve someone they know - including potentially co-workers, customers, etc.
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In these instances, is workers' compensation the exclusive remedy for employees who are sexually assaulted on-the-job or at a job site? The answer is: It depends.

Workers compensation laws, as enacted in all 50 states, provide payments to workers who are injured during the course and/or scope of employment. With few exceptions, these laws provide exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, and thus bar workers from filing civil lawsuits against their employers.

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October 20, 2014

Bass v. Harnett County - Failure to Immediately Report Work Injury Can Damage Case


Back injuries are among the most common type of work-related physical injury employees sustain. It's also one of the toughest to prove work-related causation, especially where previous issues existed.
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That's why immediate medical attention of a back injury - no matter how seemingly minor - is always advised by workers' compensation lawyers. Receiving an assessment right away can help rule out later assertions that the injuries in question are related to pre-existing conditions, and therefore not compensable.

In order to be payable under state workers' compensation laws, most claims have to begin with an "injury by accident." Back injuries are one of the exceptions, with N.C.G.S. 97-2(6) allowing some injuries don't necessarily rise out of an "accident," but rather a "specific traumatic incident of the work assigned."

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