North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Last May, members of the South Carolina General Assembly introduced S. 674, which would amend the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act and allow employers to provide alternative, private injury plans to workers that are less structured than the state-mandated versions. workboots

In February, the measure was quietly ushered into the Senate Committee on Judiciary. However, the measure has remained untouched in the wake of two key decisions in Oklahoma. That state was one of the two pioneers of the workers’ compensation opt-out system (the other is Texas). Recently, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled in Vasquez v. Dillards the 2013 opt-out statute is unconstitutional.

But is that the end of the matter? Not in Oklahoma and not necessarily in South Carolina or in Tennessee, the other state weighing an opt-out option.  Continue reading

A new study published by Canadian researchers in the journal Thorax revealed workers who suffer obstructive sleep apnea have a heightened risk of suffering a work injury.sleep

The condition, which results in a person waking up multiple times each night when their airways become blocked, is likely to lessen a person’s senses and dull their reflexes as they are carrying out their daytime duties.

The fact of a pre-existing condition does not mean that a person cannot recover damages for injuries suffered at work. Nonetheless, both workers and employers should be aware of heightened risk factors and take steps to help reduce the impact these conditions can have.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver analyzed data from more than 1,200 sleep clinic patients and discovered that those who suffered from sleep apnea were twice as likely as their peers to suffer some type of workplace injury. What’s more, they were three times as likely to suffer form an injury that directly resulted from failed vigilance. These would be things like tripping, getting burned or falling.  Continue reading

Workers, by both North Carolina law and many employment policies, are required to give immediate notice to their employers when they are injured on-the-job.shovel

Failure to report injuries right away could result in denial of workers’ compensation benefits, as well as sanctions from the company. Of course, some companies have taken this a step too far and punished employees where it was impossible to know the injury would be serious (i.e., a splinter that later got infected) or where immediate reporting was not feasible.

Your workers’ compensation lawyer will help to protect your rights, but you must preserve your claim first by reporting it.  Continue reading

Last month, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released a report to detail the progress of the severe work-related injury reporting program, implemented one year ago. That report indicates there were nearly 10,400 severe work-related injuries in the U.S. in 2015 – the first full year of the new federal requirement. workers

Included in this number: Eye loss, amputation, hospitalization. All of this has to be reported in the first 24 hours. Within that 10,400 were 2,644 amputations and 7,636 hospitalizations. Fatalities have to be reported within eight hours.

But until this requirements, OSHA officials were often grasping at straws when it came to identifying an actual number of serious workplace injuries. As one official described it, each of those instances was “a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.”  Continue reading

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has come down hard against the alternative workers’ compensation law, which allows employers to “opt-out” of traditional, state-run benefits, so long as they provide their own coverage. It’s similar to the one South Carolina had been considering. worker3

However, these “alternative” plans have proven time and again to be detrimental to workers. To start, companies have the freedom to define what it means to be “injured.” Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a narrowed definition, meaning many workers who otherwise would have received benefits are shut out.

Another of these unfair provisions – the one on which the state supreme court recently weighed – was called the “180-Day Rule.” According to this provision, the act prohibits workers from collecting workers’ compensation if they had been employed for less than 180 days.  Continue reading

A company is facing steep fines from federal regulators at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for citations issued after a machine operator suffered a work-related amputation.worker6

The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA division launched its investigation into the plan after the machinist’s middle finger had to be amputated. At the time of the accident, the 53-year-old worker had been trying to reassemble a machine intended to separate chicken parts. At some point, the machine turned on suddenly and unexpectedly.

The incident, in Alabama, drew ire from the federal agency’s spokeswoman, who flatly stated this incident was not just unfortunate, but easily preventable. In fact, the company was aware that workers were exposed to the possibility of an amputation because they knew certain machines were prone to unexpected start-up. And yet, the company did not take action to address the malfunction nor did they warn workers of the issue.  Continue reading

Was a worker acting within the course and scope of employment when he tried to rescue a co-worker who had fallen into a concrete pit of methane gas at a work site? worker1

A lower court in Pennsylvania ruled yes, but now the company has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case.

The case raises important questions about whether those who step in to help others in danger on the job will themselves be protected under workers’ compensation laws if they are hurt. Continue reading

The latest annual report from UL’s Integrated Health & Safety Institute (IHSI) has issued a report that ranks the prevalence of health conditions of work safety in each state as compared to the national average.worker5

The results for North Carolina and South Carolina reveal something of a mixed bag.

For example, the North Carolina workplace fatality rate is in the 10- to 20-percent better range. However, the risk of certain health determinants, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke were in the 10- to 20-percent worse category. Continue reading

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Steel Corp., demanding the company change its workplace injury reporting policy, which currently mandates workers immediately report incidents when they occur. The company has taken disciplinary action against workers who don’t immediately file. steelbeam

Although this kind of policy may at first seem like a way to protect workers – after all, it may be in their best interest to report a work accident with injuries immediately – the problem is not all injuries are immediately apparent. A worker who doesn’t suffer any problems until days later will be discouraged from reporting the injury, due to the policy.

That fear would be with good reason, given what recently happened to two of U.S. Steel’s employees.  Continue reading

South Carolina should pay close attention to the decision recently handed down by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, which just ruled the 2013 opt-out statute is unconstitutional. gavel21

The ruling in Vasquez v. Dillards now paves the way for an appeal to the state supreme court and, perhaps ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a significant victory for workers everywhere, who have seen their workers’ compensation provision protections gutted in recent years by a concerted effort by lobbyists and politicians.

The Oklahoma Employee Benefit Act – also known as the “Opt-Out Act,” gave employers an alternative system to satisfy the state requirement to carry workers’ compensation insurance to grant benefits to workers injured on the job.  Continue reading

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