Recently in Workers' Compensation Procedures Category

August 25, 2015

Easley v. TLC Companies - Defining "Widow" for Workers' Compensation

In North Carolina, workers' compensation death benefits may be paid to the total dependents of an employee or next-of-kin, whichever is applicable.
Death benefits cover funeral expenses, plus two-thirds of employee's average weekly wages, payable for up to 500 weeks, unless dependent is a spouse unable to support himself or herself due to physical or mental disability or a child who is under 18.

However, determining who is eligible to collect these death benefits is not always a straightforward task. If the individual is married, typically those benefits would go to the surviving spouse. However, if the pair is estranged - but still married - there could be a valid dispute as to entitlement.

In the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Easley v. TLC Companies, the question arose of what constitutes a widow?

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August 14, 2015

OSHA Proposes New Work Injury Record-Keeping Rules

In 2012, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration lost a critical case in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the federal regulator can't cite employers for failure to record work-related injuries and illnesses more than six months after the initial obligation to record the case occurred.
Previously, the commission had held it had up 5.5 years to bring such cases, and taken numerous employers to task with hefty fines and penalties for failure to do so. There was great concern after that decision would result in companies being lax on record-keeping duties.

Now, OSHA has announced it's proposing to amend it's record-keeping rules to reinforce the duty to record illness or injury for as long as the employer must keep records of recordable injury or illness. That time is five years.

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August 8, 2015

SC HB 4197 Proposes Workers' Compensation Alternative

A bill that would dramatically alter the South Carolina workers' compensation system has been introduced by a Republican representative (who is also a small business owner), and has been referred to the state's Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
HB 4197, more widely known as the South Carolina Employee Injury Benefit Plan Alternative, would authorize new forms of insurance coverage and exemption from the current South Carolina Workers' Compensation Law. The move comes one year after Tennessee also introduced similar legislation, though that was not ultimately voted on before the legislature adjourned for the session.

Only two other states - Texas and Oklahoma - allow workers' compensation alternative options. The goal, supporters say, is to reduce employer costs associated with worker injuries and to "encourage market competition." Two co-sponsors of the bill include a chairman on the labor committee, as well as another representative who is also a small business owner.

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July 19, 2015

State ex rel. Tradesmen Int'l v. Indus. Comm'n - Permanent Total Disability Affirmed

A total permanent disability as it relates to workers' compensation law is one in which a person is unable to work in their own or in any job for which they may be suited by training, experience or education as a result of a workplace injury or illness.
In South Carolina, per S.C. Code 42-9-10, a finding of permanent total disability will entitle claimant to receive benefits for a maximum 500 weeks (or nearly 10 years). Maximum weekly rates of compensation for permanent total disability in South Carolina was $744 in 2013, though the actual number will be based on what a person earned prior to the illness or injury.

While some states allow lifetime benefits for this finding, South Carolina caps it at 500 weeks - unless the work-related injury results in claimant suffering a substantial brain injury or becoming paraplegic or quadriplegic.

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July 16, 2015

In re Workers' Comp. Claim of Guerrero - Proving Cause of Injury

In any workers' compensation case, one of the key facts that must be established is causation. welding2.jpg

That is, not only did you suffer an injury or illness, but that the injury or illness was the direct result of a workplace accident or condition.

In some cases, this can be especially difficult when the pain or injury does not immediately manifest. Even pre-existing medical conditions can be compensable under workers' compensation laws, but there has to be a showing that the employment aggravated or accelerated the condition or combined with the it to produce the condition for which workers' compensation benefits are sought.

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July 14, 2015

Opinion: Misclassification of Workers Hurts Honest Businesses Too

At The Lee Law Offices, P.A., we pride ourselves on fighting tirelessly for the rights of workers who are injured on the job and then denied just compensation based on misclassification of their status as an employee.
Companies do this far too often in an attempt to save on workers' compensation insurance premiums and payouts. By classifying a worker as an "independent contractor" rather than an "employee," some businesses seek to cut corners. Those injured workers must then take it to court to prove their status and entitlement to compensation for lost wages and medical bills.

But it's not only workers who are harmed by this practice. Honest, law-abiding companies also pay the price, as noted in a recent opinion-editorial piece published in The Charlotte Observer. The author, Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr., teaches workers' compensation law at N.C. Central University School of Law.

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July 11, 2015

OSHA: 12 Workers Killed Each Day in U.S. During 2013

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports final statistics are in for 2013 work fatalities, and reveal nearly 4,600 workers were killed on the job that year. (That's up from the preliminary estimate of 4,405 worker fatalities.)roofingcontractors.jpg

That averages out to 12 workers every single day.

Although that is down from the average of 38 daily worker deaths in 1970, it's far too high. Overall worker deaths may have fallen, but there are some industries that are known to be more perilous than others.

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July 5, 2015

O'Neal v. Inline Fluid Power, Inc. - Denial of Indemnity Benefits

About half of all workers' compensation benefits paid in North Carolina are indemnity benefits. These are benefits paid to workers who are injured with the purpose of replacing or supplementing worker's lost income.
Another term for indemnity benefits is "lost wages." There are two basic types: Temporary and permanent. Temporary benefits are paid to supplement worker wages while the worker is recovering from his or her injury. This could be while worker is unable to work or while he or she returns part-time. Permanent indemnity benefits, meanwhile, are paid to workers who have reached maximum medical improvement and may have suffered permanent disability as a result of the work injury.

The amount of indemnity benefits an employee will receive will depend on the amount of the worker's pay history prior to the injuries, and most jurisdictions allow for two-thirds of worker's regular gross pay.

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June 30, 2015

Lifting Accidents and Injuries Common for Nurses and Nursing Assistants

Working as a nurse often involves more physical lifting of heavy loads than most people realize. This, in turn, leads to more incidents of work-related injury. According to a recent news feature from Business Insurance, nurses routinely suffer from injuries while lifting patients, even though all hospitals provide lifting aids.

hospital-1385736-m.jpgRecent study data from the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows nurses and nursing assistants suffered from more musculoskeletal injuries than many other occupations. The actual numbers depict a rate of nearly 209 lifting injuries per 10,000 full-time workers. This is a significant rate when we consider that, in an average of all industries, there is a rate of around 36 musculoskeletal injuries per 10,000 full-time employees.

Most of these injuries to the nurses and healthcare workers happen when they are attempting to lift or physically move a patient. To help make things easier at hospitals around the country, regulations require a variety of different types of patient lifting systems. This includes state-of-the-art hoists, full-body sling lifts, and overhead lifting systems to help lift patients who are confined to a hospital bed and unable to sit up without help. There is also a great deal of lifting when transporting patients from one bed to another. To help minimize this, they are now using hospital beds as movable gurneys whenever possible. In some hospitals, patient beds are even being used in place of traditional operating tables.

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June 28, 2015

Common Carolina Workplace Injuries and Causes

Some jobs are more dangerous than others. However, we often think of dangers in terms of large, single-event catastrophes, where a worker was healthy on his or her way to work and ended up in the hospital by day's end. However, many of the job injuries and illnesses result from long-term work involving repetitive tasks.

wristpain.jpgFor example, carpal tunnel syndrome is normally the result of performing repetitive tasks during a long period of time and is not the result of a single workplace accident.

According to a recent news article from Owatonna People's Press, certain types of work environments are more likely to lead to workplace injuries than others. However, there are certain steps that can be taken at most workplaces to prevent on-the-job injury and illness.

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June 26, 2015

Timing of Reporting Workplace Injuries in South Carolina

One of the most important things any injured worker can do is to make sure his or her workplace accident or work-related illness is promptly reported to his or her employer and a claim is filed for workers' compensation as soon as possible following the incident.

clock-1408511-m.jpgAccording to a recent news article from Business Insurance, it is not only injured employees who can benefit from timely reporting, as this timeliness of claims should also be important to employers. Experts say that encouraging employees to immediately file accident and injury reports can help keep their costs down. However, these same experts warn employers there should never been an employer-controlled penalty for failing to file a workers' compensation claim in a timely manner. If there is a state statute of limitations on how long a worker can wait to file a workers' compensation claim, then the state statute, and not an employer's policy, should dictate any penalty, including dismissal of a claim.

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June 24, 2015

Worker Killed During Construction of New Smithsonian Museum

Each year, millions of tourists from all over the world come to Washington, DC for a family vacation. One of the best things about Washington, DC is that, while it may be expensive to stay there, there are many family-friendly activities that are completely free. The best examples of this are the various museums administered by the Smithsonian Institute. Many of these Smithsonian museums are located around the National Mall. The most popular museums, based upon annual visitors, are the Air and Space Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.

building-1086498-m.jpgHowever, these are just two of the many museums that are housed in buildings that are each true works of art. Many of these buildings have been constructed and renovated over the years, and new museums are under construction or in planning stages. The museum scheduled to open next is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is being constructed near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. While the museum will be a wonderful place to visit once complete, for the workers helping to build it, it is like any other construction job, and that means it can be a dangerous place to work.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, a worker was recently killed when scaffolding collapsed during construction of the new museum. The 50-year-old construction worker was on scaffolding above the roof of the museum during its construction when he became trapped in some of the scaffolding on which he was working. While he was trapped in the scaffolding, it collapsed, and he fell to the roof surface. Witnesses immediately called 911, and first responders quickly arrived on the scene. When emergency personnel made it to the roof of the building, they assessed the nature and extent of worker's injuries. They quickly removed him from the roof and began to initiate CPR.

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June 22, 2015

Five Workers Injured from Poison Gas Leak at Apple Data Center in NC

According to a recent report from The Guardian, five workers were taken to the hospital as a result of a chlorine gas leak at Apple's massive data center located in Maiden, North Carolina.

chlorine-gas-116007-m.jpgData centers for computer giants like Google and Apple, both of which are located in the Carolinas, use extremely powerful servers and data handling computers to manage the operation. Essentially, the network is designed to not only manage data, but to serve as a conduit for cloud computing operations. These powerful computers tend to get extremely hot, so, in addition to using an enormous amount of electricity, they also require a large supply of water to cool the data servers.

Water-cooled electronics are not common in terms of consumer products, but it is a very common method of cooling large commercial data centers and switches. However, due to the sensitive nature of the server's equipment, including the cooling system, the water must be sterilized to prevent any contamination from disrupting operation of the data center. Chlorine is often used as a chemical agent to sanitize the water being pumped through the coolant system.

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June 19, 2015

Fatal South Carolina Workplace Accident - Falling Concrete Block

Throughout much of our history, construction jobs have always been one of the more dangerous occupations. While construction work has become significantly safer over the past 100 years, there are still frequent accidents, and some of the accidents result in a worker being killed.

wall-4-589624-m.jpgAccording to a recent news report from WISTV, a worker in Orangeburg, South Carolina was killed when a falling concrete block hit him. Witnesses say the 70-year-old victim was working on a masonry project taking down a cinderblock wall at the time of his on-the-job fatal injury.

While he was attempting to dismantle the wall one block at a time, the wall became unstable and collapsed, causing a large concrete block to fall on him. Authorities conducted an investigation into the fatal work-related accident, as is always done, and quickly determined the worker's death was in fact the result of an accident. No other workers at the construction site were injured when the wall collapsed.

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June 16, 2015

Report: Young, Hispanic Immigrant Construction Workers at High Risk of Injury

Young, Hispanic immigrant construction workers employed by small companies have the highest risk of suffering an on-the-job injury. That's according to a new study conducted by NIOSH and the American Society of Safety Engineers.
The agencies were interested in examining the safety of individuals with overlapping vulnerabilities. A number of factors contribute to the likelihood of an injury, such as race, class, gender, the growth of the temporary workforce and the weaknesses of companies with 20 or fewer workers.

The report identifies three groups - Hispanic immigrants, small business employees and young workers that, separately, have an elevated risk of job-related injury and poor health outcomes when an accident does occur. When a worker shares all of these traits, the researchers found, the risk of injury is even higher.

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