Recently in Workers' Compensation Procedures Category

September 18, 2015

Adcock v. Illinois Workers' Comp. Comm'n - Neutral Risk Principle

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.

Continue reading "Adcock v. Illinois Workers' Comp. Comm'n - Neutral Risk Principle" »

September 5, 2015

Permanent Total Disability Benefits Following Work Injury

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.

Continue reading "Permanent Total Disability Benefits Following Work Injury" »

September 3, 2015

On-Air Slaying of Reporter, Cameraman Raises Workplace Safety Concerns

The nation watched in horror the images of a young television reporter and her cameraman fatally gunned down on live television in Virginia recently. The interview subject was also shot, though her injures were non-life-threatening.
The devastating incident was later determined to have occurred at the hands of a former reporter who had been fired from the local news station two years earlier for repeated confrontations with colleagues. Although he had completed counseling through employee assistance at his supervisors' behest, he was fired anyway for ongoing belligerence and other issues. When his bosses informed him of his termination, police had to be called to escort him from the building as his coworkers locked themselves in a nearby room to escape his wrath.

But he never technically committed any crime. Station managers hoped that would be the last they would have to worry about him. They were wrong. After killing his two former co-workers and wounding the interviewee, he fled and later killed himself.

Continue reading "On-Air Slaying of Reporter, Cameraman Raises Workplace Safety Concerns" »

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?

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

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.

Continue reading "OSHA Proposes New Work Injury Record-Keeping Rules" »

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.

Continue reading "SC HB 4197 Proposes Workers' Compensation Alternative " »

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.

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

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.

Continue reading "In re Workers' Comp. Claim of Guerrero - Proving Cause of Injury" »

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.

Continue reading "Opinion: Misclassification of Workers Hurts Honest Businesses Too" »

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.

Continue reading "OSHA: 12 Workers Killed Each Day in U.S. During 2013" »

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.

Continue reading "O'Neal v. Inline Fluid Power, Inc. - Denial of Indemnity Benefits" »

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.

Continue reading "Lifting Accidents and Injuries Common for Nurses and Nursing Assistants " »

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.

Continue reading "Common Carolina Workplace Injuries and Causes " »

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.

Continue reading "Timing of Reporting Workplace Injuries in South Carolina " »

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.

Continue reading "Worker Killed During Construction of New Smithsonian Museum " »