Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina Determined by the Prevailing Wage, Says the Court in Thorpe v. Ted Bowling Construction

North Carolina work accidents are very common, but that does not mean the payment of benefits is standardized. Recently, a Virginia court explained the rules surrounding the payment of these workers’ compensation benefits.
In order to receive the benefits you have worked for, it is important to have an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney fighting for you.

Thorpe v. Ted Bowling Construction recently addressed the law surrounding the determination of applicable payments from workers compensation. Matthew Thorpe (Thorpe) was an entrepreneur who installed residential porch railings. Additionally, he owned a self storage facility. The residential porch railing installation business had significantly slowed down and Thorpe needed to find extra work to increase his income.

Thorpe and one of his employees, Eric McMahon (McMahon) were approached by John Clary (Clary) in regards to potential work. Clary had been hired by Ted Bowling Construction to install a metal roof and siding on a local industrial building. Knowing that Thorpe and McMahon were in need of installation work, Clary offered to pay them $5,000 to complete the installation of the roof and siding. Although Clary knew that the two men had never installed this type of equipment before, he was confident they could complete the job because of their other type of work.

This employment agreement was etched on a tabletop with soapstone, where Clary wrote “5000.” He told the two men that they did not have a specific deadline to have the work done, although he expected its completion within a week or so.

Clary gave McMahon and Thorpe instructions on how to complete the job. He provided Thrope and McMahon with all of the tools, materials and supervision they would need in order to install the metal roof and siding.

The men had only been working on the roof for four days when a fatal accident had occurred. Although Thorpe and McMahon knew that skylights were present on the roof, Thorpe fell through a skylight where he immediately died upon landing. McMahon was the only person to witness this fatal accident and the agreement between the two men and Clary.

Thorpe left his widow (plaintiff), who sued Ted Bowling Construction seeking workers’ compensation benefits on behalf of her deceased husband. Plaintiff’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits originally went to the deputy commissioner of workers’ compensation. Upon conducting an investigation, this commissioner was unable to find Clary to establish the specific facts of the case. His final resolution was unacceptable to the plaintiff, which led to this case.

Where there is a claim entered for workers’ compensation benefits, the benefits are usually based on the employee’s average weekly wage. To determine this, the employee’s wage for the specific work for the previous fifty-two weeks, is divided by fifty- two. The problem with the application of this equation to the facts of this case is that, the deceased was not hired by the defendant indefinitely. Although no time limit was specified, it was understood that the deceased would only work for that one project. Therefore, utilizing the above referenced equation became problematic.

The court in this case explains that there are other factors that must be observed where there is no previous fifty two weeks of work. The standard is establishing the weekly wage paid in the area at that time, for similar work.

Because Thorpe was inexperience in the field, the court found it unfair to allot him the amount an experienced metal roof installer would make. Thus, the court only awarded the plaintiff with forty-eight dollars a week for 500 weeks.

This case illustrates how important it is to have an employment contract which stipulates the exact terms of your employment.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. for legal advice regarding your case and your rights. We are a dedicated law firm that is here to help to protect the rights of injured workers and their families. Call today to schedule a free and confidential appointment. Call 1-800-887-1965.

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