Articles Posted in Carolina Work Accident

The start of bring brings a host of lawn care and tree maintenance workers out in full force. But tree care is an especially perilous industry, as illustrated by a recent incident in Massachusetts. tree

According to the Boston Herald, a government employee for the public works department in Ipswich suffered severe injuries as he was struck by a falling tree while cleaning up debris following a brush fire. The worker was helping the state’s forestry division control a brush fire by finding and tamping down hot spots when a tree fell on top of him. He was flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. In Minnesota last month, a worker was seriously injured while trying to remove a tree in St. Louis County. He and his crew were trying to remove another tree when high-powered winds knocked over one nearby, landing on the worker. And in another case, a 20-year-old contract worker for the federal parks service in California was crushed to death by a tree at Yosemite that came crashing down during a powerful storm.

As OSHA notes, there are many serious hazards in tree care work. The two primary dangers are:

  • Falling trees/ objects.
  • Falls from trees.

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In today’s construction and manufacturing industries, moving large, heavy loads is critical to operations. There has been a great deal of technology developed for this purpose, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires both careful training and extensive workplace precautions on job sites that utilize cranes. This is imperative because cranes and other lifting devices can be extremely dangerous not just for the operators, but for those working within close proximity to them.crane

OHSA in 2014 updated its standards for operator certification for safe operation of cranes and derricks. The requirement is that by Nov. 10, 2017, all crane operators must be certified, and employers have a duty to ensure crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely. How much that will help improve crane safety remains to be seen, but safer operators certainly will mean safer workplaces.

Recently in Seattle, a crane mishap on a construction site caused major property damage, though amazingly no worker injuries.  Continue reading

An independent contractor at a BMW plant in Spartanburg suffered severe burn injuries while performing maintenance in one of the paint shops. sparks

According to GreenvilleOnline.com, the worker’s injuries were so serious, he had to be airlifted to a medical facility in Augusta after receiving immediate medical attention from first responders. Augusta was the nearest location that specializes in treatment of burn victims.

Although we don’t know the details of what happened at the plant or what led to the injury, we do know the pain machine was not in production at the time of the incident. We also know that as this worker was an independent contractor of BMW, the vehicle manufacturer cannot be responsible for workers’ compensation benefits.  Continue reading

After a worker suffers an industrial accident in North Carolina, the support of family and loved ones is imperative. In some instances, it’s critical to recovery. Certain situations require that a spouse, parent, adult child or other person provide regular care to the person in question, in lieu of an at-home nurse. These are characterized as “attendant care services,” and if they are prescribed by a physician – either verbally or in writing – they can be compensable under workers’ compensation.firstaidkit

What this means is if your loved one needs to take weeks or months off work to care for you by assisting you with daily activities of living (i.e., bathing, wound care, toileting, dressing, eating, taking medication, maintaining the house/ household chores, etc.), then that individual can be compensated based on whatever the going rate is for attendant services. They may not be reimbursed what their normal rate of pay is in their typical job, but it can help to defray the costs of wage loss as a result of their taking a leave through the Family Medical Leave Act.

recent case before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, involved reimbursement for attendant care given by a wife to her husband following a work accident. The question was not whether she should be reimbursed, but rather for how long. Continue reading

The newest report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals there were nearly 3 million work injuries reported nationally last year. The number of injuries varied vastly by industry. emergency

Interestingly, workers employed by state-run nursing homes were more likely to be injured on the job than those who toiled in manufacturing or construction, which underscores the difficulty of caring for the ill and elderly. Agriculture and local police also were at high risk of work-related injuries.

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One of the best arguments one can make for securing uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage is that it will provide coverage even if you aren’t actually driving or in a motor vehicle. For example, if you are a pedestrian or bicyclist struck by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you can seek coverage from your UM/UIM carrier to make up the difference. highway

However, insurance companies are free to write the terms of their coverage, so this isn’t a guaranteed benefit. In the recent case of Spiller v. Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America, the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky ruled that a worker who was not in his employer’s truck when he was struck by a negligent driver was not entitled to collect UIM benefits.

The underlying facts of this work injury lawsuit were that the plaintiff, employed by a contractor, was tasked with making certain repairs along  a four-lane expressway. In the course of doing this work, he was trailed by a large truck equipped with an arrow that flashed. This was supposed to alert rear traffic to move left because there was construction on the right. A few hours into his shift, a motorist slammed into that arrow board attached to the truck, pushing the truck into the plaintiff and causing him to suffer injuries.

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Worker misclassification is by no means a new problem. However, it is one that has been getting more attention lately in North Carolina. Investigative journalism over the last two years has revealed the trouble is rampant in the Tarheel State, with employers labeling workers as independent contractors – rather than employees – in an effort to skirt their responsibilities. In particular, they want to avoid paying for government-required protections, such as workers’ compensation, overtime, and family and medical leave.

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Recently, officials at the North Carolina Industrial Commission signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to coordinate resources in order to dig up and address instances of worker misclassification in this state.

This was the culmination of a growing effort. In March 2015, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration released a report, “Adding Inequality to Injury: The Cost of Failing to Protect Workers On the Job,” which explored Government Accountability Office data revealing more than 500,000 construction workers in North Carolina, Florida, and Texas were misclassified as independent contractors in 2009 – when their job duties entitled them to the benefits of employment. It was revealed that misclassification affected more than 35 percent of construction workers in North Carolina, and in that industry alone, it lost state and federal governments some $467 million in taxes. Of course, it’s not just in construction. The practice has become extremely pervasive across many industries, and it can be tough to root out.

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surgeryEmployees can expect that costs for medical expenses for work-related injuries will be covered by workers’ compensation benefits. These include subsequent injuries that occur as a direct result of the original injury. In these cases, however, one can expect the employer/insurer to require proof of causation. That means showing that the secondary injury was proximately caused by the work-related injury or illness.

This was the case in the matter of Hood v. State, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, recently before the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The plaintiff was injured in December 2008 while working on an oil rig. Another worker knocked off a chunk of ice, and it fell, striking him on the head and injuring his neck. His doctor put him on light duty and recommended fusion surgery on his vertebrae.

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Drug and alcohol impairment on-the-job can pose serious hazards for workers. However, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker in terms of workers’ compensation. It really depends on the underlying circumstances and whether the worker was appreciably impaired and the impairment caused the injury. bud

This issue is going to be coming up with greater frequency as pro-marijuana legislation sweeps this country. Although the drug is still illegal in both North Carolina and South Carolina, bills have been floated in both states that would change that. As it now stands, more than half the states in the U.S. plus D.C. allow the drug for medicinal purpose and a handful allow it for recreation. The question of what constitutes as marijuana “impairment” is a tough one because unlike alcohol, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) remains in one’s system for much longer than 24 hours. That means evidence of the drug in one’s blood stream – even at higher levels – does not necessarily prove intoxication.

Recently in Colorado, it was revealed that a worker who died after being crushed in a Denver factory had THC in his system. However, the investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is more heavily focused on the purported flaws in the equipment.  Continue reading

In North Carolina workers’ compensation cases, employers have the ability to assert that liability should be apportioned between or among multiple employers or carriers when more than one is believed to have contributed to a workers’ condition. This is an assertion that would apply to cases where a worker has some prior or pre-existing injury or condition, though the applicability of apportionment is a determination that is made by the state workers’ compensation board (which here is the North Carolina Industrial Commission). workerexcavator

Generally, where a prior condition wasn’t the result of some compensable injury and/or the worker had been able to perform his or her job just fine despite the pre-existing condition, apportionment typically can’t be asserted.

In the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of  employer appealed the workers’ compensation benefits awarded to plaintiff on the grounds that it should not be solely responsible for plaintiff’s condition, and that previous employers should share some portion of the liability. The appellate court rejected this assertion, siding with the earlier decision by the NC Industrial Commission that this employer was solely liable for worker’s injuries.  Continue reading

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