Articles Posted in North Carolina Personal Injury

‘Tis the season for work holiday parties. But what happens when the festivities turn perilous – or fatal? The question of whether such injuries are covered under workers’ compensation laws will depend on a host of different factors. holiday party

Chiefly, the issue will be whether the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the incident in question. Events that are obligatory or paid or that in some way further the mission of the company will likely be considered to have occurred in the course and scope of employment.

In the recent case of Lennon v. N.C. Judicial Department, the plaintiff asserted before the North Carolina Court of Appeal that her injury at a work holiday party qualified her for workers’ compensation benefits. The defendant company argued the injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment.

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A construction accident lawsuit has been filed in North Carolina on behalf of workers who were injured and the families of those killed when part of a pedestrian bridge collapsed as workers were pouring concrete. The incident happened two years ago on Wake Tech’s Northern Wake Campus. bridge

An investigative report by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) concluded that one of the project’s subcontractors, an engineering firm, should have seen the design flaws when preparing drawings of the bridge. However, that company isn’t named in the lawsuit. Instead, the lawsuit names the architectural and engineering firm that hired the subcontractor, as well as the company that provided the wood timbers used in the construction. Also named are the architect, the engineer, and the structural engineer. The college itself is not named as a defendant.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four men who were working on the bridge when it collapsed. One of those workers, a married father of three small children, died. Three others were seriously injured and have lost either body parts or the use of certain body parts, according to the injury lawsuit.

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When you are injured at work in South Carolina, your first order of business – aside from seeking medical treatment – should be to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Preferably, you want someone who not only understands workers’ compensation law in your state but also handles personal injury litigation. The reason is because while workers’ compensation claims are often filed first, it’s important that the investigation considers any subsequent third-party lawsuit that could be filed. Scaffolding

Although injured workers can’t typically sue their employers if they’re collecting workers’ compensation, even if the employer was negligent, they may be able to pursue compensation from responsible third parties. On construction sites, these could potentially include general contractors, property owners, other subcontractors, product or machine manufacturers, and others. The reason this is an important consideration is because third-party lawsuits tend to result in higher damages awards. Workers’ compensation claims will cover medical bills and a portion of lost wages, but you won’t get compensated for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, or punitive damages. You can claim all of those damages in a third-party lawsuit.

In the recent case of Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was asked whether the plaintiff could proceed with a case against a third party for spoliation of evidence. He’d tried to proceed with a negligence lawsuit against the product provider/manufacturer, but when the piece of scaffolding that struck him went missing, he added claims of spoliation of evidence against both his employer and the energy plant where he was working at the time.

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A woman who worked for a Trader Joe’s store in New Jersey has been awarded $7 million in a personal injury lawsuit filed against an elderly driver who lost control of her vehicle and crashed through the store three years ago. grocery carts

The 52-year-old employee was forced to undergo a leg amputation – one of 13 surgeries she endured following the incident – when a motor vehicle driven by a 75-year-old disabled woman went out of control. The vehicle jumped the curb and slammed into the victim as she stood in the cart corral location just in front of the store. The plaintiff was thrown through a window and pinned by the vehicle.

The victim was rushed by helicopter to an emergency room in Hackensack, where doctors tried for hours to save her leg. They were ultimately unsuccessful and had to perform an amputation just below the knee joint. Infections ultimately required the plaintiff to lose her leg above the knee too. In the months since, NJ.com reports she has been required to go through many months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, all of which has been extremely physically painful. She has also battled “phantom-limb pain,” and she struggles with anxiety and the permanent, life-altering injuries that left her unable to continue working. Her attorney also made note of the fact that her treatment has included powerful and potentially habit-forming narcotic pain medications.

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Federal safety regulators as well as hotel employees are demanding improved safety protocols after a hotel worker was found deceased inside a walk-in freezer at the high-end Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta. freezer

Authorities discovered the body of a 61-year-old female worker who spent an estimated 13 hours inside a freezer that was set to below minus 10 Fahrenheit. It’s not clear whether the hotel realized she was missing, but it wasn’t until her husband called the hotel to report that she had not returned home that her body was finally discovered.

Safety inspectors and union leaders now say these types of walk-in freezers need to have some type of standard alarm inside so that anyone who becomes stuck or hurt inside would be able to set off an alarm that would directly alert either hotel security or emergency services. Workers at the hotel are also proposing some type of “panic button” they could keep on them at all times in order to send out a signal in case of an emergency.

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North Carolina has had a serious issue with employers who fail to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees in the event of an on-the-job injury. In fact, this last year, the North Carolina Industrial Commission charged some 100 employers with misdemeanors for failure to carry proper insurance. The agency has also collected more than $ 1 million in civil fines.

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Yet problems persist. So what are workers to do?

One option is to sue your employer for personal injury. When employers refuse to secure workers’ compensation insurance as required by law, they are no longer legally insulated from such lawsuits, which can result in substantial payouts to the employee far in excess of what they might have gotten from the workers’ compensation claim. That’s because workers’ compensation doesn’t allow for damages paid for pain and suffering, while personal injury litigation does. Plus, you could seek full reimbursement of wages, rather than the two-thirds allowable under workers’ compensation law. However, that’s typically a slower process and you would still have to prove negligence.  Continue reading

When a worker is injured in the course and scope of employment, but also due to the negligence of a non-employer third party, that worker may be entitled to pursue both workers’ compensation and personal injury compensation. However, these kinds of claims must be handled carefully, and preferably by a law firm that can handle both.emergency

That’s because the employer/ workers’ compensation insurance company may be entitled to impose a lien on benefits obtained in the personal injury lawsuit. That doesn’t necessarily mean plaintiff would receive nothing for the additional trouble of pursuing a personal injury case, but it must be above board, or else risk forfeiture of the right to collect workers’ compensation insurance.

That’s what happened in the recent case of Easter-Rozelle v. City of Charlotte, recently before the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Continue reading

Plaintiff in North Carolina Appeals Court workers’ compensation case of Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC et al. undoubtedly had been through an enormously difficult time.handsholding.jpg

Her adult brother, for whom she was a 24-hour caregiver through a residential care program, died suddenly. Making matters worse was that on the day of his death, she suffered a serious injury when she rushed to his side to help him as he had fallen onto the floor and lost consciousness. Another injury was later discovered which she asserts was related to the incident.

On top of all that, she had to fight her employer to prove the injury was work-related, that those injuries were causally related to the incident and that she was entitled to temporary total disability. She was not successful on each of those fronts.
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Every year at this time, companies across the country are hosting holiday parties, lunches and other gatherings. These events are usually not directly related to work, and are intended to simply give the team a break, boost morale or celebrate a good year and thank all for a job well done.
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But of course, injuries can occur at any time. Holiday parties may in some cases result in an increased risk of injury if alcohol is served or if there is a need to drive off site to the event.

Whether injuries stemming from these incidents will be compensable is a difficult question, and the answer is going to rely on a host of factors, including:

  • Whether the company required or expected workers to attend
  • Employees were paid to participate
  • The incident occurred on company property and the property contained an unsafe condition the employer failed to timely correct
  • The employer directly or impliedly endorsed the event and/or derives a benefit from it

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Nearly every employee in North and South Carolina is covered by the workers’ compensation system. In industries and jobs where the rate of accidents and injuries is higher, employers may have greater workers’ compensation claims and costs. According to a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), hospitals in North Carolina pay higher costs for work-related injuries than in most states. The report, titled “CompScore Medical Benchmarks for North Carolina,” assessed medical costs between 2007 and 2012 and compared the data to 15 other states. The report concluded that overall, medical payments were higher in North Carolina than in other states.

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In addition to the overall costs, there were also varying medical payments depending on the provider. According to the analysis, North Carolina had the highest cost per claim among the states evaluated in the WCRI study. Despite the higher cost of hospital care, the state had lower “nonhospital” costs related to workers’ compensation. Public health officials, legislators, and hospital officials have worked to tackle the issue of rising health care costs in North Carolina and nationwide. In 2009, the state made significant headway in reducing the hospital outpatient reimbursement rate. For most hospitals this rate fell from 95 percent to 79 percent of charges.
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