Articles Posted in North Carolina Work Accidents

Smartphones are often in the headlines for in some way contributing to the risk of injuries. Typically, this has to do with their propensity to distract users, whether they are walking down the street, getting behind the wheel, or doing anything else that requires their full attention. iphone

However, a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that smartphone technology could be used to help lower the risk of workplace injuries.

Specifically targeted in this study is factory and manufacturing work. Manufacturing companies require workers to make, package, prepare, and deliver products we use each day. The physical demands of this labor can result in a host of serious injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. Work injuries are trouble not just for employees and their families, but also for companies, which must pay workers’ compensation benefits and also lose out on time and productivity. Industrial engineering professors say they have found a way to tackle these problems.

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A workers’ compensation insurer lacked standing to bring a third-party liability claim against a negligent driver who caused injury to an insured worker. ambulance

That was according to a recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which disagreed with plaintiff insurer that N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-10.2 granted it standing to file suit. That statute outlines claims against third parties under the state’s Worker’s Compensation Act.

The court noted that under this provision, it is the employee who has the sole right to proceed against a third-party wrongdoer in the first year after the injury. If the worker does not file an action in the first year and the employer has filed an admission of liability with the state industrial commission, then either the worker or the employer can go forward with a third-party liability claim. If neither the employee or employer file a third-party claim 60 days before the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations on that claim, the right of action goes back again exclusively to the employee.  Continue reading

Regulators at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) have fined an Alabama company $2.5 million in connection with a fatal workplace accident at an auto manufacturing plant.  OSHA’s Region 4 regulators (who also police safety violations in North Carolina and South Carolina) noted that the 20-year-old temporary worker had been planning for her wedding at the time of her death. machine shop

According to the investigators’ findings, the workplace accident involved a robotic machine. The manufacturer was responsible for stamping metal parts for the vehicles of two auto makers. On the day in question, the assembly line suddenly stopped. The decedent and three of her co-workers entered the robotic station to clear the faulty sensor. However, the robot started again abruptly. The three other workers were able to make it out fast enough, but the decedent was not. Her death occurred just two weeks before she was to be married.

An investigation by OSHA led the agency to issue 23 willful, serious, and other-than-serious violations against the company, including 19 willful violations. OSHA defines a “willful” violation as one in which the employer displayed a purposeful disregard by either knowingly failing to comply with a legal requirement or else acting with outright indifference to the safety of workers.

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In North Carolina, many employers require workers to take a drug test following an on-the-job accident. The reason is because a positive drug test for alcohol or certain drugs may give the company grounds on which to deny the workers’ compensation claim. hard hat

However, a final rule issued by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) last year holds that employers are forbidden from using drug testing – or the threat of drug testing – as a form of retaliation against workers who report injuries or illnesses. As long as the drug test conforms to state and federal regulatory requirements, the employer’s motives are not considered retaliatory and are therefore allowable.

A recent case before the Kansas Court of Appeals deals with workers’ compensation and drug testing, and whether providing an inadequate testing sample amounts to a refusal on which a denial of benefits can be predicated. Essentially, an insufficient sample, absent any further evidence of intent to thwart the purpose of the drug test, is not a refusal to submit to a drug test under the state’s workers’ compensation act.

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The North Carolina Court of Appeals has affirmed a workers’ compensation award to a woman who sought ongoing compensation for medical treatment for pain in her lower back pertaining to an old work-related injury. gavel

In the recent case, defendant company/ insurer argued they successfully refuted the evidentiary presumption outlined in the precedent-setting Parsons v. Pantry, Inc. The court in the Parsons case held that if a plaintiff meets the initial burden of showing a causal relationship between the injury and a work-related accident or condition, she is entitled to the presumption that her current symptoms and medical treatment associated with those are directly related to the compensable injury. In North Carolina, this is referred to as “the Parsons presumption.” However, the appellate court ruled in this case that defendants failed to properly rebut that presumption, and that even if they had, plaintiff presented sufficient evidence demonstrating that her back pain and treatment for it is directly related to the compensable injury.

This case highlights the fact that even once workers prevail in obtaining workers’ compensation, they can’t always count on being able to keep it indefinitely. Continue reading

In North Carolina workers’ compensation cases, there are sometimes instances in which a work-related injury has rendered an individual unable to work in his or her previous job and also makes it futile to even consider a job search. This would of course include situations in which a person is profoundly and permanently injured. However, futility in finding another job could also be a result of a number of different factors that affect one’s employability. This could include factors like age, education, communication skills, and previous work experience. butcher

The purported futility of any further job search efforts was central to the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Neckles v. Teeter.

According to court records, the plaintiff is a 68-year-old man who moved to the U.S. from the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. Although he completed two years of college in his native country, he did not graduate, and since his 1989 arrival in the U.S., he had only worked as a meat cutter for various employers. He worked for the defendant employer starting in 2007.

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Retailers across the country recognize the power that big holiday sales have to compel shoppers to come to their stores. This has resulted in increasingly hyped sales and streams of excited – and sometimes frenzied – shoppers. The steady swell has the potential to increase the chances of a work-related injury. You may recall that in 2008 a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in New York by a mob of shoppers on Black Friday. shopping center

But as recent data shows, the work-related risks may be shifting more to transportation and warehouse workers, as companies become increasingly focused on online sales.

Many companies will seek to mitigate the danger by increasing the number of workers. A recent report by Forbes indicates stores this year are hiring 738,800 seasonal workers nationwide to cope with the influx of in-store shoppers. Target, for example, is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers. But in a sign of the times, it’s also hiring 7,500 seasonal fulfillment and warehouse centers to help keep pace with its booming e-commerce industry. Macy’s has actually lowered its in-store hiring of seasonal workers this year, but it has increased its part-time e-commerce hiring by 20 percent. Amazon, which is exclusively e-commerce, increased its seasonal hiring between 2012 and 2015.  Continue reading

Almost every state with a workers’ compensation system has an exclusive remedy provision stating that workers’ compensation is the sole compensation employees can seek from their workplaces for job-related injuries or illnesses. In North Carolina, the exclusive remedy provision is strong. There is a limited exception if the employer is engaging in conduct that is substantially certain to result in death or serious bodily injury. Workers can also sue their co-workers for intentional torts. mining

The exceptions to the exclusive remedy are narrow. It’s usually very tough to prove such an exception is warranted. That’s why workers’ compensation attorneys will recommend, if possible, the pursuit of third-party litigation, since outside persons and companies are not bound by workers’ compensation exclusivity rules.

In the recent case of Barrett v. Hecla Mining Co., workers in Idaho sought to hold their employer accountable for injuries they suffered in a rock burst in a mine in 2011. However, the exclusive remedy provision got in the way.

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Although one typically thinks of Hollywood as being the prime location for the American film industry, North Carolina actually does have a budding film industry for movies, television productions, and reality show series.action

What is even less known about this industry is the fact that many people – on both sides of the camera – suffer serious work-related injuries that are rarely reported to the public at-large, and these often result in a few thousand dollars in federal fines – a pittance in comparison to the often colossal, multi-million dollar budgets of some productions.

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The latest report on North Carolina workplace injuries and illnesses for those in the private sector indicates historic lows. The North Carolina Department of Labor reports the rate of work injury/illness fell from 2.7 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2014 to 2.6 in 2015. This is below the national rate and also less than half of what it was in 2001 – which was 5.3 per 100 full-time workers. work sign

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry credited management, workers, and companies with being more vigilant about on-the-job safety, particularly those in the most dangerous professions, which include construction, manufacturing, and transportation.

However, those in the industry say it has equally to do with injured workers obtaining good legal representation. Workplace accidents are in fact very costly when you factor in the legal expenses, insurance fees, lost productivity, and third-party liability lawsuits. Smart employers recognize that investing in workplace safety is something that ultimately pays for itself – even if it affects their bottom line in the short term.

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