When accepting a workers’ compensation settlement, affected employees need to understand they are making a decision that could well impact the rest of their lives. Courts consider these “clincher” agreements to be binding, enforceable contracts. That means regardless of whatever complications or circumstances arise afterward, the agreement is going to stand. client1

That’s why it’s imperative that all possibly foreseeable expenses and outcomes be carefully weighed by claimant’s attorney before approving the terms.

Recently before the Alaska Supreme Court was the case of Municipality of Anchorage v. Stenseth. Here, claimant had to repay the city a portion of benefits and costs relating to his workers’ compensation claim after he was caught distributing some of the medications he received as part of the settlement. Continue reading

Two workers were killed and a third seriously injured recently at a North Carolina transformer plant in Goldsboro, about two hours east of Greensboro. transformer

According to news reports, one of the workers fell into a transformer, and the two others went in to save him. However, they too became unresponsive. Although authorities have identified the three men involved, indicating the deceased were ages 51 and 33 and the injured was 40, they have not indicated which of the three fell in, or how exactly the two decedents died. The 40-year-old survivor was reportedly being treated at the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital in critical condition days after the accident.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has launched an investigation into the incident – and it apparently is not the first. 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

There are some cases in which a Winston-Salem work-related injury is so serious, the employee is deprived of some level of independence. He or she may require assistance at home with basic tasks. In these situations, workers’ compensation benefits should cover the costs of attendant care.concretestairs1

This was what was ordered in the case of Chandler v. Atlantic Scrap & Processing, a determination recently affirmed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Justices ruled not only was plaintiff entitled to attendant care costs, but defendants were required to pay her attorney’s fees for the appeal.

The underlying injury in this case is a severe head injury, though it did not present that way initially, which is why the workers’ compensation insurance company fought it so hard. Continue reading

When there is a lapse between the time of a work injury and the full manifestation of its effects, it can be challenging to successfully obtain workers’ compensation. However, it is by no means impossible, as the case of Sorensen v. Harbor Bar, LLC showed. bar

The key is to present ample medical evidence proving that a causal link between the incident and subsequent injuries were most probably causally connected.

In this South Dakota Supreme Court case, an employer sought to deny workers’ compensation coverage to an employee who suffered a severe brain hemorrhage requiring brain surgery about one week after being injured at work. Continue reading

Many North Carolina workers’ compensation claims will ultimately settle by way of a “clincher agreement.” This is a compromised agreement or settlement between an employer, the insurance company and the injured worker. mineelevator

In most cases, this involves a lump sum cash settlement and coverage of certain medical expenses in exchange for release of all future reliability against both the employer and the insurer. It’s imperative in these negotiations to ensure your attorney is actively involved in the process. These agreements are essentially contracts, and there could be lifelong implications. Workers have to be sure that not only are immediate and outstanding medical expenses will be covered, but future claims as well. That may require extensive medical analysis and an in-depth look at future costs.

It was  a “clincher agreement” that was at the center of Newlon v. Teck American, Inc., a case recently before the Montana Supreme Court. Continue reading

Per the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, Article 1, Section 97-31, there are is a schedule of injuries. This provision serves as a guideline for how much an injured worker should be awarded for certain losses. gavel2

For example:

  • Loss of a thumb – 66 and two-thirds percentage of the average weekly wages for 75 weeks
  • Loss of a great tow – 66 and two-thirds percentage of the average weekly wage for 35 weeks
  • Loss of a hand – 66 and two-thirds percent of the average weekly wage for 200 weeks
  • Loss of a foot – 66 and two-thirds percent of average weekly wage for 144 weeks
  • Serious facial or head disfigurement – a proper award not to exceed $20,000

The list goes on like this. Many other states have similar guidelines, and they are fairly straightforward. However, as the recent case of Goff v. W. Va. Office of Ins. Comm’r shows, sometimes there are complicating factors. Continue reading

In the event of an injury that is so severe, it results in lifelong impairment, South Carolina law provides for total and permanent disability benefits. The maximum benefit payment is equal to 500 weeks (or 9.5 years), with the value of any previous payments for temporary total benefits deducted from the sum. In cases where individuals are left paraplegic, quadriplegic or suffer physical brain damage will receive weekly compensation for life. cane

Claims for permanent total disability are not granted without thorough vetting. Unfortunately, employers and insurers will often battle legitimate claims for permanent total disability because they know the payout in these cases will be substantial. Anything they can do to reduce the payments or eliminate them altogether is in the best interest of employers/insurers.

That’s why it’s imperative to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer fighting for your rights from the start. Continue reading

There are some cases in which an employee’s injury is so severe that he or she cannot continue on in his or her previous job. If there is no other alternative employment within the company, the worker may be terminated by the company. In these cases, workers must be justly compensated for ongoing disability benefits. grocery

However, when a worker is fired after suffering a compensable injury for reasons unrelated to that injury, benefits may be terminated. In order to determine whether this is the case, courts in North Carolina apply the Seagraves test, so named for the 1996 case of Seagraves v. The Austin Company of Greensboro. As explained by the North Carolina Supreme Court, in order to prohibit payment of benefits, an employer has to demonstrate that:

  • Employee was terminated for misconduct;
  • The same misconduct would have resulted in termination of a nondisabled employee;
  • Termination was unrelated to employee’s compensable injury.

If an employer can demonstrate all this, it sets the foundation for employer to show employee constructively refused to perform suitable work, which would bar benefits for lost earnings. The exception would be if worker can then show he or she is unable to find or hold other employment at a comparable wage earned prior to the injury as a direct result of the work-related disability. Continue reading

Normally, plaintiff in Kelly v. Blue Ribbon Linen Supply Inc. wouldn’t have been driving for any work-related purpose. She worked at a fixed location at a retail store. She did travel to and from work, but of course, state workers’ compensation laws in Idaho (where this case unfolded), as in North and South Carolina, prohibit benefits for injuries that occur during the daily commute (known as the “coming-and-going” rule). highway2

But in November of 2013, she was traveling 125 miles away from home at the request of her employer’s workers’ compensation insurer to undergo an independent medical exam. This request was made with the understanding that if she didn’t go, she would forfeit any right to workers’ compensation benefits for an earlier claim stemming from a foot injury caused when a shopping cart rolled over it.

An independent medical exam is often ordered by an employer’s insurance company to resolve questions about a claimant’s medical condition, including the degree of impairment. Claimant went to this exam. On her return, which involved no stops or detours, a sport utility vehicle traveling the opposite direction on the highway crossed the center line and struck her vehicle head-on. Nothing claimant did caused or even contributed to the crash. As a result of that impact, she suffered severe injuries to her lower extremities, and had to be placed in a skilled nursing facility for four months after the crash. Some of her injuries may be lifelong. Continue reading

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