May 9, 2013
The North Carolina Court of Appeals made a groundbreaking decision recently when they ruled that an employee is entitled to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits if a work-related accident aggravates a preexisting condition.
The case stems from an accident a worker had while employed in the meat department of a grocery store. The employee was carrying a tray of chicken when she became caught on a shelf and suffered a slip and fall accident.
An article from Risk & Insurance stated the fall resulted in an injury to her right leg that was later diagnosed as a bruise to the bone and a torn meniscus in the knee. The victim applied for workers’ compensation benefits, but the claim was denied after the company argued her injuries were the result of a fall she suffered in her backyard the prior week.
The decision was appealed and the court found in favor of the victim, citing that a doctor’s testimony explained if the injury was pre-existing, the fall the woman suffered at work deteriorated her condition further. Since the injury was complicated by the fall at work and the company had no evidence to the contrary, the court found in favor of the victim and awarded her benefits.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers with HensonFuerst are aware of how complicated the law surrounding workers’ compensation benefits can be. The firm may be able to help if you have been hurt on-the-job at no fault of your own.
April 18, 2013
The North Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld a decision that found an employee of an automotive dealership was entitled to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits for injuries sustained on a business trip.
In the case of Evans v. Hendrick Automotive Group, an office manager from a car dealership in Texas traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, for an annual employee gathering. One evening during the event, a company-sponsored dinner was held. Alcoholic beverages were provided throughout and after the meal.
The office manager was intoxicated when she and a group of co-workers began a walk back to the hotel the company had also paid for. As the group approached the escalator, the plaintiff sat on the rail, hit a pillar, and fell roughly 30-feet to the ground.
The impact left the victim with numerous serious injuries that required several surgeries to repair. Upon the victim’s return to work, she was terminated a short time later.
The victim filed a claim against the company and was awarded temporary total disability and other benefits. The company appealed, but judges found in favor of the victim.
The court ruled since the event and alcohol was paid for by the company, the accident arose through the course of employment. Also, a worker can collect compensation for an injury that is caused by intoxication when the company provides the alcohol.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Attorneys with HensonFuerst hope the decision brings closure to the accident for the victim.
February 28, 2013
The North Carolina’s Auditor Office has released a report saying the state agency that oversees North Carolina Workers’ Compensation claims hasn’t done enough to ensure employers purchase coverage to cover expenses in case of an accident.
Insurance Journal explained how an investigation into businesses in North Carolina’s compliance with workers’ compensation coverage laws discovered there were as many as 11,000 businesses that canceled their coverage or let it lapse over the course of a year. Roughly 30,000 businesses required to have coverage simply did not.
State Auditor Beth Wood pointed out this lack of coverage often leaves an injured employee covering costly medical bills, while suffering lost wages from being unable to work.
The report went on to claim the commission had not worked hard enough to enforce workers compensation coverage laws by levying fines against companies in violation of regulations or at collecting previously assessed penalties.
The commission stated it is working on a new system of tracking down companies that are required to have coverage and do not. Furthermore, they are considering hiring outside bill collectors to gather fines that have already been issued.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers with HensonFuerst explain workers have a legal right to a safe and healthy workplace. That is why the firm may be able to help if you have been injured in a workplace accident that occurred at no fault of your own.
January 24, 2013
With fuel and operating costs skyrocketing in the overseas shipping industry, many shipping companies are struggling to stay afloat. These hard economic times have led to high tensions between company executives and dockworkers regarding the way and how much these blue-collar workers are paid.
According to Reuters News & Insight, many dockworkers across the east coast, including North Carolina, are members of different workers’ unions that work to ensure their rights are not infringed upon. Most recently, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been battling with shipping executives and cargo dock owners about how they are paid royalties. In 2011, workers received $211 million in payout, but shipping companies argued this was too much based on their overhead costs. A strike loomed in the air for quite some time before a short-term resolution was reached that got workers back on the job.
Experts say this was just a temporary solution, and a strike could be a serious threat again soon.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers with HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers point out that Wage and Hour disputes with employers are more common than a person might think. A case can be as simple as not receiving overtime pay or as complex as the recent dockworkers royalty dispute, but in either case, workers deserve to be fairly compensated.
December 20, 2012
When workers are injured on the job, medical bills and other expenses can quickly get out of hand. This is where Raleigh Workers’ Compensation benefits come into play. Employers are required to carry insurance that will pay these benefits in the event a worker is hurt on the job. With budgetary cuts occurring within the state’s structure though, many government employees are becoming concerned about the quality and availability of these benefits if they are injured while at work.
WRAL News stated a study is currently in the works to evaluate the state’s workers’ compensation plan in detail and will take into account factors such as personnel protection, career status, and longevity pay.
State government workers are demanding that they not only be a part of the study, but are also calling for public hearings on the topic of workers’ compensation benefits for state employees, claiming they want their voices to be heard before any dramatic changes to the system are made. The concern is not unwarranted either, as North Carolina has some of the lowest rates of unionization and collective bargaining powers in the nation.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers with HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers have been recognized for their success in handling workers’ compensation litigation and are here to answer any questions you may have regarding your legal rights if you have been injured in a work-related accident that occurred at no fault of your own.
November 1, 2012
In North Carolina, businesses or companies with three or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance so that if a worker is hurt on the job, their medical bills and lost wages will be covered. The problem is that more than 30,000 employers in North Carolina don’t carry this insurance.
The News Observer reports that employees could previously find out if a potential employer carried workers’ compensation insurance, but can no longer do so due to a recent change in law making information from insurers about a company’s coverage status private. One man learned this lesson the hard way after being injured in an on-the-job car accident and only finding out his employer didn’t have coverage when he prepared to file a Raleigh Workers’ Compensation claim.
The change in law came after the North Carolina Rate Bureau, an organization that collects data on employer’s insurance coverage, claimed the Industrial Commission shared information with a private company that would sell the figures to insurance companies as potential new business leads, putting personal information like Social Security numbers and payroll in public view.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers with HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers are hopeful state lawmakers will be able to find a way to make such vital information public again. Until then, the firm would suggest contacting an attorney to discuss your legal rights immediately if you are hurt in a work-related accident.
August 23, 2012
A company recently admitted to not providing enough training to its contract workers, which led to an accident where an employee fell into a silo of dry dog food at a manufacturing plant in Sanford, North Carolina. According to WRAL News, the incident occurred on Monday afternoon on a silo in the H.J. Baker & Brothers, Inc., facility.
The worker was part of a crew doing a minor repair on the silo when he accidentally stepped on the lid of a grain chute and fell roughly 40-feet. He was severely injured after his leg became stuck in the drilling device of the silo.
It took a rescue crew of approximately 60 men around three hours to free the worker. He was then rushed to the hospital to receive treatment for a dislocated shoulder and other minor injuries and now may need to file a Raleigh workers’ compensation claim to cover the expenses.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation into the accident; however, the owner of the company the victim worked for stated that the company has never discussed the possibility of an accident like this in the training process for its employees.
The North Carolina personal injury lawyers with HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers encourage anyone who has been hurt in an on-the-job accident to look into your legal options by discussing your case with an attorney.
Good general contractors demand proof of Workers’ Compensation insurance before hiring subcontractors. This type of insurance–commonly known as Workers’ Comp–protects workers if they are injured on the job by paying for their medical bills and other costs. But today, the News & Observer published a story that sheds light on a scam that puts workers at risk, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected.
Real insurance is expensive, but it is one of the costs of doing business–if you own a business and expect your employees to perform potentially dangerous work, then you need to protect them. To get around the costs, the scheme involves subcontractors purchasing “ghost” insurance instead of actual workers’ comp insurance. The the newspaper article described the case of contractor and employer Jimmy Worrell, and one of his long-time workers, Clementé Hernandez Gonzalez. According to the article, when Jimmy Worrell wanted proof of insurance coverage for his five-man crew, he apparently lied about the nature of his business:
He told his insurance agent that he had no employees and would exclude himself from the policy, his right as a sole proprietor. He declared that the crew of five he managed was made up of independent contractors instead of employees; the policy he bought covered a “ghost,” an unknown employee who might unexpectedly join him to work during the year.
It’s unclear how many of the roughly 140,000 policies sold to North Carolina businesses each year are these bare-bones policies. No one keeps official count, but the North Carolina Rate Bureau knows of about 16,000 of the ghost policies written for high-risk employers that couldn’t buy workers’ compensation insurance on the open market….
Officials at the Industrial Commission have seen the ghost policies for years, but they have not asked the legislature to address the practice. And when they see insurance agents sell ghost policies in improper circumstances, they rarely, if ever, report the problems to the Department of Insurance, which regulates agent conduct.
Such failure to communicate among state agencies has enabled business owners who break the law to flourish, while those following the law say they are increasingly shut out of work because of the high costs of doing business legally.
For injured workers like Gonzalez, working under a ghost policy is like walking a tightrope with a hole cut in your safety net. Since his catastrophic injury, Gonzalez has lost his home, and he cannot afford to get the optimal kinds of treatment for his level of severe injury.
At HensonFuerst, we don’t understand how ghost policies continue to be allowed to be written. Greed is a good guess. We represent many cases of catastrophic injury, and many workers’ comp cases. Even with the best insurance, injury changes lives. The financial compensation is necessary to help someone survive, but it doesn’t come close to compensating individuals and families for a lifetime of paralysis…or missing limbs…or blindness…or any of the other serious injuries we see everyday.
We hope that this series of article in the News & Observer will spur legislators and industry insiders to change the way workers’ compensation policies are written. People who put their health on the line for their employers are owed that much.
To learn more about Workers’ Compensation, visit our website at www.lawmed.com/workerscomp/.
To read the full article in the News & Observer, click here: Injured Worker Pays for Employer’s Gamble
Guest blog, written by Joey Hodgin, an attorney and head of the Workers’ Compensation practice for HensonFuerst Attorneys.
As an attorney, I have represented hundreds of injured workers for the better part of 10 years. Now, I suspect that as soon as you read the word “attorney,” a certain percentage of you started swearing at your computer screen, while others probably offered a prayer. I don’t pretend to be a saint, but I’m not that bad of a guy either. At least my 3 year old daughter doesn’t think so, especially ever since I told her we’d go out for ice cream this weekend. But as an attorney who has represented a decade’s worth of injured people, I do have some insight that I’d like to share. It’s actually insight that puts all of us in the same boat. So, please read on…maybe we can become friends.
I was struck by a recent article in the News & Observer about employers who fail to follow the law requiring them to purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance. (“When N.C. Employers Dodge Workers’ Comp Costs” April 1, 2012). The focus of the article was the problem created for injured workers when employers fail to follow the law and carry insurance. Make no mistake: In some cases, lives are ruined.
I represented a lady several years ago—let’s call her Diane—who was a waitress for a local breakfast spot. She had spent most of her working life serving food and pouring coffee. Part of her job was to walk next door to the gas station and get the newspaper, which she would bring back and put on the counter for customers to read. One morning, she went to get the paper. She tripped. She broke her hip. Her employer did not carry insurance. Diane is in her 60s and likely will not work again. She had to sign up for Medicaid to get her surgery bills paid.
To be sure, this accident had devastating consequences on Diane’s life, much as it did for Danny Allred, the injured employee who was cited in the N&O article. But there is a broader problem—one that most of us don’t think about: Our tax dollars—yours and mine—paid for Diane’s surgery. We paid because her employer didn’t follow the law.
Not possible, you may think, but it’s true. Medicaid is funded by tax dollars taken from the paychecks of people who work. People like me, and probably you. We work…pay taxes…follow the law. But some deadbeat employer out there doesn’t follow the law. He doesn’t purchase insurance. Why? He’d rather increase his profits. And, he’d much rather we, the taxpayers, pay for the surgery. He knows, as the N&O article revealed, that there are virtually no consequences for being a deadbeat employer.
If that doesn’t make your blood boil, I don’t know what does.
I know, I know . . . some of you are saying that employers without insurance are not deadbeats—they’ve just fallen on hard times and can’t afford it. Well, a lot of us have fallen on hard times in recent years. Yet, we still follow the law and meet our responsibilities. We pay our car insurance. We pay our homeowner’s insurance. We pay our medical insurance. Why should it be any different for a business? So let’s just call the “fallen on hard times” rhetoric what it really is: an unjustifiable excuse.
You see, you can fail to enforce penalties against uninsured employers. You can cut back on the medical benefits that employees receive when employers actually do have insurance. But, the problem won’t go away. It is a fact: business and industry have always, and will always, have workers that get hurt. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. I’m certainly not suggesting that companies should be penalized out of existence when a worker is hurt. That doesn’t help anybody. What I am saying is that businesses should pay for their own wreckage. They should pay the cost, not us. We’re not the ones profiting off the backs of their workers, they are. If injuries are a “cost of doing business,” then let business pay those costs.
So the next time you hear somebody talking about not being able to afford Workers’ Compensation Insurance, or how the rates are just too high, or how we need to scale back on workers’ benefits, remember what those comments really mean. It’s all code, another way of saying that they’d rather have you pay for it.
To learn more about how HensonFuerst pursues the rights of injured workers, visit our dedicated Workers’ Comp webpage at http://www.lawmed.com/WorkersComp/
When workers get hurt on the job, they can rack up thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages. Reputable employers carry insurance to cover their employees’ work-related costs. In fact, workers’ compensation insurance is required for employers who have three or more employees.
The News & Observer conducted an investigation into how well local companies follow those laws. The results were frightening. According to an article published in today’s News & Observer, tens of thousands of employers don’t carry the required insurance. In addition, when workers became injured, the state Industrial Commission has done little to make sure that their medical bills are paid. The good news is that the investigation results were eye-opening to the Commission:
“In response to the issues you raised, we now have some concrete plans,” said Pamela Young, chairwoman of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the state agency charged with enforcing the workers’ comp laws.
Those plans include a contempt hearing involving more than a dozen employers on May 22 to settle workers’ claims that have dragged on for years, and special hearing to deal with lingering uninsured cases. Companies that ignore the commission’s orders to pay their workers will be called back, as well.
According to Joseph Hodgin, a Workers’ Compensation lawyer with HensonFuerst Attorneys:
We should all applaud the Industrial Commission for cracking down on uninsured employers. Our state’s workers are our most important resource. The idea of leaving them hurt without any meaningful way to receive medical attention is unacceptable.
I am pleased to see that the Industrial Commission is taking action that will positively affect all of us. Make no mistake, the problem of uninsured employers does not just affect injured workers. When an employer does not carry insurance, many injured workers do the only thing they can, which is to turn to public assistance for help. This assistance is funded by our tax dollars. Cracking down on uninsured employers helps all of us.
According to the news article, Pamela Young says she has been working to establish a process for dealing with uncooperative employers since 2009. Tracy Curtner, an attorney currently in private practice who used to work for the Commission said that she had already created a contempt procedure in 2008, and that it was “set and ready to go” back then.
Whatever the reason for the delay, we’re happy that it appears that action will finally be taken. Injured workers–and all North Carolina residents–deserve better than uninsured and unlawful employers.
To read the full story in the News & Observer, click here: NC agency will force employers to pay
To learn more about Workers’ Compensation rights, visit our dedicated webpage here: HensonFuerst Workers’ Comp