North Carolina and South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

BricklayingIncreasingly and disturbingly, employers are attempting to claim an employee is an independent contractor. Though there are many benefits to employers in using independent contractors, many times an employer is attempting to improperly categorize an injured worker as an independent contractor in order to avoid liability for work-related accidents.

Under South Carolina Workers’ Compensation law, only “employees” are entitled to benefits under our laws. This term is broad but, essentially, if your employer proves that you were in fact an independent contractor rather than an “employee,” you could be denied the benefits you deserve if you are injured on the job. Fortunately, just because your employer says you are an independent contractor, does not necessarily mean that you actually are an independent contractor; it is much more complicated that a simple label.

These complicated cases require a deep analysis of the work relationship an employer and an employee had at the time the worker was injured.

Who Determines Whether I Am An Independent Contractor or Employee?
South Carolina Courts look to four different factors in determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. These four factors are: 1) the employer’s right to exercise or actual exercise of control over the details of the work and how it is performed; 2) the method of payment; 3) who furnishes the equipment; and 4) the employers’ right to terminate the employment. Generally, these factors are weighed by the Court to make a determination.

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Before operationGenerally, workers’ compensation has the right to direct medical care when they have accepted compensability for the specific part of your body, always subject to supervision by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. But this right is not absolute.

Am I Entitled to A Second Opinion?

There are provisions to obtain a second opinion for treatment with another physician. Sometimes you can simply call the adjuster and give them the name of another doctor from whom you want to receive treatment. However,usually it is not that easy. The adjuster may want to keep control over what doctor you see for a second opinion for many reasons that are important to workers compensation. Sometimes there is common ground as to who you can see for a second opinion, sometimes it is highly disputed. Sometimes the doctor you want to see does not want to treat workers compensation claimants, or, after reviewing your medical records, may not feel that they have anything to offer you. GS 97-25(b) sets out the provisions for a second opinion at workers’ compensation’s expense. Note that there is a 14-day notice requirement for a second opinion request, which will be even more significant if you would like to change providers. There are times when it may be advantageous to pay for the second opinion yourself. If there is a dispute between your treating doctor and the recommendations of the second opinion, the Industrial Commission always has the authority to decide who will be authorized to provide further treatment.

If the treatment that the workers compensation doctor is providing is no longer effective, or after talking with the doctor and sharing your concerns, you are still having a real problem with the recommended care, you probably should seek a second opinion. Especially when it comes to invasive treatment such as surgery.

Most doctors won’t operate on unwilling patients for obvious reasons. The general rule is that where the surgery is of serious magnitude and risk, involves much pain and suffering and is of uncertain benefit, the refusal of the claimant to undergo surgery is reasonable and will not prejudice the claim. Watkins v. City of Asheville, 99 N.C. App. 302, 304, 392 S.E.2d 753, 756 (1990). That is not to say, however, that you can simply refuse surgery and there not be any consequences of push-back from workers compensation. It gets complicated.
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Thumbnail image for Kickball Image.jpgSay you work for a company in South Carolina and your boss asks you to organize an employee kickball game to make the work atmosphere more enjoyable. And say you jump during the game, land awkwardly and fracture your leg.

Are you eligible for South Carolina workers’ compensation?

Yes, indeed, according to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which recently approved workers’ compensation in just such a scenario. The case involved an employee of a public relations firm who shattered his tibia and fibula during a company kickball game and underwent two surgeries.

The workers’ compensation system typically provides coverage for injuries that occur within the course and scope of a worker’s employment. But some circumstances are so unusual that hot disputes arise about whether an injury truly was related to work.

In the kickball case, the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that the employee was not entitled to benefits, concluding that he was not required to attend the kickball event. On appeal, however, the South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed, siding with the injured worker.

“Although the event may have been voluntary for company employees generally, the undisputed facts unequivocally indicate [the injured employee] was expected to attend as part of his professional duties,” the court wrote.

According to the ruling, attending an event is not voluntary “If the employee is made to understand that he is to take part in the affair.”

The court also stated: “A specific act need not be designated in an employee’s job description to be compensable.”

Unusual Work Injuries

Workers’ compensation provides coverage for medical fees, lost wages, rehabilitation and other costs for injuries occurring on the job. The system also provides death benefits for the family of an employee who dies of work-related injuries. But as the kickball case shows, work-based injuries don’t necessarily take place at the main jobsite or workplace, and employers can dispute a workers’ comp claim on the grounds that an injury or death was not sustained in the course and scope of employment.

In recent years, courts across the country have addressed many out-of-the-ordinary workers’ comp incidents. In some cases the courts favored the employee, while in others they favored the employer — and the differences are elucidating.

Here are five examples:

1. Accident: A correctional sergeant at a California county jail injured his knee while performing jumping-jacks at home as part of an exercise regimen. The sergeant argued that the injury was work-related “because he was exercising in order to maintain himself in a physical condition required by the Department.”
Ruling: Correctional officers were required to undergo periodic training exercises, many of which involved physical activity. So the sergeant’s off-duty injury arose in the course of his employment.

2. Accident: A Pennsylvania professor was meeting with a student at an off-campus restaurant to discuss the student’s upcoming dissertation defense. While visiting the salad bar, the professor fell and later died from a post-surgical infection associated with his treatment for a broken arm and shoulder. The professor’s widow was awarded death benefits, but the employer appealed the case to the state workers’ compensation board. The employer argued that the fall did not occur during the course of employment, as the professor was on lunch break at a public restaurant.
Ruling: The employee was injured off the employer’s premises but was “actually engaged in the furtherance of the employer’s business or affairs.” Thus, the off-site meeting was for teaching (and work-related) purposes.

3. Accident: An office manager attending her employer’s annual sales meeting in North Carolina fell approximately three stories while trying to “ride” the railing of an escalator following a company-sponsored dinner where alcohol was provided by the employer. Testing showed that the employee’s blood-alcohol level contributed to the accident. The employer argued that the injury occurred due to a deviation from employment activities.
Ruling: An appellate court held that “a traveling employee will be compensated under the Workers’ Compensation Act for injuries received while returning to his [or her] hotel.”

4. Accident: A painter in Utah went on a drinking binge at his work site after lunch and then took a two-hour nap in a closet. When he awoke and resumed painting duties on the second floor of the building, he fell into an empty elevator shaft. He argued that he was entitled to workers’ comp because the drinking and napping did not constitute a departure from the course of his employment.
Ruling: In drinking for two hours and napping, the painter “completely removed himself from his job duties” and was not furthering the business of his employer, the court said. The worker wasn’t engaged in any activity incidental to his work between the time he awoke and the time that he fell down the shaft, according to the ruling.

5. Accident: An exotic dancer who worked at clubs throughout the Carolinas was hit by a stray bullet and seriously injured during a shooting at a club in Columbia, S.C., where she was performing.
Ruling: Only employees are entitled to workers’ comp benefits, not independent contractors, and the court ruled that there was no employment relationship between the club and the dancer.

The details of these cases make them stand out. But even under ordinary circumstances, it isn’t unusual for employers to argue that an employee’s injury wasn’t related to work. If you suffered an on-the-job injury that your employer is disputing, a work-injury attorney may be able to help.

Sources:
• Insurance Journal: South Carolina Employee Scores Workers’ Compensation Win for Kickball Injury
• courts.ca.gov: Daniel Young v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and County of Butte
• Justicia.com: The Pennsylvania State University and the PMA Insurance Group, Petitioners, v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Rabin, deceased)
• www.ic.nc.gov: Evans v. Hendrick Automotive Group
• wistv.com: Stripper shot while dancing in club denied Workers’ Compensation
• Justia.com: Wood v. Labor Commission
• Lexis Nexis: The Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Comp Cases for 2012

Illustrations:

Top Image http://www.thinkstockphotos.com/image/stock-photo-red-kickball-approach/92048214/popup?sq=kickball/f=CPIHVX/s=DynamicRank

workerinjury1.jpgIf you have been injured on the job, you may be wondering about your rights under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. You may be scared to file a workers’ compensation claim because you fear that your employer will fire you, demote you or cut your pay for doing so. This is called retaliation and is a very serious issue.

Under South Carolina law, employers are not allowed to fire or demote any employee because the employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim or has testified or is going to testify in a workers’ compensation hearing. It is illegal for employers to do so.
I believe this law is good public policy. It helps ensure that hurt workers are not afraid to report injuries so that they can receive the medical help and treatment they need.
Our law firm handles workers’ compensation claims, and we are ready to discuss your case and protect your rights. Please call us today if you have a workers’ compensation case or if you feel that you have been retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

What can I do if my employer fires or retaliates against me?
In South Carolina, any employer who violates the law by retaliating against an employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim or for testifying in a hearing is “liable in a civil action for lost wages suffered by an employee.” If the employee is demoted to a lower position, then he or she is “entitled to be reinstated to his former position.”
In other words, you can bring a lawsuit against your employer for lost wages, and you have the right to get your old job back if you are demoted. It may be awkward for you to return to your position after you filed a lawsuit against your employer, but this is the remedy under the law.

Keep in mind that the burden is on you, as the employee, to prove the retaliation. Therefore, it is important for you to keep documents and other evidence that your employer wrongfully punished you for exercising your legal right to workers’ compensation.

The statute of limitations for retaliation claims is one year
If you were fired or demoted or otherwise retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you have one year from the date of the retaliation to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file within that one-year period, then your claim may be lost.

How we can help
Our law firm handles workers’ compensation cases. If you would like to discuss your case with one of our attorneys, please contact our law firm. A lawyer can describe the workers’ compensation process, evaluate your medical expenses and lost wages and gather the necessary documents to prove your claim. Remember, if you have been retaliated against, you have limited time to take legal action, so call us today.

If you have been injured on the job and are concerned about whether you properly notified your employer of your accident, have questions about the Workers’ Compensation process in South Carolina, or simply need to find out if you have a case, call Grimes Teich Anderson at 864-421-0770 or contact us over the internet at www.gta-injurylaw.com. Initial injury or disability consultations are free; it won’t cost you anything to speak with us.

We have three convenient office locations in the Upstate of South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg, and Gaffney. At Grimes Teich Anderson we are committed to protecting the rights of hard working South Carolinians.

workerinjury.jpgIf you have been injured on the job, it is critically important that you notify your employer and take certain steps so that you can pursue your Workers’ Compensation benefits in South Carolina.

As a Workers’ Compensation Attorney, here are the two most common questions I get regarding notice:

Who do I need to notify of my work injury?

Giving notice to your employer of your job accident is the first step in obtaining the medical or compensation benefits you deserve. South Carolina requires that an injured worker must notify his or her employer of the accident. The employer representative that you give notice to should be one of your supervisors or managers rather than a co-worker.

Failure to notify your employer of your work injury could keep you from the medical care and compensation that you deserve. It important that every accident on the job, regardless of how insignificant it may seem at that time, is reported to your employer immediately. Sometimes, injuries that seem insignificant at first develop into serious injuries over time.

Ideally, notice of the accident should be given in writing and should specifically state how you were injured and should request that your employer send you for medical care and treatment. It is very important that you ensure that an accident report is filled out, that it correctly states how you were injured, and that you get a copy of the accident report. Too often, claimants are denied the benefits they deserve because their employer never documented the accident; don’t let this happen to you.

How long do I have to give notice of my work injury?

Other than some exceptions, the rule is that you have 90 days from the date of your accident to report your on-the-job injury. Practically though, it is best to notify your employer as soon as possible after your work injury. The sooner you report the injury to your employer, get an accurate accident report filled out, and request medical care the better.

Tell your employer exactly how you were hurt. Insist that an accident report is filled out, review it for accuracy, and request to be sent for medical treatment. Document as much as possible and keep copies of any emails, text messages, or letters you send to your employer.

Workers’ Compensation laws are complex and rapidly changing and every case is different. It important that if you suffer an injury on the job that you contact lawyers that handle these claims and have experience in the area of Workers’ Compensation. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Grimes Teich Anderson are here to help you.

If you have been injured on the job and are concerned about whether you properly notified your employer of your accident, have questions about the Workers’ Compensation process in South Carolina, or simply need to find out if you have a case, call Grimes Teich Anderson at 864-421-0770 or contact us over the internet at www.gta-injurylaw.com.

Initial workers compensation consultations are free; it won’t cost you anything to speak with us.

We have three convenient office locations in the Upstate of South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg, and Gaffney. At Grimes Teich Anderson we are committed to protecting the rights of hard working South Carolinians.

Thumbnail image for bulldozer.jpgThe latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the number of workplace fatalities in North Carolina was down by 10 in 2012, with 138 that year compared to 148 in the prior year.

Reductions were also reported in South Carolina, where there were 31 workplace fatalities reported in 2012, compared to 81 in 2011.

In both cases, our Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers understand, transportation injuries were the leading cause of death at work, which was a factor in line with the rest of the country as well.

Just recently, a trucking company in Thomasville was fined by the N.C. Department of Labor for safety violations that led to the death of a 22-year-old back in March. According to media reports, the employee was working under the hood of a tractor-trailer when it fell on him and pinned him underneath, crushing him to death. The fines were reportedly issued for lack of a hazardous materials policy, failing to follow proper protocol for workers maintaining vehicles and failing to provide hazard assessments for those workers required to wear personal protection equipment.

The revised count of the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2012 indicates that there were 4,383 work-related fatalities recorded in the U.S. last year. That’s down about 6.6 percent. However, that’s reflective of the overall total. There were some industries in which the workplace fatality risk actually rose.

For example, fatal work injuries in the private construction industry increased by 5 percent, from 738 in 2011 to 775 in 2012.

Contractors were at especially high risk of workplace fatalities, with 708 contractors killed last year – most of those worked in the construction and transportation industries.

Another major area of concern was the risk to workers under the age of 16. Those figures nearly doubled, from 10 in 2011 to 19 in 2012. That’s the highest it’s been since 2005.

Nationwide, transportation-related incidents accounted for 2 out of every 5 workplace deaths last year. Of the 1,789 transportation-related workplace deaths tallied last year, about 58 percent occurred on the roadway.

Workplace violence also remained a big problem last year, with a total of 767 workers falling victim to violence at work.

In South Carolina, incidents of workplace violence tapered off from 11 recorded incidents in 2011 to 3 in 2012. However, workplace violence incidents rose in North Carolina, from 29 in 2011 to 32 last year.

Interestingly, in 2011, men made up the vast majority of workplace violence victims in North Carolina, while the reverse was true in 2012.

What we can summarily conclude from all these figures is that employers at the local, state and federal levels must do more to bolster worker safety. It is unacceptable that even one person should leave for work one day and never return. It is especially egregious when we know that the vast majority of these incidents are entirely preventable.

If you or a loved one is involved in a work accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources:
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2012, released Aug. 22, 2013, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
More Blog Entries:
Scaffolding Collapse In Marion Injures 8 And Triggers Investigation, Aug. 13, 2013, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

obreros-1157819-m.jpgOur thoughts and good wishes are with the 8 workers who were injured because of the collapse of scaffolding at a construction site at McDowell High School in Marion this week. That incident has triggered an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor. According to the Asheville Citizen Times, it could take weeks or months before the investigation determines whether workplace violations contributed to or caused this incident.

Fines for workplace safety violations are supposed to act as a deterrent to make sure companies will provide a safe work environment for employees. However, a 2008 investigative report by The Charlotte Observer found declining inspections and weak enforcement of regulations in North Carolina. In addition, it found that fines for violations in North Carolina can sometimes be minimal. The report showed that fines for serious violations in North Carolina were often half the national average.

A report this year by the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health titled North Carolina Workers Dying For A Job, found that in cases where workers died on the job and the employer was cited for at least one violation, the median fine was $3,250.

Beam Construction, head of the project at McDowell High School where these 8 workers were injured, was fined $1,300 in 2009 for a violation deemed serious by the Department of Labor. The Asheville Citizen Times reports that the violation, one of five against Beam Construction that year, was for “duty to have fall protection.” Three of the five citations were dropped in an informal settlement.

The report from the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health also estimates that far more workers die on the job in North Carolina each year than are reported by the N.C. Department of Labor. The report estimates that at least 83 workers died on the job in 2011 while the NC Department of Labor put the number at 53. Part of the reason for the difference according to the report is that The NC Department of Labor does not count vehicle accident and workplace violence related deaths nor does it count the deaths of the self-employed.

Meantime, what about the workers hurt in this scaffolding collapse? Depending on their injuries they may not be able to work for days, weeks, months or ever again. The type of injury they have determines which of the three type of Workers Compensation Benefits they may be eligible for. These may include weekly checks for missed work, coverage for medical expenses and payment for permanent injury.

North Carolina Lawmakers made extensive changes recently in workers compensation laws including limiting how long a person may receive workers compensation benefits. The limit for temporary total or temporary partial disability compensation is 500 weeks. However, an injured worker may qualify for extended or other compensation under certain circumstances.

If you have been injured at work and have questions call Grimes Teich Anderson LLP today at 800-533-6845. There is no fee to discuss your case and, exclusive of case costs, there’s never a fee unless you’ve been paid.

The agricultural industry is one of the most profitable in North Carolina, accounting for nearly one-third of the state’s gross income and employing about a quarter of its work force. Top commodities include tobacco, turkey, sweet potatoes, pigs, Christmas trees and trout.
redbarnonfarm.jpg
However, agricultural occupations are undoubtedly among the most dangerous.

As we head into the height of the summer and on into the fall harvest season, our Waynesville workers’ compensation attorneys feel it’s imperative for employers to take stock of any potential hazards that may arise as the season gets into full swing.

In March, NPR detailed a series of entrapment deaths caused at grain bins across the country. Men and sometimes even teenagers were killed after becoming trapped inside grains bins and buried alive.

These incidents began drawing attention to the dangers faced down by agricultural workers who are responsible for producing the foods we enjoy on our tables daily.

Also taking note of these alarming incidents was the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which recently teamed up with The Ohio State University to formally study the problem.

According to the team’s latest report, a total of 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfments in 2010. That was the highest year on record. In the last 50 years, there have been more than 900 incidents of grain engulfment, with a fatality rate reaching near 65 percent.

The Midwest region OSHA director said his office is working to combat the six biggest hazards in the grain and feed industry, which are:

  • Engulfment;
  • Falls;
  • Auger entanglement;
  • “Struck by” incidents;
  • Combustible dust explosions;
  • Electrocution hazards.

Some of these incidents occur at farms that employ fewer than 10 people, which employees may not realize means the company is not under OSHA’s jurisdiction or safety oversight.

The agricultural industry is one of the largest employers of youth under the age of 20, with an estimated 750,000 in this age groups working at farms as of 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Prevention.

In 2010, a total of more than 475 farmers and farm workers died as a result of work-related injuries, creating a death rate of 26.1 for every 100,000 workers. On average, about 115 of these are youth under the age of 20.

The top cause of farm fatalities? Tractor overturns, followed by motor vehicle crashes and drownings.

In addition to those fatalities, about 3,400 youth under the age of 20 suffered injuries while doing farm work. About five percent of those incidents resulted in permanent impairment.

These are young men and women whose lives have been either tragically cut short or their future livelihood has been severely impacted, often due to the negligence of employers who refused to ensure all proper safety procedures were in place. When that happens, these agricultural firms must be held accountable.

If you or a loved one is involved in a work accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources:
Learn & Live: Grain industry hazards lead to deaths, injuries each year, OSHA works with The Ohio State University to promote safe practices, June 19, 2013, Press Release, Occupational Safety & Health Administration
More Blog Entries:
Fatal I-485 Truck Crash Highlights Summer Road Construction Risks, July 4, 2013, Waynesville Work Accident lawyer Blog

Protections for workers in North Carolina were substantially weakened recently, as the Associated Press reports the state slashed benefits for newly-filed unemployment claims and also became the first in the country to become disqualified for federal aid for the long-term jobless.
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This, combined with the fact that many businesses were discovered last year to be putting employees at risk by failing to purchase workers’ compensation insurance – something the state failed to appropriately monitor – just further drives home the critical importance of selecting an experienced Asheville workers’ compensation attorney following a job-related injury. Attorney Henry E. Teich of Grimes Teich Anderson is a North Carolina Board Certified Workers Compensation Specialist.

In addition to shelling out thousands of dollars in medical costs following a work injury, many workers find they are unable to immediately return to work. Sometimes, that time away is extended. If that time frame is expected to be a year or longer, it may be appropriate to file for federal Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

While collection of SSDI and workers’ compensation benefits is generally not appropriate (or in many cases even possible), an injured worker should seek qualified legal advice. Fewer North Carolina workers can expect to receive unemployment benefits – and those who do will get less – as state officials adopted both increased business taxes and a reduced benefits package. Their aim is to speed up repayment of a $2.5 billion debt owed to the federal government, for assistance given to the state’s unemployment program in the midst of the Great Recession.

North Carolina has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country.

The state was forced to give up worker access to those federal dollars in exchange for reducing the weekly benefits amount – something that the federal program strictly prohibited as a condition of receiving the money.

In practical terms, what this means is that the 170,000 workers whose state unemployment benefits are expected to expire yet this year will lose out on access to about $700 million in federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation funds.

Additionally, qualifying for benefits will become even more difficult and weekly payments will go from a maximum of $535 weekly down to $350. That’s the largest reduction ever recorded in the Southeast.

Some 20 other states are in a similar debt situation with regard to federal aid, but no others have taken the drastic step of reducing benefits so severely as a result. North Carolina’s unemployment benefits debt to the feds is the third-largest in the nation – which is indicative of the fact that we were one of those states that could least afford such a dramatic reduction.

Lawmakers said that delaying the move could have meant the debt would increase. However, the people who ultimately pay are the ones who can’t find work, in many cases due to a prior work-related injury.

Republican lawmakers suggested that many of those collecting unemployment benefits are holding out for better opportunities than the ones being presented, and urged them to “take a job, get back into the job market.”

However, for those who have suffered a significant injury, such directives are not always so simple. A recent study by Cornell University showed that only 34 percent of all persons with disabilities were employed full-time in 2011. In North Carolina, that rate was lower at 30.7 percent.

When the disability was incurred after sustaining a work-related injury, you deserve compensation. We are committed, especially under the significant reduction of other financial safety nets, to helping you obtain it.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources:
NC becomes 1st state to drop federal jobless funds, By Emery P. Dalesio, Business Writer Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
North Carolina Worker Deaths Higher Than State Reports, June 11, 2013, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

The number of North Carolina workers who are killed on the job is nearly three times higher than what the state reports, according to a recent study by the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health.
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The disparity is believed to stem from the fact that the state has numerous incentives to keep that figure as low as possible, according to the non-profit safety council’s executive director.

As our Asheville workers’ compensation lawyers understand it, the North Carolina Department of Labor reported that in 2011, there were 53 workplace fatalities. That was reported as a slight uptick of three deaths from what had been reported the previous year. (Eighty percent of those were attributed to workers being struck by a vehicle, falling, being crushed by objects and heat-related illnesses.)

However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the actual number of workplace deaths that year was 148.

In 2012, the labor department estimates there were 35 work-related deaths. The safety council said it was able to identify by name at least 68 North Carolina workers who had died on the job that year, and says actual estimates from the BLS are around 129. That doesn’t include workplace illnesses resulting in death, which tend to be under-reported in official data.

In fact, the safety council says that between 2007 and 2011, the state’s labor department only reported about 32 percent of the actual workplace deaths that occurred in North Carolina. During that five-year time frame, the safety council says, there were in fact 744 people who died on the job.

Of those, the majority were felled by transportation incidents. However, the next most-common cause of death was assault or other violent act. This was followed by contact with objects, then falls and then exposure to harmful substances and environments. About 20 were from explosions or fires.

The labor department reports only those workplace deaths over which it has the authority to investigate. One of the big gaping holes in the state’s figures is the number of workplace deaths attributed to violence. Another is transportation fatalities, which the state labor department concedes it can’t by law investigate and wouldn’t have to the staff to do so even if it could. The agency also doesn’t tally deaths of those who are self-employed.

Despite the wide disparity, the safety council reports that the state’s fatality rate has dipped markedly over the last 10 years, making it now equal to the national average of about 3.7 per 100,000. The national average is 3.75 per 100,000.

But the fact of the matter remains that there is much more we could be doing. Deciding how best to do that requires that we have an accurate picture of how many workers are being killed or injured and why.

Moving forward, the safety council says special focus needs to be paid to immigrant workers, who are overrepresented in the number of work-related fatality figures. Between 2011 and 2012, nearly 30 percent of those killed on the job were Hispanic – which is 3.5 times their relative population in the state. This is striking especially when you consider that by that time, thousands of Hispanic immigrants had already left the state once the construction industry began to fizzle as a result of the dragging economy.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845.

Additional Resources:
North Carolina Workplace Deaths Nearly Three Times That Reported By State: Study, April 30, 2013, By Jillian Berman, The Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
Workers’ Compensation and Mental Health Benefits in South Carolina, April 3, 2013, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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