Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

The familiar adage “time is of the essence” is never more true than in a court of law. Consequently, if you have been hurt in an accident, it is important to contact an attorney about your case as soon as possible. This is because, regardless of the merits of your potential lawsuit, the failure to file your case within the time afforded by law usually means there can be no recovery.

Strict deadlines also apply to other procedural matters, such as the time allowed for filing an appeal. Recently, the state’s highest court was called upon to determine whether the usual time requirements for appealing a worker’s compensation decision could be extended in a particular case.

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A nationwide campaign is underway to gut workers’ compensation laws financed by several large well-known companies including Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Safeway, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sysco Food Services, Kohl’s, and several large insurance companies. These companies have formed a lobbying group known as the Association for Responsible Alternative Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC). The organization is attempting to write legislation in several states which would make it more difficult for workers hurt on the job to obtain their lost wages and medical care.

The goal of these large companies is for them to be allowed to opt-out of traditional workers’ compensation plans required in most states. Instead, these large companies would be allowed to write their own plans with their own rules controlling how long and for what reason an injured employee would have access to medical benefits and wages.

Not only would this be unfair to the workers in the states where these plans exist, but it would also be unfair to the medium and small businesses of those states which could not afford to opt-out of state required workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, premiums would go up for those medium and small businesses. This plan would also endanger the uninsured fund of each state to which all employers must contribute. By opting-out, these large companies would not have to contribute to the uninsured fund.

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Workers’ compensation laws are a product of the 20th century. According to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, prior to the passage of these statutes, workplace injuries were addressed through individual lawsuits. If there was an employee hurt on the job, that person had to file a negligence lawsuit against his or her employer in order to collect compensation. This type of litigation would require proof that an employer behaved negligently, and that this negligence caused the worker’s injury.

While workers could recover damages through these lawsuits, the process was generally slow and costly. In addition, there were no guarantees that workers would receive compensation in the end.

Workers’ compensation laws were passed in an attempt to improve these situations. Under these statutes, workers enjoy guaranteed benefits. These payments address lost income and medical expenses, as well as income benefits to the dependents of deceased workers.

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In South Carolina, workers have the right to compensation if they are injured on the job. The benefits they apply for can be used to cover medical expenses such as tests and visits to the doctor, medication costs, lost wages and even compensation for mileage if a person is forced to travel considerable distances to see a specialist or particular doctor.

But as you may already be aware, not all work-related injuries are the same. Some may be more obvious than others. And because many injuries can occur both inside and outside of work, some people may even find it difficult to determine whether their injury really was work related or not. That’s why, in today’s post, we wanted to look at one injury where this difficulty arises: back injuries.

Have you ever experienced back pain after lifting a heavy object or after turning your torso from side to side? If you said yes, then you can probably bet that you have some varying degree of a back injury. Back injuries are a common injury that do not occur in just one working environment but rather a variety of places.

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Trucking is a huge part of the United States economy. According to statistics from the American Trucking Associations, in 2013, trucks accounted for 81 percent of the $682 billion in freight revenue. In order to generate this level of revenue though, trucking companies have to keep tight schedules, oftentimes requiring their drivers to work longer hours than they should. In many cases, drivers arrive at their destination fatigued only to have to turn around again to get another load.

A rise in the number of fatigued-driving cases across the nation among commercial truck drivers forced the federal government to act. New rules were put in place that reduced the number of hours a truck driver could operate before needing to take a rest break. The rules also increased the amount of rest time needed before returning to work. The thought was that the new regulations would reduce the likelihood of fatigued driving, thereby reducing the number of accidents as well.

But according to many in the trucking industry, the change in rest rules created another situation that may be just as problematic as fatigued driving. Truckers across the nation, including here in South Carolina, are now running into the problem of finding “legal, safe and well-lit parking places” in some cities across the nation. In some cases, truck drivers are forced to drive miles out of their way, sometimes at the risk of violating rest rules in order to find a safe place to park and rest.

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Thanks to teams like the Seattle Sounders, the LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls, major league soccer is growing in popularity across the nation, which means, in many states, a need for new stadiums. But in some states, the weather doesn’t always permit a full open-air concept, meaning some stadiums must remain closed off from the elements, utilizing artificial turf instead of natural grass.

If you’ve been on or seen an artificial turf surface, you may have noticed what looks to be little black dots. In many cases, these are ground up recycled tires used to create a bouncier surface that is supposed to be safer for athletes. Or at least so we’re told.

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Construction is often considered as one of the most dangerous lines of work. That’s because, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the fatal injury rate for construction workers is higher than the national average across all industries. And with an estimated 252,000 construction sites across the nation, it’s not difficult to see why the rate is so high.

That’s why we wanted to highlight a few construction site dangers for our readers in this week’s blog post. The hope is that it will give you a better understanding of the dangers present in your work environment and help you avoid a potential workplace accident later on.

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Parts of South Carolina are heavily industrialized, and plant employees work hard for their income. When a serious workplace accident leaves an industrial worker injured, the incident should be thoroughly investigated to determine if any safety violations occurred. The injury and any related medical treatment should also be well documented for a workers’ compensation claim.

A recent explosion at a radiator plant in Edgefield County is being investigated by the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The blast injured three workers, two of whom were still in critical condition at the time of a local report. One man reportedly suffered burns on 50 percent of his body, and another man was burned on 30 percent of his body. The third injured worker was treated and released.

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If you suffer a work-related injury or illness, then you have the right to appropriate medical treatment that should be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. However, you could be entitled to additional compensation if the accident was caused by a third party’s negligence, such as with a dangerous or defective product.

With that in mind, readers in Spartanburg may recall a tragic work accident that occurred in 2012 at a York County paper mill. Three workers suffered burn injuries at the Resolute Forest Products facility when a valve failed and sprayed the men with sodium sulfide and sodium hydroxide — a solution otherwise known as “white liquor.”

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As readers of our blog know, employees have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer a work-related injury. But as many may not know, certain laws can conflict with this right and cause a person to lose access to their benefits. While a lawyer is often considered responsible for telling their client about these potential problems, a case in Charleston is showing that this doesn’t always happen and what issues this can create.

Originally, a class action lawsuit had been filed on behalf of South Carolina residents who had suffered work-related injuries due to asbestos exposure during the course of their employment. The class action was expected to cover some 14,900 people and was supposed to seek damages for the plaintiffs. But a group of South Carolinians say that instead of getting adequate compensation, their lawyers mishandled their case and made it so that they can no longer collect workers’ compensation benefits.

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