September 2010

Avoid the Need for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: 4 Tips for Staying Safe This Fall

September 30, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

No one wants to have to go on North Carolina workers’ compensation. People would much rather work hard and stay healthy. To that end, this blog now presents 4 tips for an injury and disease-free autumn.

1. Increase your muscular strength – particularly strength needed for work related tasks.

Studies show that resistance training can prevent bone loss, joint and ligament problems, and circulation trouble and can improve flexibility and overall energy levels. By toning your body specifically for the kind of work you do, you may be able to reduce your likelihood of injury or illness. Each worker’s strength needs will be different, obviously. If you work a complex and multi-faceted construction job, you may have to do full body strength training to get sufficient benefits. If you are a typist, on the other hand, you may be able to work only on strengthening your upper thoracic region, upper back, hands, and arms to see major benefits.

2. Reduce your consumption of sugary and refined foods.

Solid scientific research supports the hypothesis that too much sugar and refined starches in the diet can cause or exacerbate a lot of chronic illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Although breaking sugar addiction can be difficult – particularly if your co-workers keep bowls of sugary treats at their cubicles – the payoff for refraining from sweets can be significant. And sugar abstinence can theoretically help you to stave off having to need to file a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim.

3. Get enough rest and sunshine.

Some evidence suggests that a minimum amount of time in the sun (without sunscreen, no less!) may be beneficial for the body. For instance, it may help keep Vitamin D levels at a healthy and regulated level. Likewise, the amount of sleep you get can impact your health. People who are chronically insomniac tend to be at elevated risk for a variety of diseases, and they are also tend to be more apt to get into accidents at work.

4. Stay organized

The more organized your office and managerial scheme, the less likely you will be to get surprised by problems at work. By maintaining safety equipment and good emergency procedures among your staff and crew, you should be able to reduce accidents, spills, injuries, and exposure to toxic elements at work.

If you have gotten sick or injured, and you need assistance getting benefits, a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can help you address your concerns in a principled and effective way. Cut through the red tape, compel insurers to make good on their promises to you, and end employer mistreatment by leveraging the power of a reputable and resourceful team of attorneys.

More Web Resources

Increase your muscular strength

Cut sugar from your diet

Changes to Longshore and Harbor Workers Regulations Could Impact North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

September 27, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation policy — as it pertains to longshore and harbor workers — could face radical reshaping. According to new regulations proposed by the US Department of Labor, ocean workers – such as boat repairers and builders – may soon be able to avail themselves of more comprehensive workers’ compensation benefits.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has voiced concerns about the regulation changes. According to the new definitions proposed, workers who dismantle or repair or build a boat that’s less than 65 feet in length will now be entitled to benefits above and beyond what they get now. The NMMA worries that manufacturers may not know how their boat products will eventually be used – whether they will be passenger, commercial, or recreational, e.g.. The DOL says that boat workers who do “qualifying maritime” labor as well as “excluded work” should be covered. The NMMA has asked for a 60-day extension to examine the regulations and comment on them.

Given that North Carolina sustains a large and thriving maritime industry – with many boat builders, repairers, and dismantlers – these new DOL regulations may have a deep and broad impact on NC’s maritime economy as well as on the manufacturing industry’s schedule.

The debate over the nuances of these new regulations illustrates how complicated even relatively simple sounding North Carolina workers’ compensation cases can become. This modification to the law – to essentially make boating employers more responsible for their workers – will no doubt stir a lively debate among that industry’s community about the fundamental responsibilities a manufacturer has to employees who build and repair.

Are you struggling with a similarly nuanced and complicated issue pertaining to your benefits? Is your employer refusing to pay you? Or is a liable insurance company balking at paying your full benefits? If you need any kind of help, discuss your problems with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm. By getting good upfront advice, you can avoid the pitfalls that often cause cases to drag on for months (if not years), and you can hopefully expedite your pursuit of a fair and complete settlement.

More Web Resources

National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

NMMA: Workers’ comp changes could affect boatbuilders

Court of Appeals Rules in Emotionally Charged North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Case

September 22, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation experts have been heavily debating the implications of a recent Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Shupe v City of Charlotte. The decision in favor of the claimant (an injured police officer) may have broad public policy repercussions.

Officer Shupe suffered an injury to her right knee while working in the line of duty. This was a compensable injury, pursuant to North Carolina workers’ compensation rules. She got surgery for the problem and went back to work in a “light duty” position for the Charlotte PD. After noticing that her knee continued to be in pain, Shupe sought a second physician opinion. The diagnosis returned was shocking: she had liver and pancreatic cancer.

At the same time, Shupe also needed a second knee surgery. But her oncologist recommended against this surgery because it could compel her to stop taking chemotherapy. So she rescinded her request for the knee surgery and asked for total disability benefits. Her employer argued that she did not deserve total disability for a number of reasons: that the light duty position was “suitable” for her, notwithstanding her knee injury; that her comp award should be “apportioned”; and that what was preventing her from working was her cancer — a non-work related illness — as opposed to her knee injury.

The Court of Appeals dismissed all these arguments and found for the claimant – supporting a lower decision. So Officer Shupe will be able to now get total permanent disability benefits.

If someone you care about faces a similarly challenging situation — regarding a quest to collect benefits, for instance — you can greatly benefit from the counsel of a tested North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm. Often, if you are sick and in pain, you may not have the wherewithal or resources to advocate forcefully for yourself. A good attorney – or a team of attorneys – can make sure that justice is done and that you get the benefits you are entitled to.

More Web Resources

Shupe v City of Charlotte

Cancer prevents surgery for compensable injury

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Debate Whether Trooper Who Killed a Girl Should Get Award

September 20, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation advocates and analysts are hotly debating an emotionally wrought case out of Illinois – the discussion focuses not just on the legal implications but also on the moral ones.

A Tragic Crash

In 2007, Matt Mitchell, an Illinois trooper, rushed to respond to an injury crash. Officer Mitchell – who allegedly had been texting on his cell phone and/or emailing a fellow officer – soared through an intersection at 126 miles per hour. His car lurched out of control on I-64 near Scott Air Force Base, raced over a median strip and slammed head on into a car driven by 18-year old Jessica Uhl. The blow killed both Jessica and her 13-year old sister Kelli.

Although Mitchell was convicted of reckless homicide – and the Uhl sisters’ parents have launched a $46 million wrongful death suit – the officer nevertheless stands to collect over $140,000 in workers compensation from the state.

According to the Tom Keefe, the Uhl sisters’ parents’ attorney, Mitchell’s workers’ comp claim will likely go through because the state acknowledged that he was “acting in the course of his employment” when he shot through the intersection and killed the girls. Keefe called Mitchell’s attempt to get the money “disgusting… nothing he does surprises me anymore.”

North Carolina workers’ compensation experts and policy wonks have spent some energy debating the broader implications of Mitchell’s impending award. On the one hand, if the homicidal officer manages to get state payments, the result could serve in essence as a delegitimization of workers’ comp as a social institution. After all, if a government program pays out someone who murdered children while talking on a cell phone… does it really deserve funding and support? On the other hand, other North Carolina workers’ compensation experts argue that the case is an anomaly, and that, if you look at the statistics, programs like workers’ comp are vital and generally fair. They provide key resources to injured and ill workers who might suffer grievously without them. And workers’ comp benefits cannot be taken away arbitrarily.

Many workplace illness and injury cases get quite complicated and nuanced. If you need help filing a claim, dealing with an employer who won’t cooperate, or holding a “bad faith” insurance carrier accountable for benefits owed, a results-driven North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can assist you. Getting good guidance can be crucial to speeding up your benefit payments and avoiding needless and time consuming disputes.

More Web Resources

Ex-trooper seeks benefits

Cop Who Killed 2 Girls Asks for Workers Comp

Big News in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Commissioner Seeks Rate Increase

September 15, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Last year, this North Carolina workers’ compensation blog reported, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin ordered a 9.6% decrease in voluntary loss costs for the state’s workers’ comp – a move that Goodwin claimed saved companies in the state nearly $120 million. But 2010 has seen a reversal of strategy. The North Carolina Rate Bureau – an organization that represents the interests of NC workers’ comp insurance companies – seeks increases in loss costs of 1.2% as well as an average increase of 5.5% in assigned risk markets (in 2009, there was zero change to the assigned risk markets).

The North Carolina Department of Insurance will have 60 days to look-over these rate adjustments to determine whether they are warranted or not. If you are interested in examining the nitty-gritty details, head to this website:

The manipulation of North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance rates numbers may seem irrelevant to you, if you are in the process of filing a claim. But these kinds of “big picture” changes to state insurance policies can have serious trickledown effects. It’s very difficult to calculate exactly how rate increases (or decreases) will translate into costs/benefits for businesses and claimants. It’s not a “one-to-one” thing. Indeed, literature abounds with examples of market interventions actually yielding completely contradictory – even paradoxical – results.

So, if you are a business owner or a claimant, what should you make of these potential rate adjustments? In short, don’t make too much of them! If you are a business owner, focus on building your business, managing costs, and dealing with rate changes as they emerge. If you are a claimant, focus on processing your paperwork effectively and on time – and on dealing with any roadblocks, such as uncooperative or bad faith insurers or employers. Also, focus on your rehab/recovery so you can return to the workforce in good spirits and in a productive capacity.

Do you need help dealing with a claims-related issue? If so, get in touch with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to explore your rights and obligations under state law. Even if you have a relatively simple and seemingly straightforward case, it never hurts to speak with representatives of a solid and well-established law firm about the do’s and don’ts of filing.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina Rate Bureau

More info about the proposed rate increase

Could “Short Time” North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Boost Jobs in State?

September 9, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

State officials, policymakers, employers, and workers and North Carolina workers’ compensation experts alike have bemoaned the precipitous loss of in-state jobs. Since the beginning of the “great recession” in fall of 2008 till June of this year, the state has lost over 235,000 jobs, according to official statistics. Clearly, some creative solutions may be needed to halt the bleeding of jobs and to simultaneously protect workers and business owners alike.

A novel approach of “short time” compensation may be a useful tactic in our collective arsenal to improve state working conditions. The short-time program works by using unemployment insurance money to pay employers for keeping on employees rather than firing them entirely. In other words, instead of an employer firing an employee and then the employee collecting unemployment funds – the employer would reduce the employee’s hours, and the costs would be made up by this short-time fund. Essentially, it’s a way to allow employers to preserve their workforce and to keep employees gainfully working and spending their consumer dollars. Seventeen states across the nation have adopted similar short-time compensation programs, and the Budget and Tax Center has estimated that over 25,000 North Carolina workers might benefit if a similar program took root in state.

Of course, this kind of program represents a relatively narrow approach – and for it to be maximally effective, it probably needs to be bundled together with other creative measures to stimulate the economy while simultaneously protecting the workforce. Other policy experts have recommended diverse solutions, such as:

• Improving ergonomic conditions in NC workplaces to prevent chronic injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
• Reducing at work sugar consumption to try to halt state epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
• Conducting diverse small scale pilot programs to test out novel and even counterintuitive ways to reduce employee costs and simultaneously protect workers.

If you, a family member or a coworker has experienced an occupational disease or injury, and you believe that you should be entitled to North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits, it may behoove you to speak with representative of a trusted North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm today to find out what you can do to get your claim expedited and to avoid making mistakes that could endanger your claim.

More Web Resources:

Budget and Tax Center

more on the Short Time solution

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Closely Watch Legal Imbroglio between Japan and China

September 6, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Although this North Carolina workers’ compensation blog typically covers regional (and, occasionally, interstate) stories, we almost never focus on international cases because they are usually not that germane to our readers. But a fascinating international case – pertaining to a longstanding debate between Japan and China – has us breaking our rule.

A battle extending nearly 80 years

In World War II, approximately 40,000 Chinese people got conscripted as forced laborers in Japan. Around 7,000 conscripts died. But many survivors – all of whom are now over 80 years old – remain unsatisfied with the reparations they collected from Japan under the 1972 Japan/China joint statement. Since the ‘72 arrangement, which ostensibly finalized reparations, courts in Japan have rejected 15 different lawsuits filed by Chinese workers to collect benefits pertaining to what was essentially their conscription and enslavement. Undaunted, a group of around 100 laborers from Shandong have launched a legal action to collect around $15,000 per worker in reparations from the Mitsubishi Materials Company, which employed over 2,700 Chinese conscripts in mining activities following Japan’s invasion 79 years ago. The case has warranted the attention of China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, who petitioned the Japanese government to make good on the reparations because, China asserts, the 1972 joint statement did not fully resolve all relevant questions.

So how does this all tie back to now parochial seeming debates over North Carolina workers’ compensation? It ties back in a number of ways. First, it illustrates that debates over how to redress employment related injuries and diseases can fester for years and even decades. Second, it illustrates just how complicated and political the process of compensation can get – particularly when companies, employees, and insurers wrestle with questions of severe injury/death and high payout amounts.

All this is to say that, if you or a loved one has been struggling with an employer or an insurance company about your claim, you are not alone. It’s common to encounter friction and even outright bad faith in negotiations for compensation. To that end, it’s always a good idea for claimants to avail themselves of a free and confidential consultation with a North Carolina workers’ compensation firm. Better educated and well represented claimants tend to resolve their claims faster and more effectively.

More Web Resources:

More on the Mitsubishi Materials Company saga

1972 Japan/China joint statement

Bizarre Legal Battle in Iowa Highlights Absurdities that North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Analysts Say Are All Too Common

September 2, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

No one would argue that the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is without flaws. But a breaking ruling out of Iowa shows that crazy cases and curious rulings are not merely the province of the “First in Flight” state.

The Iowa Supreme Court resolved a longstanding battle between Travelers Insurance Company and Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance over which company should compensate the family of a fallen volunteer firefighter, Justin Fauer. Brace yourself: the backstory is pretty weird.

A farmer named Dwight Johnson (of Johnson Valley Beef Farms) fell into a manure pit and got overwhelmed by methane gases. His employee, Fauer, noticed his boss’ plight and ran to tell Johnson’s wife to call the police. Fauer then returned to the pit and tried to help his boss out. But he, too, got overwhelmed by the methane and died in the pit.

So what led to the big workers’ comp battle? Well, Fauer was a volunteer fire fighter as well as a farmhand. So the farm’s insurance company as well as the volunteer firefighter’s insurance company have been duking it out in court (all the way up to the Iowa Supreme Court) over which firm should be liable for his family’s workers’ comp benefits.

Ultimately, Grinnell (which represented the farm) lost because of technical reasons pursuant to whether Fauer acted in the capacity of a volunteer firefighter or a farmhand. But without getting into too much detail about why, it’s important to recognize the broader implications. The length to which these two insurance companies went to avoid liability no doubt used up tremendous resources and court time. And this suggests a bigger problem – a broader problem – namely that North Carolina workers’ compensation cases (and similar cases throughout the US) can often get way too bogged down in the details at the expense of seeing that real justice gets done and that injured and needy claimants get their due.

The Moral: When the law gets overly technical, court battles drain much needed resources for no real justice-serving purpose.

Moving away from the abstract now… if you or someone you care about has been injured in an acute workplace accident or suffered an occupational disease or repetitive strain injury, you may want to seek guidance from a competent North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm. Understanding your rights is the key to reaching the best possible settlement.

More Web Resources

Travelers Insurance Company v. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance

More about the Fauer tragedy