Accidents at work happen for all sorts of reasons. Many injured workers who call our office start out talking about all the reasons why the employer was “at fault” for the accident, and how they want to “sue” their employer because of this.
First of all, with extremely limited exceptions, you cannot “sue” your employer. All cases against an employer for work-related injuries are subject to either the Virginia or North Carolina Workers Compensation Act.
That being said, there is also no requirement to prove the employer caused the accident or was negligent. The main requirements are that the worker was an employee, that the accident was work-related, and that that the worker currently cannot work because of the injuries suffered in the accident. North Carolina has a higher requirement of proof than Virginia. In Virginia, an employee can simply be lifting something very heavy or be forced to turn in an awkward way—and this can be compensable.
In North Carolina, unless it is a back injury, this will not suffice. There must be a slip, trip, or fall to qualify for a work injury.
Workplace accidents can differ depending on the type of work you do. Generally, construction workers and folks in high-risk occupations such as tree-cutting are more prone to accidents than other workers. Still, nurses, technical workers, restaurant servers, and anyone in any job may suddenly find themselves unable to work due to a workplace injury.
Some of the injuries that force workers to file a workers’ compensation claim are:
- Overexertion. Workers who do any type of physical labor such as firefighters, police workers, janitors, industrial workers, and construction workers – are often lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling heavy objects. Nurses are often lifting and turning patients and mattresses. Everyone has their breaking point – the point where one extra motion causes a backache, a pulled muscle, or other physical injuries. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions, repetitive motion injuries are not compensable under workers compensation.
- Slips, trips, and falls. At nearly every job, it’s possible to slip and fall. Factory workers can fall over equipment. Retail workers can fall over merchandise. Apartment workers can fall over loose wires. Teachers can fall over books on the floor or something spilled on the floor. Again, there is no need to prove someone was at fault. Falls can cause broken bones, severe bruises, back and neck pain, brain injuries, and other injuries that need long-term treatment to get healthy again.
- Falls from high place. Construction workers, firefighters, and other workers can fall from high-beams, scaffolding, ladders, and other places that are high. These falls are especially dangerous. If the worker dies, a distinct possibility, the family of the worker has the right to request workers’ compensation benefits. If there are no witnesses, then there can be a challenge to the compensability of the case.
Workers who survive the fall may suffer paralysis, traumatic brain injury, never damage, broken bones and other serious injuries. Workers who can’t work again due to these injuries can claim up to 500 weeks of temporary total disability benefits. (TTD) Workers with certain types of injuries may have the right to demand additional benefits, as they near the end of their 500 weeks, which would be permanent and total injury benefits. Workers who can work again but at less stressful jobs can claim temporary partial disability (TPD) until they can work again. When the worker then starts working at a lower paying job, they can claim partial disability work injury benefits at 2/3rds of the difference between the pre-injury wage and the lower wage, for up to 500 weeks.
- Being struck by an object. Construction workers, even when wearing helmets, are at constant risk of being struck from above by falling equipment, lunch pails, tools of the trade, and other equipment. Retail workers can be struck by falling merchandise. These injures can cause brain injury and other serious harm. Sometimes workers get pinned against a dangerous object. An object may be thrown at them by someone who wasn’t looking.
- Motor vehicle. Anyone who drives a car, truck, or other motorized vehicle for a living may get into an accident. Distracted drivers, speeding drivers, drunk drivers, and just careless drivers are likely to cause an accident. Drivers who are focused on their work may get into an accident. The main issue in vehicle accidents is whether the accident occurred while the worker was doing his/her job and did the accident cause your injuries. You should know that even if the worker is at fault for the accident, he or she still may be able to recover workers compensation benefits. A huge caution: NEVER settle your third party injury case before your workers compensation case. This could subject you to being cut off of your benefits, in most cases, permanently.
- Equipment accidents. Forklifts, cranes, scaffolding equipment, electronic tools, and other work equipment may malfunction. The equipment may not be used properly. Workers may not see that someone else is using the equipment. Employers are generally required to follow federal regulations such as OSHA (Office of Safety and Health Administration) rules and local state work safety rules. Each piece of equipment should be inspected before it is used. Workers should be trained on the proper way to use electronic devices, jackhammers, expanding ladders, and other devices. Workers are supposed to also be trained on proper safety measures so that electronic shocks, chemical or electric burns, radiation exposure, and other life-threatening injuries don’t occur or that they are protected – such as by wearing goggles and gloves. Once again, there may be a third-party claim against the manufacturer of a piece of equipment. Once again, you should NEVER settle the third-party claim prior to the workers comp claim, or this could deprive you of your ongoing benefits.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Repeating the same motion over and over again can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, inflammation, and other injuries. People who work with computers or do assembly line work are especially prone to get these injuries. While there is usually a requirement to show a specific accident caused your injuries, employees who are required to do repetitive work may have a legal basis for arguing the claim is an occupational illness or that one particular accident made the condition worse.
- Workplace violence and catastrophic, violent injuries. The police are especially prone to being attacked during arrests, while investigating crimes, and while handling domestic disputes. A disgruntled worker or an angry worker may take out his/her frustrations on other workers. Angry customers or armed robbers can harm store clerks, retail workers and other types of employees. Nurses, counselors, or other medical personnel who work in mental health facilities or rehabilitations facilities have and do frequently suffer attacks from mentally disturbed or otherwise violent patients or inmates. Anyone who suffers injury due to workplace violence is entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim. Many victims of violence end up not just with physical injuries, but with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) , severe depression, anxiety, and need years of psychological counseling and psychiatric treatment for their physical injuries. Many will never be able to return to their former occupation because of what they were exposed to on the job. We represent many clients who have suffered PTSD as a result of violence in the workplace, or simply because they have suffered a violent and catastrophic accident such as a fall from heights.
In all work injury cases, employees are entitled to payment of all reasonable and necessary medical bills including surgeries, doctor visits, physical therapy, emotional counseling, medical devices, and medications. They should demand their wage loss benefits, which are 2/3rds of the Average Weekly Wage usually for up to 500 weeks, as long as the injured worker is unable to work. Workers shouldn’t be forced back to work until they are ready. In some cases, injured workers may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits so they can transfer to a different type of job.
Understand your work injury rights by calling us today
At the North Carolina and Virginia Law office of Joe Miller Esq., we are respected for our ability to get strong results. For more than 25 years, we’ve been fighting for injured workers. We work to show your claim is valid. We understand the arguments insurance companies use to try to deny your claim. Do not wait to call us or take any action in your case without calling our office first. Many injured workers ruin their case by taking action on their own without contacting a knowledgeable workers compensation lawyer. Please do not do this. Attorney Miller works with your doctors to understand your medical condition, prognosis, and the reasons you can’t work. To speak with an experienced work injury lawyer, please call (888) 694-1671 or fill out my contact form to schedule an appointment.