The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Hickory NC Personal Injury Law Blog

Understanding workplace injuries in the U.S.

Employees in North Carolina may benefit from reviewing 2012 data on workplace injuries and illnesses that was published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the federal agency, employers reported almost 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries during 2012. The report was in concert with the downward trend apparent throughout the past decade, excluding the increase in the injury rates during 2011. None of the private industry sectors realized an increase in workplace injuries rates during 2012.

The rate of injured workers was around 3.3 per 100 in the private sector and approximately 5.6 per 100 in the public sector, both relatively unchanged from 2011. The national workplace injury rate was around 3.4 injuries per 100 cases. In North Carolina, the workplace injury rate was closer to 2.9 per 100 cases. More than 50 percent of the total job-related injuries during 2012 were serious enough to warrant extensive time off work, implementing a work restriction or receiving a transfer.

Lower back injuries in the workplace

North Carolina residents may wish to be wary of spine injuries and lower back strain that may result from conditions in the workplace. These injuries may come from heavy lifting and carrying around the place of employment, long-term strain from sitting or standing in a posture that puts pressure on the back, or other job-related causes.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are more than a million cases of lower back pain affecting workers every year. This makes it the second most common cause of lost days at work, exceeded only by the common cold. It has been estimated that the economic toll of lower back injuries exceeds $100 billion a year, of which workers' compensation claims have paid for about $11 billion.

Who is required to carry workers' compensation insurance?

Businesses in North Carolina with at least three employees are generally required to obtain workers' compensation insurance in accordance with the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. A business that only maintains one employee is required to carry workers' compensation insurance if that employee works around radiation. The types of businesses that must follow this legal requirement include sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies.

Certain types of businesses or employers may be exempt from the requirement to carry workers' compensation insurance for some of their workers. These workers include domestic servants who are employed by a household, workers on certain railroads and workers deemed casual employees. The operators of a farm are also not required to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage for up to 10 farm laborers.

North Carolina chemical spill affects 8 people

A chemical spill at a North Carolina cleaning company sickened eight people Sept. 22. The spill forced the evacuation of five businesses and caused a local school to be placed under lockdown.

Authorities said people in the area around 205 McDuffie St. in Fayetteville began calling 911 around 9:30 a.m., reporting nausea, burning eyes and headaches. Responding emergency crews determined the cause of the irritation was vapor from ethyl acrylate, a highly flammable chemical found in textiles and latex paints. Employees from a tanker cleaning company released the vapor into the air when they began cleaning a tanker.

Fatal work zone crash in North Carolina

On Sept. 19 at approximately 4:30 a.m., three construction workers were paving Interstate 40 in Morgantown. The construction site was in an area near Highway 18. A westbound 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by a 37-year-old man allegedly hit all three workers, according to North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers. He was traveling in the lane that was closed for construction at the time of the accident.

One worker, age 43, was pronounced dead at the scene. A 34-year-old worker suffered serious injuries and was transported to Carolinas Medical Center. The third worker, who was 24, was transported to Grace Hospital for treatment of his injuries. He was later released. Alcohol and speed have both been ruled out as a possible cause of the accident. According to troopers, the reason why the pickup driver was in the closed lane is still unknown and the investigation is ongoing. The case was scheduled for presentation by the NCHP to the district attorney on Sept. 22.

Federal employees' rights in regard to workplace safety

North Carolina residents might not be aware of the serious ramifications of workplace accidents involving federal employees. According to the United States Department of Labor, thousands of federal workers are killed, injured or become ill each year as a result of work-related incidents.

While the total personal costs tied to these incidents is incalculable, one way to quantify the damages associated with such accidents is to look at the amount of compensation injured employees received via workers' compensation. For instance, in 2004, workers' compensation billings for federal employees nationwide totaled more than $2.3 billion, according to federal authorities.

North Carolina trooper injured in vehicle pursuit

Police in North Carolina are seeking a motorcyclist who reportedly refused to stop for a trooper on Sept. 1. The incident occurred on Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, and the pursuing trooper suffered a work injury after he was said to have lost control of his cruiser.

The events reportedly unfolded when the trooper attempted to pull over a motorcycle that was allegedly being operated in a careless and reckless manner. However, the motorcycle's rider failed to pull over as directed to by the trooper, and a chase ensued. According to various reports, the trooper lost control of his cruiser as the two vehicles approached the intersection of Lake Wheeler Road and Interstate 40. The trooper found his path blocked by a passenger vehicle turning onto Lake Wheeler Road from the interstate, and he struck the median as he attempted to avoid a collision.

Preventing workplace accidents in North Carolina

For many workers, going to work can prove fatal. Even though the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health reported there were 83 employees who died in workplace accidents in North Carolina in 2011, a report from the North Carolina Department of Labor reflects only 53 fatalities that year. The contradiction proves that a lack of safety exists in many workplace environments.

For the benefit of workers who are injured in workplace accidents, state law requires all business owners to purchase workers' compensation insurance coverage. Surprisingly, many companies in the state were reported to be without the insurance. By refusing to comply with the law, companies could face penalties, including incarceration.

Understanding workers' compensation benefits

The purpose of workers' compensation is to provide financial support for individuals who have been injured or become ill in connection with their work. Each state, including North Carolina, has its own workers' compensation laws that set forth coverage and other matters.

In general, workers' compensation covers any work-related illness or injury, including work injuries that are the result of either an employee's or employer's carelessness. However, there are some exceptions. States have the latitude to compel an injured worker to submit to alcohol and drug testing and can then deny compensation to employees whose test results show that they were under the influence when the incident occurred.

Workers' compensation in North Carolina

If you are a North Carolina worker who has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits designed to pay your medical bills and replace a portion of your wages that are lost as a result of missing work. If someone other than your employer was responsible for your accident, you also may be able to sue the responsible party. Workers' compensation laws prohibit you from suing your employer in most cases, but they do not prevent you from suing a third party who contributed to your accident.

Certain occupations are more likely to suffer injuries on the job, such as construction and manufacturing. If you have suffered a work injury, you could be out of work for an extended period of time. In most cases, workers' compensation will pay for your medical treatment in addition to a disability payment based on your salary and a disability rating.


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The Law Offices of
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The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Hickory, NC 28601

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Hickory, NC 28603

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