Archive for the ‘Workers’ Compensation’ Category

Workers Compensation for Undocumented Workers, Part 3: Handling Challenging Claims

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This is Part 3 of our series on workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants. You can find links to the entire series here.

It is not unusual for undocumented workers to use a pseudonym, or false name, when seeking employment. In fact, it’s not unusual for several people to share the same pseudonym.

It’s important your attorney know if you used a pseudonym for employment or medical treatment. It could complicate your case, but it does not mean you are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits for medical treatment.

Attorneys are ethically prohibited from including a false name on a Form 18, which is used to report a workplace injury to the N.C. Industrial Commission and the employer. That’s why it’s important that our clients tell us if they have used someone else’s name, birth date or documentation to get a job or medical care.

Sometimes, if a pseudonym is being used for medical treatment by multiple people, many health care providers will flag this as fraud and will not turn over the medical records. If they do release the records, questions can arise about whether medical treatment was obtained by the injured worker or someone else using the same name and birth date.

We have dealt with these issues before, and we’ve been successful in navigating the complications that arise when someone uses a psuedonym.

At the Deuterman Law Group, we pursue all avenues to obtain our clients’ complete and accurate medical records and other evidence necessary to litigate claims. We don’t just work the telephones or email; we have even driven to medical providers’ offices in the past to get the appropriate records!

Language barriers in Workers’ Comp Cases

As I mentioned earlier in this series, our workers’ compensation team speaks fluent Spanish, and they are uniquely qualified to cater to the Hispanic population.

Language and cultural barriers can cause lots of problems in workers’ compensation cases. It’s not unusual for these issues to lead to inaccurate reports in medical records, accident reports and other documents.

If that’s the situation in your case, don’t worry. All hope is not lost. When working with our Spanish-speaking clients, we take the time to ask about and investigate inaccuracies. Our goal is to find out how these inaccuracies happened and to find a logical explanation to preserve your claim.

All of our clients have the opportunity to meet with an attorney at the start of their claim. From the very beginning, we will address any immediate issues in the claim. We will go over basics of workers’ compensation and outline your responsibilities and ours throughout the claim. We don’t want you to be surprised by anything that happens as your case progresses.

As mentioned previously, one of the issues we will deal with when handling an undocumented worker’s claim is whether to disclose that person’s immigration status. Anything you tell your attorney or paralegal about your immigration status is confidential. You can read more about how immigration status affects a workers’ comp claim here.

Many insurance adjusters will ask the injured worker about their immigration status in a recorded statement. Many times, these interviews are conducted before the injured worker hires an attorney.

We recommend that injured workers do not participate in a recorded statement before talking to an attorney.

At the Deuterman Law Group, we take seriously our role as your advocate. We prepare our clients to make a recorded statement by telling them what to expect and informing them of common questions asked during these interviews.

Talking to an attorney before giving a recorded statement is especially important for injured workers who do not speak English.

While the insurance company should provide an interpreter, many adjusters will conduct the recorded statement in English. As you can imagine, this can cause all sorts of problems.

Even if an interpreter is provided, we don’t advise our clients to use the one hired by the insurance company.

When our clients are providing a recorded statement, we will also provide an interpreter from our office. It is not uncommon for an interpreter to have a different dialect and completely misinterpret something. An English speaker would not have someone filtering his responses, so we will not let the interpreter filter for our Spanish-speaking clients either.

Our attorneys actively participate when clients provide a recorded statement to an adjuster. We will object to issues with the interpreter and also to any questions about immigration status.

 

Workers’ Compensation for Undocumented Workers, Part 2: Your Rights Under NC Law

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This is Part 2 of our series on workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants. You can find links to the entire series here.

North Carolina is home to about 250,000 undocumented immigrants, who represent more than 5 percent of the state’s labor force.

These workers are entitled to the same legal protections as anyone else if they get hurt on the job. But fear and intimidation prevent many of these undocumented workers from reporting their injuries and seeking the medical treatment and compensation they need and rightfully deserve.

Your immigration status has no bearing on your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina. That’s the truth, no matter what anyone else has told you, including your boss or your coworkers.

Your right to workers’ compensation – including payment for lost wages and medical treatment – is spelled out in state law.

If you are undocumented and living and working in North Carolina, your fear of deportation is very real. We understand that you may not want to rock the boat or risk leaving the life you’ve built here by reporting that you’ve been hurt at work.

But keeping quiet will not help you heal. It will not pay your medical bills. It will not provide for your family when you’re in too much pain to work.

Please know that as your attorney, anything you tell us is confidential. That means we will not reveal your immigration status.

As for the other side in the case, legal ethics rules are also very clear. The defense attorney and the insurance carrier in your workers’ compensation case ethically cannot use information discovered in the course of the claim to report the injured worker to ICE.

However, the individuals in the claim (namely employers, particularly those who are uninsured) are not bound by these same ethical rules. We will also do everything within our legal power to make sure your employer doesn’t retaliate by reporting you to immigration officials. We won’t tolerate bullying or threats of deportation from employers who are trying to get out of paying a legitimate workers’ comp claim.

Knowing this, we understand it can be extremely stressful and frightening to file a workers’ compensation claim if you are undocumented. But trust me when I say we have lots of experience with these types of cases and many good outcomes for our clients. We also understand the cultural and language issues involved in these types of cases.

Our workers’ compensation team speaks fluent Spanish, and they are uniquely qualified to cater to the Hispanic population.

We will work hard to earn your trust and fight for your case. And we also keep you informed every step of the way, through face-to-face meetings, telephone updates or whatever method you prefer. We do not charge for these meetings or phone conferences.

We provide copies of most documents in Spanish and in English for our clients, and we do not charge our Spanish speakers for the use of an interpreter.

Please keep these things in mind as you decide whether to file a workers’ compensation claim or keep silent about your injury.

You’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring your injury and working through the pain.

This is what many employers expect you to do. Many companies knowingly hire undocumented workers as a way of avoiding their legal and moral obligation to keep their workers safe. They know many undocumented immigrants will not pursue workers’ compensation benefits because they’re afraid of being discovered.

These companies are doing something illegal, too. It is illegal for them to hire undocumented workers, but they do it anyway to keep their labor and safety costs down. These companies know it’s illegal to have an unsafe workplace, but they know many undocumented workers won’t report them.

It is a terrible cycle that victimizes undocumented workers.

North Carolina companies who have more than three employees are legally required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their entire workforce. When someone is hurt (or killed) on the job, they owe the injured worker (or their family) compensation for injuries, lost wages and medical care. Companies that break the law can face stiff fines, and their owners can face serious criminal charges.

Filing and collecting on a workers’ compensation claim can be challenging for any injured person. But it can be especially difficult for undocumented immigrants. That’s why it’s important to have an attorney and legal team whose sole focus is workers’ compensation working on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected and you get the benefits you deserve.

Workers’ Compensation for Undocumented Workers: A New Blog Series

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Today we begin a new series on the blog about the process of applying for workers’ compensation in North Carolina if you are an undocumented worker.

Despite what your employer, the insurance company or coworkers may have told you, if you are hurt at work, you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of your immigration status.  These benefits include lost wages and medical treatment, as well as death benefits for family members of workers killed on the job.

Workers’ compensation cases involving undocumented workers can be challenging, and the other side will do everything they can to deny benefits. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced team of attorneys and paralegals working on your behalf. We have an entire bilingual team here at the Deuterman Law Group who are qualified to represent undocumented workers and who will work to get them the full range of benefits they are entitled.

In this multi-part series, we will cover the following:

  • An undocumented workers’ rights under the law
  • Whether you can be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Whether you can be deported for filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • How immigration status affects a workers’ compensation claim</li>
  • Your rights to an interpreter in court and for medical appointments
  • What happens if you’ve worked using a different name or a borrowed Social Security number
  • Where to get medical treatment if you’ve been injured on the job
  • The importance of medical treatment
  • What to do if the company denies you are an employee
  • Determining whether you were an employee or an independent contractor
  • What happens if your employer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance
  • The role of our firm investigator plays in collecting evidence for your workers’ comp claim
  • How to prove employment when no official records exist
  • What to expect during a workers’ compensation claim hearing or mediation
  • Death benefits available to the families of workers killed on the job
  • Wrapping up your claim and collecting your benefits

 

Surveillance Not Uncommon in Workers’ Compensation Cases

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surveillance in workers compensation

Private investigators and hidden camera surveillance might seem like the stuff of suspenseful TV shows.

But getting “caught” on camera can be a concern in a workers’ compensation case.

In fact, it’s much more common than you might think. A worker gets hurt at work and sees a doctor. The doctor gives the worker restrictions and says, “These are the things you are not supposed to do or else you could hurt yourself. Don’t do these things and you will get better.”

The worker goes about their life, and their case progresses towards a mediation.

Then the worker and their attorney get to mediation and the attorney for the employer and insurance company pulls up a video that the insurance company claims to show the employee doing things that they were not supposed to do. The case is now in trouble.

In workers’ compensation, we call this surveillance.

Insurance companies routinely hire private investigators to video a hurt worker in the hopes that they will “catch” them doing something that is inconsistent with the restrictions the doctors set.

Even if you think you’re aware of your surroundings and that you would know if you were being watched, that’s often not the case.

A good private investigator is invisible and if they do their job well they stay that way.

I’ve seen video taken from a private investigator in a car, in a van, and even posing as a customer in a restaurant. And in this day in age where everyone has a mobile phone with a built-in video camera, you’re probably not even aware of how often in a day you could potentially be on camera. (You should also be careful about what you share on social media because those posts could be used against you, as well.)

Clients have asked me, “Is this legal? He filmed me at MY house and when I was in my yard!”

The answer is yes, it is legal.

It’s legal for anyone to videotape you in your yard, or anywhere else in public view. There is no expectation of privacy when you are in view of the public.
Clients have also said to me, “But I wasn’t doing anything outside my restrictions and the investigator’s report says that I was lifting or carrying more than my restrictions without any apparent difficulty. How would they know that?”

It is very easy for an investigator who was hired by an insurance company to say that you “appear” to be doing something outside your restrictions, or that you were lifting, carrying or walking without any apparent difficulty. We see those types of phrases in investigators’ reports all the time.

While we can always argue that the investigator is biased or just plain wrong, it’s much easier if we simply don’t have to make these arguments.

So, what does this mean to your case as an injured worker?

Does it mean you can’t live your life or that you should be paranoid about everyone around you? Draw the curtains at home and never go out? No.

It means you should be mindful of your surroundings and made sure you are following your doctor’s restrictions all the time regardless of where you are.

That means that if you have a lifting restriction of 20 pounds that you should not be trying to carry in that 40-pound bag of dog food from the store.

If you aren’t supposed to be standing more than 15 minutes at a time then at 16 minutes you should be finding a chair at the church luncheon.

Following your doctor’s restrictions all the time — both inside and outside of work — will not only help keep your worker’s compensation case on track, it will also help you heal and get better faster.

If you think you might be under surveillance on your workers’ compensation claim and you would like help, please contact us as soon as possible.

Your social media posts may impact your workers’ comp or injury case

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social media and injury cases“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

If you’ve watched any cop shows or movies, you’re probably familiar with those words. While Miranda rights only apply in criminal cases, those words are true even in civil cases.

What you say to the insurance adjuster, to your friends, coworkers and family members and even online on social media, can effect the outcome of your personal injury case or workers’ compensation claim. This applies to statements that seem to have little to do with your auto accident or injury.

The insurance company is looking for ways to discredit you and for reasons to deny your claim. Often, plaintiffs unwittingly give them the legal ammunition to do so with things they say off the cuff or online or without an attorney present.

Our advice is always that our clients should not talk to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. Also, be careful about what you share online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and other social networks, and also with whom you share that information.

A recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals sets a relatively low bar for authenticating information posted on social media.

The case in question, State v. Ford, was a criminal case, but what it says about social media evidence could also impact civil court cases, including workers’ compensation and auto accident claims.

The case involved a pit bull that attacked and killed a man living next door to the dog and its owner. Evidence was admitted in his criminal trial of a MySpace account that contained photos of the defendant and of the dog. Also admitted at trial were posts about the aggressive nature of the dog.

The defendant, who was the owner of the dog, was convicted, but appealed arguing the state had failed to prove he actually posted the photos and captions himself. His attorneys argued that the court should have provided additional evidence, such as the IP address where the photos and captions were posted. But the appeals court ruled the evidence presented was sufficient.

If you read the case, there was substantial other evidence conclusively linking the dog to the owner and the mauling, and the social media accounts were only one part of the prosecution’s case. But the gist of the ruling about social media is clear: The burden to authenticate social media is really low and can be based on purely circumstantial evidence.

So, anything posted on your account could be used against you.

We always warn our clients to be careful about postings on social media, and this ruling brings it home that a social media account can be incredibly harmful to your case.

In legal proceedings, information is power. If you start essentially giving that away by over sharing or publishing too many details of your life on social media, you are giving away the power you have in the case, to some degree.

Some things you should keep in mind if you have an ongoing workers’ comp or personal injury case:

  • When you talk to other people about your injury, they can be called to testify. Hearsay rules do not apply to statements made by plaintiffs in civil cases.
  • The only person who cannot be called to testify is your spouse. Coworkers, friends, neighbors, the guy at the convenience store and anyone else you talk to can be called to testify.
  • Quite often, coworkers are called to testify in workers’ compensation cases, and they will be asked not only about the accident but also about things you said the accident and your injury.

The Social Media Trap

Now let’s talk specifically about social media.

We live in a world where we’re constantly connected, and lots of people share many details of their lives on social media.

If you’re injured at work or in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you don’t have to unplug from social media. But you do need to be aware of how your posts, tweets and Instagram snapshots might be used in court against you. Even the hashtags you use or the places you check in via apps like Foursquare might come into play in your case.

I’ve seen it happen with my own clients.

One client, who had an injury claim, went out to a bar with friends one night and posted about it on social media. The other side tried to use that status as evidence that his injury wasn’t as serious as he claimed and didn’t affect his daily quality of life. The rationale was that if he could enjoy a night out with friends, then he must not really be hurt.

All because of a Facebook status.

We recommend that our clients use the highest privacy setting available on social media so the things you post are only viewable by close friends and family members. Even so, you need to remember that there’s no real privacy online.

It’s very likely the insurance company and their attorneys will see what you have posted, whether they find it on their own, someone shares it with them or we’re required by the court to provide it to them.

While we don’t expect you to stop using social media, be wise about it. If you have posted something you think could be misinterpreted or used against you in your case, let us know so we can make a plan for how to deal with it.

Don’t delete those posts. Even if they disappear from your Facebook wall or your Twitter feed, they haven’t really been erased. Plus, the N.C. Bar Association has issued some specific rules about deleting social media posts. Hitting delete may cause even more problems.

The lesson here is be careful what you say – and in many cases, it may be best not to say anything at all. The more information you put out in the world, the more likely it’s going to be used against you. #truth

Beware Bad Tax Advice About Workers’ Compensation Payments

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If your tax preparer tells you that you need to claim your workers’ compensation payment as income, it’s time to find a new accountant.

Workers’ compensation benefits, whether paid as weekly checks or settlements, are NEVER taxable.

Now that tax season is in full swing, we’ve been getting calls and questions from clients who are being told otherwise by tax preparers.

The IRS is very clear about this:

Amounts you receive as workers’ compensation for an occupational sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax if they are paid under a workers’ compensation act or a statute in the nature of a workers’ compensation act. The exemption also applies to your survivors. 

There’s a reason you didn’t receive a W2 or 1099 or any other type of tax document summarizing your workers’ compensations benefits for the last year. Those payments, including settlements, temporary total disability and ratings, ARE NOT taxable.

If you’ve heard the opposite from your accountant or tax preparer, please do not file your tax returns without first talking with another financial professional or someone who is familiar with your workers’ compensation case.

Lawmakers Ask for Federal Oversight of State Workers’ Comp Programs

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Ten powerful members of Congress, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have asked the federal government to resume oversight and monitoring of workers’ compensation in the wake of drastic cuts to benefits for injured workers.

“State workers’ compensation laws are no longer providing adequate levels of support and compensation for workers injured on the job,” the lawmakers wrote. “The race to the bottom now appears to be nearly bottomless…”

Over the last decade, 33 states, including North Carolina, have cut workers’ compensation benefits, making it more difficult to qualify and giving employers more control over an injured workers’ medical care.

These so-called workers’ comp “reforms” have pushed many injured workers into poverty and have shifted the cost of caring for them to taxpayers, via Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. Meanwhile, they have enriched insurances companies and big businesses.

The cuts in workers’ comp benefits coincide with the end of federal oversight and tracking of state-run programs.

Until 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor Department tracked changes in state workers’ comp laws and failures to meet 19 “minimum and essential standards for benefits” established by a 1972 commission created by President Richard Nixon.

Unchecked and without federal accountability for 11 years, many states have bowed to influence and pressure by insurance companies and big businesses and stripped injured workers of their rights and safety net.

The letter urged the federal agency Department to strengthen its oversight of state-run workers’ comp programs.

You can read the full text of the letter here. http://bit.ly/laborletter.

According to a news report by NPR, the Labor Department said in a statement it shares the lawmakers’ concerns. “Every year injured workers and their families are bearing more and more of the cost of workplace injuries and illnesses.”

However, the agency did not outline a specific plan for addressing these issues but did indicate it will work “with stakeholders to find real solutions.”
The cuts to workers’ compensation programs in North Carolina and elsewhere will continue without strong, vocal opposition to the big business and insurance interests. We praise these lawmakers for standing up for injured people.

It’s important that we as citizens support and vote for candidates who support injured workers and stand up for their rights. Please remember that as you go to the polls.

Call N.C. Senators to Oppose Workers’ Comp Trucking Bill

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Out-of-state trucking companies want to push the cost of caring for injured truck drivers onto North Carolina taxpayers.

It’s just the latest effort by big business to destroy North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system and to gut benefits in favor of profits.

N.C. Senate Bill 205, which is currently being considered in committee but could soon be brought to a vote in the N.C. General Assembly, seeks to change how trucking companies and their employees are covered when they’re injured on the job. If this legislation passes, it puts injured truck drivers at real risk and will shift the expense of covering their injuries to taxpayers.

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations; many of the injuries are catastrophic.

A little background on how N.C. workers’ compensation laws work in regards to truck drivers:

In 2003, state law was enacted to allow allow trucking companies to cover their independent contractors in a blanket workers’ compensation policy. The law allows trucking companies to charge back the costs of that coverage to drivers, giving independent contractors coverage in the event of a wreck or other work-related injury. The N.C. Trucking Association supported this legislation.

In 2006, the statute was amended to exempt mom-and-mom trucking companies from providing this type of workers’ comp coverage when they contract with an owner/operator drivers using their own truck. The amended law is a balanced provision resulting from hours of negotiation. It was fair to small mom-and-pop trucking companies and to owner-operator drivers.

Senate Bill 205 would extend the mom-and-pop exemption to practically any operator working for an independent trucker. It undercuts the idea that all truck drivers should be covered under workers’ compensation.

Large out-of-state trucking companies have for years made efforts to push their workers’ compensation obligations off onto drivers, sub-contractors or the public. One of the ways they have done this is to substitute inferior “occupational accident” policies for workers’ compensation.

That’s what they want to do with SB 205. But these occupational accident policies are largely unregulated, notoriously difficult to deal with when claims are filed, and have widely varying provisions for medical or wage replacement coverage. As a result the cost of caring for injured truckers is shifted from industry to taxpayers.

If this legislation passes, it would lead to the misclassification of truck drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees, and leave drivers largely unprotected.

As I mentioned before, SB 205 is in committee, and our best chance of defeating this bad legislation is to stop it there before it’s sent to the full N.C. General Assembly for a vote. With the crossover deadline looming, that could happen soon.

Please reach out to the following members of the Senate Judiciary 2 Committee and let them know SB 205 is a bad idea:

Co-chair Senator Tamara Barringer
Republican – District 17
Wake
(919) 733-5653

Co-chair Senator Warren Daniel
Republican – District 46
Burke, Cleveland
(919) 715-7823

Co-chair Senator Shirley B. Randleman
Republican – District 30
Stokes, Surry, Wilkes
(919) 733-5743

Senator Stan Bingham
Republican – District 33
Davidson, Montgomery
(919) 733-5665

Senator Andy Wells
Republican – District 42
Alexander, Catawba
(919) 733-5876

Senator John M. Alexander, Jr.
Republican – District 15
Wake
(919) 733-5850
(Alexander is president of Cardinal International Trucks, a truck sales company.)

Senator Chad Barefoot
Republican – District 18
Franklin, Wake
(919) 715-3036

Senator Bill Cook
Republican – District 1
Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans
(919) 715-8293

Senator David L. Curtis
Republican – District 44
Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln
(919) 715-3038

Senator Joyce Krawiec
Republican – District 31
Forsyth, Yadkin
(919) 733-7850

Senator Jim Davis
Republican – District 50
Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain
(919) 733-5875

Senator Tom McInnis
Republican – District 25
Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly
(919) 733-5953

When you call these legislators, let them know that you are reaching out to oppose Senate Bill 205, which is in the Judiciary 2 committee. Urge them to not let big out of state trucking companies push the costs of injured drivers off on onto taxpayers.

Thanks for your prompt action on this important legislative issue.

Retailers, insurers funding campaign to gut workers’ comp benefits in NC, elsewhere

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Walmart, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Kohls and many of the nation’s largest retailers, insurers and corporations are bankrolling campaigns to change workers’ compensation laws and limit benefits nationwide. North Carolina is one of the next states they’re targeting.

According to a recent piece in Mother Jones, the corporations are funding the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC), a lobbying group. ARAWC wants to introduce so-called “reform” legislation that would allow companies to opt out of state-mandated workers’ comp programs through what’s called an “option.”

Rest assured, this option will limit injured workers’ benefits and their access to ongoing treatment for their injuries, while saving companies and their workers’ comp insurers millions.

“Employers that opt out would still be compelled to purchase workers’ comp plans,” according to the article. “But they would be allowed to write their own rules governing when, for how long, and for which reasons an injured employee can access medical benefits and wages.”

Only two states, Texas and Oklahoma, give employers the option of setting up their own workers’ comp plans, outside of the state system.  ARAWC has already helped write legislation to make an “option” the law in Tennessee, and the group’s executive director has said the goal is to change workers’ comp laws in every state.

These option plans do not provide the same protections and level of benefits for injured workers. 

Businesses can save millions of dollars by opting out and writing plans with narrow benefits, putting pressure on their competitors to do the same. “It creates a race to the bottom,” says Michael Clingman, a workers’ advocate in Oklahoma, which passed an opt-out measure in January 2014. The state’s oil and gas industry, along with major retailers, such as the craft store chain Hobby Lobby, pushed hard for the change—with help from a lobbyist, Steve Edwards, who now heads ARAWC’s legislative strategy. Dillard’s, a department store chain with 10 locations in Oklahoma, took advantage of the change by requiring workers to report injuries before the end of their shift to be eligible for workers’ comp. Walmart and Dillard’s declined to comment for this article.

We are expecting ARAWC to target North Carolina’s workers’ comp laws soon by introducing more “reform” legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly. ARAWC has already hired lobbyists in our state to push the “option” model with conservative legislators, according to Mother Jones. Since there’s a lot of money at stake, we expect a well-financed campaign to bring a workers’ comp “option” to North Carolina.

When that happens, you’ll probably hear the other side say that employer-run workers’ comp plans will mean less tape for injured workers, shorter wait times for benefits and better medical outcomes. 

But they’ll fail to tell you that you’ll likely be unable to see the doctor of your choice and that their plan won’t pay for things like artificial limbs, hearing aids, home care, funeral expenses, or disability modifications to a home or a car for injured workers. This type of plan is especially bad for workers who are severely hurt and with injuries that cause longterm health problems and complications.

The proposed Tennessee “option” legislation would allow employers to stop paying workers’ comp benefits after only three years, even if the injured worker needs continuing medical treatment and cannot return to work.

We’ll continue to monitor this situation in North Carolina and tell you what you can do to protect workers’ rights here.

 

Hospitals Fail to Protect Nurses from Injuries

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You probably don’t think of nursing as a dangerous profession.

But each year, more than 35,000 nurses, orderlies and nurses assistants suffer back and arm injuries that are serious enough that they have to miss work, according to surveys from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A recent NPR series found that nursing employees “suffer roughly three times the rate of back and other musculoskeletal injuries as construction laborers,” all in the course of their everyday job duties — lifting and moving patients.

These are not minor injuries, but life changing ones that may require multiple surgeries and a cocktail of prescription drugs and pain medications. Many injured nurses lose their careers because of their injuries and will endure chronic pain and mobility issues for the rest of their lives.

Research has shown that there’s no safe way for nurses to move patients manually without risking serious injury to themselves. 

“The bottom line is, there’s no safe way to lift a patient manually,” William Marras, director of The Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute, which has conducted landmark studies on the issue, told NPR “The magnitude of these forces that are on your spine are so large that the best body mechanics in the world are not going to keep you from getting a back problem.”

Yet hospitals continue to stress the same safe patient handling techniques and protocols when there’s a better solution that would prevent a majority of back and arm injuries in nurses. There is equipment available to help nurses move patients safely, without risk of injury, but few hospitals are wiling to invest money in these lifts, hoists and other devices, NPR found.

And only 10 states have comprehensive programs specifically designed to protect nursing staff at hospitals. North Carolina is not one of them.

 

 One of the nurses profiled in the NPR series worked at Asheville’s Mission Hospital. Though her injury clearly happened on the job, the hospital tried to deny her workers’ compensation benefits by claiming it happened while she was at home. You can listen to that story here

Listen to the full NPR series about nurses and workplace injuries here.