Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation/Work Injury

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For years, courts in Alabama held that workers who suffer a job-related injury may not collect compensation for attendant care by family members if it does not serve to improve the disabled employee’s condition. When it serves only to prescribe the facility of independent functioning, the courts held it’s generally not covered, unless it serves to prevent the deterioration of one’s condition. businesshandshake

That changed in 2008 with the decision in Ex parte Mitchell, when the Alabama Supreme Court held this was too restrictive and not in line with legislative intent. Therefore, care that serves to prevent deterioration and preserve function is also covered.

Our Birmingham work injury lawyers understand this was what was at issue before the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals in the case of Alabama Forest Products Industry Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurer’s Fund v. Harris, an appeal that arose from the Marengo Circuit Court.

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Workers can successfully file a Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation claim in most every case where an injury has occurred on the job (or in the course of employment).
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One of the few instances in which employers can rightfully deny a claim for benefits is when the injury was intentionally self-inflicted. In this situations, it all comes down to the intent of the worker, and the onus is on the employer to prove intent.

This was the issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in the case of Smith v. Tippah Electric Power Association. Despite this being an out-of-state case, the same general principles are applicable.

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Workers who sustain on-the-job injuries must be careful to provide ample documentation and proof regarding the cause, particularly when older injuries come into play. drywallmess.jpg

Our Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorneys recognize that when insurers and/or employers can’t refute the seriousness of the injury, they may attempt to argue the source.

When old work injuries are exacerbated by new work injuries, they are compensable. Even when a non-related injury is exacerbated by a work injury, it may be compensable, but the amount you can collect could be diminished.

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A pair of decisions out of the Arkansas Supreme Court recently illustrates how companies will go to great lengths to fight rolledcigarette.jpgworkers’ compensation claims.

This is as true in Alabama as it is in Arkansas, and despite the differing jurisdictions, our Birmingham workers’ compensation lawyers know that the issues presented in these cases are highly relevant here as well.

The cases involve two separate employees and two separate appeals, but both were involved in the same accident at the same company. The first case is Prock v. Bull Shoals Boat Landing and the second is Edmisten v. Bull Shoals Landing.

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The Supreme Court of Alabama recently affirmed a county circuit court’s decision in the workers’ compensation case of David Vinson, Jr. v. G & R Mineral Services, Inc..
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Our Birmingham workers’ compensation lawyers recognize that the primary issue in this case was whether the defendant was in fact the worker’s employer, or whether it was a “special employer” (as opposed to a “general employer”), which would make the firm immune from liability.

Per the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, a company is deemed a special employer when it is the co-employer of the injured worker. It’s sometimes referred to as the “loaned servant doctrine,” wherein one employer assigns its employee to perform services for another employer. In these situations, the employer who assigns the worker is the “general employer,” while the employer to whom the employee was assigned in a “special employer.”

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In filing a Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation claim, employees need to be mindful of the fact that their medical history could become a significant matter for the court’s consideration. bulldozer.jpg

In securing workers’ compensation, it is key to establish that not only did you suffer a job-related injury, but that this injury was disabling to some extent and that the work injury was the sole cause of that disability – or at least that it was a significant contributing factor.

Such was the challenge for the plaintiff in Gore v. Lafarge North America Inc., whose Shelby Circuit Court complaint was recently reviewed by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

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There were close to 500 workers killed in the agriculture sector in 2012. The fatality rate in this industry is more than 21 per 100,000 full-time equivalent worker, which is the highest fatality rate of any sector. In addition to these fatalities, there were close to 48,500 workers injured in 2011.
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According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are more than 2 million people who are employed in the agricultural industry in the U.S. Those who work and farm are at serious risks for critical injuries, death, work-related lung diseases, cancer, skin diseases, noise-induced hearing loss and even heat exposure.

farm accidents in Alabama are an all-too-common threat during harvest season. The number one cause of death for farmworkers between 1992 and 2009 was tractor overturns. These accidents account for more than 90 fatalities each and every year. Each day, there are close to 250 farm workers who suffer from a serious injury and are forced to take time away from work. About 5 percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.

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Amputation injuries in the U.S. have been on the rise over the past decade, as numerous veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are survivors who have lost limbs in the course of their service.
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But our Alabama personal injury lawyers know that veterans aren’t the only ones who have been at high risk. Those involved in certain types of motor vehicle accidents (particularly motorcycle wrecks) have had to endure such injury, as have those who have suffered on-the-job injuries – particularly in fields that require the routine use of industrialized, mechanical equipment.

For example, recently in Missouri a glass manufacturing firm was cited by inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration after an employee suffered a finger amputation while repairing a machine. Investigators would later learn that the incident stemmed from the employer’s failure to shut off power to certain energy sources before the maintenance was initiated. OSHA called the oversight “unacceptable,” and fined the firm $137,000.

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Every year in this country, dozens of construction workers are killed in scaffolding accidents and hundreds are injured, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, falls from scaffolds account for nearly a quarter of all fatal falls in work settings, with suspension scaffolds involved in 3 out of 10 incidents. scaffoldingsil.jpg

Our Birmingham injury lawyers understand that nearly three-quarters of all injury-causing scaffold accidents are attributed to one of three things: The employee slipped, the support or planking gave way or the worker or scaffolding was struck by a falling object.

The fact is, every one of these scenarios is 100 percent avoidable if a construction company is abiding by standards set forth by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

And yet, they continue to happen.

Just recently, the National Safety Council released a case study in which a company president had been forwarded a photograph of a work site from a client who had concerns about certain aesthetic aspects of the project. What the client didn’t realize – but the president recognized immediately – was that the photograph revealed numerous safety violations happening on the site. All of them had to do with the potential for worker falls, but one of the most concerning was with regard to an employee seen on scaffolding.

The worker was putting up a concrete pillar. The scaffold is nearly 20 feet high, which exceeded the regulatory 4:1 height-to base-ratio. Further, the employee isn’t in any way restrained. As if this weren’t enough, there is no access ladder or midrails. What the president immediately recognized was that this particular scaffold had neither been erected nor inspected by a person who was competent to do so.

Without enough guard railing, this worker could have easily fallen from the scaffold. And failure to abide by certain safety standards meant the structure was at an increased risk of toppling.

OSHA General Requirements 1926.451(c)(1) specifically outlines the requirements for scaffold height to base ratios. It requires that any scaffold with a higher height-to-base ratio has to be prevented from tipping by bracing, tying or guying the locations where horizontal members support both the inner and outer legs.

There are other stipulations as well, but none were followed in this case. The president forwarded the photograph to his safety director. As it turned out, the on-site supervisor did not have the proper training necessary to best ensure job site safety.

This is not a unique situation, and it’s a major reason we continue to see such scaffolding accidents on construction job sites across Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to fall accidents, top causes of construction accidents include workers who are struck by objects or equipment and transportation accidents. While an injured employer will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the wake of a work accident, in many cases a third-party liability lawsuit should also be pursued against a subcontractor, vendor, manufacturer, property owner or other at-fault party.

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Many of us drive for work. In fact, transportation accidents are the leading cause of fatal job accidents in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Transportation accidents were responsible for 1,795 of the nation’s 4,551 workplace deaths in 2010, accounting for one-third of all deaths on the job. 1114180_-_im_still_mobile_-.jpg

In such cases, an injury lawyer in Tuscaloosa should have significant experience in handling work place injury cases, as well as personal injury claims and car accidents. And, if you drive for work, you should know how important it is to carefully review your insurance policies and to understand the coverage available in the event of an accident. In Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Thomas, The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Eastern Division certified two questions of first impression to the Alabama Supreme Court:

1) Whether Nationwide could enforce a coverage exclusion clause in a car insurance policy for transporting people or delivering newspapers as part of the insured’s job.

2) Whether the exclusion applied after the last paper was delivered but while employee was still driving as part of the job.

The case arose when Scott and Lori Touart Thomas were injured in an accident at 5:30 a.m. in October 2009. The dispute involved whether the couple could recover from Nationwide, which had insured Kenneth Gene Gooden Jr., who was not delivering newspapers at the time the policy was issued in 2007 but who subsequently began delivering newspapers for the Birmingham News. The policy excluded coverage for transportation of property or individuals for hire. The only factual dispute was whether Gooden had finished delivering newspapers at the time of the accident, which occurred in the area of his child’s daycare.

The Alabama Supreme Court found such an exclusion could be enforced as long as it was determined that Gooden was delivering “property for a fee,” but would not be enforceable after the last paper was delivered. Nat. Mut. Ins. v. Thomas, –So. 3d. –, 2012 WL 3631158 (Ala. 2012).

The issue of auto insurance when driving for work is a significant one. In some cases, you are required to notify your auto insurer that you will be traveling for work — and this may result in an increase in your premium. Whether you are classified as an employee or independent contractor is also critical. In many cases, an employer may try to classify you as an independent contractor, which can also leave you without coverage under Alabama workers’ compensation laws.

Knowing whether you are covered by workers’ compensation and/or your automobile insurance policy, is critical for people who drive for a living, since driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the job.