Recently in Workers' Compensation/Work Injury Category

Intentional Work Injuries Not Compensable in Alabama

April 8, 2014

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).
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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Tuscaloosa Work Injury Claim: Previous Injuries Can Factor

March 23, 2014

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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Workers' Compensation Claims in Alabama Complicated by Drug Use

March 11, 2014

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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David Vinson, Jr. v. G & R Mineral Services, Inc. - Establishing Employer-Employee Relationship in Workers' Compensation Claim

February 15, 2014

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..
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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Gore v. Lafarge North America Inc. - Establishing Alabama Work Injury As Disability Cause

December 14, 2013

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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Ag Accidents an Autumn Risk in Alabama

October 29, 2013

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.
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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Alabama Amputation Risk Higher in Certain Jobs

September 23, 2013

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.
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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Birmingham Construction Injuries and Scaffolding Dangers

January 28, 2013

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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Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Thomas: Car Accidents on the Job in Alabama

September 5, 2012

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.

Alabama Work Accidents, Workers' Compensation & Third-Party Liability

August 24, 2012

Our Tuscaloosa workers' compensation lawyers are often ask by people injured on the job about the avenues for collecting compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other damages. Sometimes, a victim wishes to sue an employer or former employer, which is generally not possible. Others believe workers' compensation is the only avenue of recovery available, which is also incorrect.

Workers' compensation insurance is carried by your employer and is designed to compensate those who become injured on the job, regardless of fault. In what's known as the "compensation bargain," your coverage under workers' compensation laws means you forfeit your right to sue for the tort of negligence.

However, that does not mean that workers' compensation is an injured employee's only avenue of compensation. A third-party liability claim may be filed against a party other than the victim's employer in cases where negligence led to an accident.

This is important because, while workers' compensation is designed to pay medical bills and lost wages for a period of time after an accident, it will not compensate for pain and suffering or pay punitive damages to a victim who is seriously injured or killed as a result of a negligent party.

Those in the transportation, construction and utility industries face some of the highest accident risks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most commercial loads are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Cargo Securement Rules. These requirements dictate all loads must be able to withstand deceleration or acceleration forces of between .5 and .8g from forward, rearward and lateral directions.

The rules also address marked and unmarked tiedowns, anchor points, and other placement and restraint requirements. Additional rules exist for logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, automobiles, roll-on containers, boulders, gases and hazardous materials.

In Alabama work-safety news, Scholar Craft Products Inc, was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which recently charged that the company had 25 health and safety violations at its Birmingham furniture plant during a recent inspection. The company is accused of exposing workers to combustible dust and other hazards. It has 15 days to contest the allegations, as well as the proposed $94,500 in fines.

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Work Accidents in Tuscaloosa and Elsewhere Targeted through Month-Long NSC Campaign

June 5, 2012

For the entire month of June, officials with the National Safety Council (NSC) are promoting National Safety Month.

Our Tuscaloosa workers' compensation attorneys understand that there are small steps that we can all take to help to reduce our risks of injury -- both on and off the job.

Officials with the NSC will be featuring safety topics throughout the month. Follow along and work toward a safer time both at work and off the job.
Here's the setup for the month-long campaign:

-June 3rd - 9th: Employee Wellness

-June 10th - 16th: Ergonomics

-June 17th - 23rd: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

-June 24th - 30th: Driving Safety

This annual observance is used to educate and encourage safe behaviors to help to reduce the risks of work accidents in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere. This year's campaign is encouraging safe behavior -- all day every day. Each week will be dedicated to a different type of injury, ones that are all too frequent in our everyday lives. Review each week's materials to help to reduce your risks of needless and preventable injuries.

The first week of the campaign is being used to help to improve the overall health of workers nationwide. From the 3rd through the 9th, officials are urging workers to make the proper changes to eat better and to get more exercise to help to reduce the risks of accidents on the job.

During the second week of the campaign, from the 10th through the 16th, officials will be looking at ergonomics and the simple ways to reduce strain and the risks of injury in the workplace. Ergonomics is described as the proper way of designing a workplace to make jobs run as smoothly and injury-free as possible.

The third week of the month-long campaign, from the 17th to the 23rd, is being used to help to prevent slips, trips and falls. Most of these kinds of accidents are in fact preventable. More victims attribute these accidents to being clumsy. But the truth of the matter is that there are many other factors that play into these kinds of accidents. Every year, there are nearly 9 million people who visit an emergency room because of a fall-related accident. These accidents are the number one cause of unintentional injury across the country.

The last week of the campaign, from the 24th through the 30th, will be used to help encourage safer habits behind the wheel for driving employees. Driving is one of the most dangerous activities that we'll do each day. As traffic increases on our roadways through the summer months, drivers are asked to keep distractions at bay, to always buckle up and to practice cautious and courteous driving to help to reduce risks of an accident.

By making a few small changes, we can all work to make every day safe on the job. Most accidents are preventable and we have to power to stop them from happening. Review the NSC's National Safety Month campaign to help to increase your safety on and off the job!

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Judicial Review in Workers' Compensation Cases Discussed in Gilmore v. Director, Department of Labor

April 9, 2012

The law surrounding workers' compensation (WC) for federal employees is very complex. In many cases, a federal employee's initial application for WC can mean the difference between receiving benefits or not. This is why it is so important to complete your workers' compensation petition properly.
1339419_washington_dc_capitol.jpgOur experienced Tuscaloosa Workers' Compensation Attorneys understand how important this is, and we can help protect your rights at each stage of the process.

Gilmore v. Director, Department of Labor is an 11th Circuit workers' compensation case that centers on jurisdiction and the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). "FECA is a comprehensive and exclusive workers' compensation scheme for federal civilian employees who are injured or killed while performing their work duties. " Gilmore v. Director, Department of Labor, No. 11-12747 (11th Cir. Feb. 6, 2012); see also Nobel v. United States, 216 F.3d 1229, 1234 (11 Cir. 2000).

The benefits awarded under this program include wage-loss benefits, monetary benefits, medical benefits and vocational rehabilitation. Additionally, there is a provision which provides benefits to dependents of an employee who died because of work-related injuries. The Secretary of Labor (Secretary) is responsible for deciding all of the questions surrounding the FECA but has delegated this authority to the Office of Workers' Compensation Program (OWCP).

All U.S. civilian employees who are paid with appropriated funds are covered by this FECA. With the addition of certain amendments coverage is extended to volunteers from the Peace Corps and VISTA; federal petit or grand jurors; Civil Air Patrol volunteer members, cadets of the Reserve Officer Training Corp; and non-federal law enforcement officers.

In order to comply with the requirements of the FECA, the injured employee or the deceased employee's estate must provide medical and factual evidence that the work accident occurred; that there was a diagnosis of a medical condition associated with the work related accident and injuries; the employee was performing their job duties when the work related accident occurred; and there must be a causal link between the work related injury and/or accident and the medical diagnosis.

If you are a federal employee who has been involved in a work-related injury, you must immediately notify your employer. Then, you must complete a written report specified by the Department of Labor and furnish this to your supervisor. If your injury is traumatic and you need further medical treatment, you must first obtain authorization for the additional treatment from your supervisor. Additionally, if you do suffer a traumatic injury, you must furnish your supervisor with medical evidence of your disability within days of your petition for pay continuation.

It is important to get the advice of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to understand what the statute of limitations is in your case, and other critical factors. The FECA sets time limits by which certain actions must be taken.

Gilmore is important because it reminds the reader that any decisions made by the Secretary or any appointed Board cannot be reviewed by an outside court. The only exceptions to this rule is where there is a clear statute that has been violated by Secretary or any appointed Board and where there is a valid constitutional claim against the process of determination. This is very important because your initial application for benefits under FECA must be done correctly in order for you to receive the benefits you deserve.

Gilmore (plaintiff) was a federal employee who was injured on the job. He applied for benefits consistent with FECA. The Workers' Compensation Board (Board) was presented with all of the factual and medical evidence. Upon the review of this information, the Board made a decision that the plaintiff was not entitled to back pay and interest. Plaintiff then argued that because of the rejection by the Board, he suffered a deprivation of property. He further contends that this deprivation of property was a violation of his substantive and procedural due process rights therefore invoking the constitutional exception to the general rule of judicial review. Therefore he sought the review of the Boards decision by the Eleventh Circuit.

The court held that the Board's rejection of plaintiff's petition was based on a reconsideration of the facts presented and therefore, immune from judicial review. Furthermore, the court said that the necessary requirements of due process are that the party be provided with notice of any impending hearing and an opportunity to be heard at a "meaningful time and in a meaningful manner." Plaintiff had an opportunity to present his arguments at the appropriate time; therefore, plaintiff could not show that he was deprived of his right to notice or a hearing.

For the reasons discussed above, the court found that the judicial system did not have jurisdiction over the case and the case was dismissed.

In federal workers' compensation cases, the Board and Director responsible for making a determination on your claim have a significant amount of power. Having the requisite information presented in the proper manner is essential to receiving the benefits you are entitled to.

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Construction Zones are Dangerous for Motorists and Workers

February 28, 2012

Our Alabama workers' compensation and personal injury lawyers understand that construction zones are dangerous for both motorists and workers, especially when people aren't paying attention. According to The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, there were more than 575 people killed in work zones in the U.S. in 2009. Alabama sees nearly a dozen of these kinds of fatalities a year. Of the nationwide fatalities, nearly 50 of the 575 were the result of a pedestrian accident involving a pedestrian and a vehicle or a piece of mobile equipment.

Last year, released a statement discussing the importance of driver attention and worker protection in our nation's work zones. The organization asked motorists to practice safe driving in these areas to help protect our roadside workers. Motorists are asked to slow it down, to be cautious on uneven pavement, to abide by posted work zone signs, to stay away from workers and work zone equipment, to keep an eye out for other drivers and to expect the unexpected. Employers are asked to ensure that workers have all of the proper safety equipment to help to reduce the risks of these accidents. With cautious travel and safe working habits, we can all do our part to help to stop these kinds of accidents.

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State Stops to Remember those Lost in Brookwood, Alabama Mining Accident

October 11, 2011

Just a decade ago, more than a dozen coal miners were killed because of multiple explosions that happened during the Jim Walter Resources coal mine accident in Brookwood, Alabama.

The disaster is the most catastrophic mining accident that happened in the U.S. in the last 20 years. The explosions were caused by methane gas, which is a common danger underground, according to NPR. One miner was trapped alone after the first explosion. A dozen rescuers were killed in a second explosion.
Our Tuscaloosa workers compensation attorneys understand how dangerous mining work can be. Mine owners have an obligation to keep work sites safe for employees. The properties have to be secure for all others who may visit, regardless of whether they're entering the mine or not.

After the accident was examined, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) hit the mining company with nearly $450,000 in fines. These fines were later reduced to $5,000.

"It's worth remembering that the Bush administration's response to Brookwood was to proceed to dismantle the regulatory safety net intended to protect our nation's coal miners," said Ken Ward in the Charleston Gazette

The late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), commented an all too familiar pattern following mining accidents. He said first comes the disaster, then comes the mourning and then comes the public outrage. Lastly, he said that when all the cameras and the publicity is gone, the miners are tossed right back into the dangerous and uncorrected work sites.

To help to change this pattern and to recognize those who we have lost in the mining industry, leaders and residents recently gathered for the "Alabama Coal Miners in Remembrance of Fallen Miners" ceremony that was held at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Visitors sang songs, held candles and released doves throughout the spiritual ceremony to remember these 13 miners lost just 10 years ago. Siran Stacy, former Crimson Tide football star, and Cecil Roberts, the President of United Mine Workers of America, spoke at the ceremony.

According to SciVerse, there were more than 31,000,000 workdays lost because of injuries resulting from mining work in the U.S. from 1983 to 2004.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 50 mining-related work fatalities in 2006 in the U.S. This was up nearly 25 deaths from the average of 2003 to 2005.

Mining accidents that killed more than one worker at a time accounted for the fatalities of more than 20 of these workers. More than 30 of these fatalities were in bituminous coal underground mining. It's no surprise that fire and explosions were the most common cause of fatal accidents during the year. They took the lives of more than 15 workers. The second leading cause for mining deaths was contact with objects which took about 10 lives, followed by about 5 transportation incidents. There have been nearly 40 work-related accidents among miners in Alabama since 2000.

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UAB Workplace Safety Center Works to Prevent On the Job Accidents

October 10, 2011

Workplace injuries and accidents kill about 4,500 people a year - 15 so far this year in Alabama - and cost U.S. businesses billions.

Elizabeth Maples is the deputy director for the Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Ryals School of Public Health. It is one of 17 national academic research and teaching centers chartered by the legislation that created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") in 1971. The center offers graduate-level courses on how to identify, prevent and fix workplace hazards.

"Others include Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, the University of South Florida and the University of Washington," Maples said. "We are in good company."

Students at the center learn about workplace hazards, physical hazards and stress factors. Maples noted that the aging workforce is a critical component that is changing traditional thinking regarding workplace hazards. Maples also said that "OSHA can't be everywhere, all the time. Some companies and workers do very well, others not so well. But the point is to go beyond just what is required by OSHA. It is all about creating a culture of safety."

Source: The Birmingham News