Occupational Illness

blonde woman wearing blue sweater blows nose with a tissue

One of the most serious yet lesser known problems that face workers today is occupational illnesses. This is a relatively new concept to hear about, but with the technology we have today, the information is far more accessible than it ever has been before. While there are well known occupational illnesses, such as mesothelioma, there are a large number of other illnesses and cancers that have been seen over the past few years that are gaining attention. The main thing that we can use to combat occupational illness after the fact is the fight for proper compensation. While we obviously wish the illness never occurred in the first place, you should have someone on your side who can help you get what you deserve once you are diagnosed.

Back in 2013, the National Council on Occupational Health and Safety published a report that gives an overview of some of the deaths that occurred at work sites in North Carolina from the previous year. Although this publication is nearly a decade old, it is still worth mentioning because it states that the official numbers are often considerably lower than the real numbers for multiple reasons, one of which is the lack of information available on occupational disease deaths. The report states that “no database collects their names”, referring to the ones that pass from occupational illness. They explain that the vast majority of people who die from this are never recognized, but they estimate that for every worker who dies from an acute injury on the job, around ten more pass from an occupational disease. While the number may not be completely accurate, every single person who dies due to their work situation deserves to be remembered, and a workplace death warrants compensation for the family of the deceased.

Here at Collier Law Firms, we believe every workers compensation claim should be honored, including those that involve an occupational illness. These go overlooked far too often, but we will fight to make sure it isn’t. We believe that your claim is just as valid as anyone’s. You should focus on getting yourself or your family member healthy, let us handle the technicalities, and work for you. Call us for your free consultation!

My Employer Doesn’t Have Workers Comp Insurance?

black keyboard with a green file folder labelled workers' compensation fraud on top of it

A common, although horrible, tactic that we hear from employers who don’t want their workers to file for workers compensation is to tell the injured person that they don’t have or need workers compensation. This would mean that the worker is not legally covered by the company and shouldn’t file a claim either way, as it won’t result in anything. Unfortunately, this does frequently work because people aren’t aware of the workers compensation laws in North Carolina. Our advice is always to file a claim anyway, regardless of what your employer says just in case they are giving you false information whether maliciously or simply out of ignorance.

The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires all businesses that employ three or more employees to have workers compensation insurance or qualify as self-insured employers. There are exceptions, such as some agricultural workers, workers of some railways, federal government employees, and domestic workers employed directly to a household. You may also not be covered if you are considered an independent contractor. However, you also might be incorrectly labeled as one, and the North Carolina Industrial Commission may rule in your favor despite your employment label from your company.

If your employer says that they do not have workers compensation but do not fall under one of those exemptions, they may very well be breaking the law. If this is the case, they should be reported to the North Carolina Industrial Commission and dealt with through the courts. An employer found to have no workers compensation insurance when they are legally required to can result in everything from fines to prison time. It is dangerous for employers to not have workers compensation insurance for their workers, and this kind of fraud is part of an active crack down. By reporting this type of activity, you are not only helping the state, but also protecting someone else in the future from being in the same position that you are now.

If your employer tells you that they don’t have or need workers compensation insurance, give us a call at Collier Law Firm. You will receive a free consultation, and we can help you figure out whether or not this is true and legal. You deserve to have someone in your corner, and we would be honored to be those people. Give us a call today, and see what we can do to get you the compensation that you deserve.

Electrical Work

man wearing glasses and a white hard hat works on electrical outlet

If you have ever rubbed your feet on carpet and gotten a shock, you know about static electricity. Just that small amount of voltage can be enough to give you quite a jolt, and it isn’t very powerful at all. While there are stories of people surviving all kinds of shocks, such as being hit by lightning, you always want to take precautions with electricity. For every one story, there are at least three others that tell of someone who wasn’t anywhere near as lucky.

Electrocutions are considered one of the “Fatal Four” in working circles, which refers to the injuries and cause of deaths that occur most often in construction work. Considering the fact that about twenty percent of all workplace deaths occur in the construction industry, it should really put that number into perspective. The problem with electricity is that just about every place you can work has it, so every work place and building has the potential for a deadly occasion.

Every year, there are more injuries and fatalities caused by electrocution. You often hear about these unlucky folks and how they are leaving behind families and friends who relied on them. These deaths don’t occur because someone was inexperienced. In fact, many of the deaths are from people who have been in the construction industry for ages, but were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. When someone is killed on the job, it feels like they were punished for simply making a living. It is important these workers understand safe precautions in the workplace.

OSHA lists the three most common causes of electrocution on the job as: contact with overhead power lines (the voltage can range anywhere from 120 volts to 750,000 volts), contact with energized sources (like bare wires), and improper use of flexible/extension cords. With the voltage range so wide, it is always best to act as if any wire is live until you have the express word that all power has been cut. Even then, you should still proceed with caution.

If you or a loved one has suffered from an electrical injury or worse while on the job, call Collier Law today for a free consultation. These situations are serious, and we will speak for you and your loved ones.

Do’s and Dont’s of Workplace Injuries

injured construction worker sits on concrete holding his ankle with both hands

So you’ve sustained an injury while performing your regular duties at your workplace. Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step manual that tells you how to handle these types of situations. But, as something that can happen to anyone, it’s essential that everyone knows what to do when this happens. It’s often your responsibility to protect your rights as an employee and as a human being. Here are the important “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to workplace injuries.

DO…

  • Seek medical care and diagnosis. Regardless of the apparent severity of the injury, it’s important to get yourself checked by a professional. There may some underlying damage that cannot be immediately seen or felt. Left unchecked, this could grow into something much more serious. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
  • Record your account and take pictures.Observe and take note of the critical details: time, location, activity, and type of injury. You must know exactly what happened and keep your account clear and focused for future reference. Take pictures to help you remember, if needed.
  • Collect information from witnesses. If there were any witnesses to the accident, collect their information (if you don’t already have it). You may need them to verify your account or fill in some details.
  • Contact an attorney ASAP. Collier Law specializes in worker’s compensation and personal injury. Our attorneys are competent and experienced. Reach out to us for legal representation!
  • Report the accident. An attorney may recommend that you contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They are equipped to handle and record any incoming reports. Follow the procedures that they have in place and make sure to provide any necessary details.

DON’T…

  • Delay seeking medical attention. As mentioned previously, your health and safety are of the utmost importance. Do not hesitate to get a professional check-up as soon as possible following the accident.
  • Be taken advantage of. It’s perfectly understandable that you might not fully know or understand your rights as an employee. If there’s any confusion on your part, wait until you are in contact with an attorney. Do not blindly agree to anything without knowing the potential repercussions. An attorney will be better able to advise your position and guide you through the correct procedures.
  • Return to work (if physically unable) or miss work (if physically able). Under no circumstance should you be required to push your body beyond its capabilities. Injury can cause prolonged stress or trauma, affecting your mental and physical performance. The risk of re-injury is very real. On the other hand, don’t neglect your duties if you are fully recovered and physically capable. Either way, communicate your needs and don’t give your workplace any reason to suspect that you are flaking on them.

As the injured party, you need to protect yourself and your rights. Keep the details of the accident clear in your mind and contact an attorney as soon as possible. Collier Law would gladly provide a skilled attorney to represent your case. Contact us today!

7 Perils of Injured Workers

one construction worker helps another injured construction worker walk through site

Something that is extremely common in workers compensation claims, and many other types of litigation, is a settlement. This means that the issue is resolved internally and/or privately between the two involved parties without bringing it to court. In the workers compensation field, this is most frequently referred to as a “clincher”. Often, we only hear from clients when they are being offered one and don’t know if they should take it or not. Ideally, you would contact an attorney before this occurs, but we understand why so many people don’t. The problem is that often, people want an immediate answer. Unfortunately, without knowing your specific case we cannot give you one.

Clinchers are difficult to litigate simply because each one is so different. A case is as unique as the person involved; no two are ever going to be exactly alike. This means that every injury is different and therefore every compensation needs to be as well. Generally, we find that if a settlement is offered to you, it isn’t going to be the best option, but again, each case is different. Sometimes you get lucky with a fair offer. However, we see people far too often realize much too late that they shouldn’t have taken a clincher, and now are on the hook for extra medical bills that they didn’t anticipate.

Even if you want to settle a claim and get the whole ordeal over with, you need to be able to negotiate terms. The laws of workers compensation are often difficult to learn and can get extremely complicated once you get into the deeper workings of them. We do this every day of our lives and we know that you already have more than enough to focus on. It is important to remember that you still need to work towards getting better. You don’t need the added stress of trying to figure out exactly how to make the legal system work for you.

If you have been hurt at work and offered a settlement, call Collier Law today. We will work to get you the compensation that you deserve. You can rest assured that you are in good hands, so call for your free consultation, and let us focus on getting you the money you need while you focus on your recovery. You owe it to yourself.

How Company Classification Affects Your Rates

man and woman both smiling at each other while sitting at a table with coffee

Insurance rates can often seem confusing and unpredictable. They’re based on several factors, both related and unrelated. Workers’ compensation centers around one’s status as an employee: what you do, how much you make, and your history with the company are all considered. This article will help de-mystify the topic and explain how your insurance rates are calculated.

First, workers’ compensation for every employee is based on a classification code. Rather than a personal identifier (such as your ID or social security), this number represents just one of many specific pre-determined categories. For example, utility system construction is class code 2371, and automobile dealers are 4411. Employees will fall into different categories depending on their position. If a position comes with inherent risk (think construction worker or cell-tower technician), the rates may change drastically.

Now that you have a better idea of worker identification via classification codes, you can use that to better determine your insurance rates. Workers’ compensation is typically calculated based on three key factors. The first is your classification code, which we just discussed above. Insurance providers will look at the inherent risks that come with your position. With this logic, we can determine that an office worker will generally have lower insurance rates than the aforementioned construction worker. Someone who works at their desk doesn’t have to worry about head injuries or falling from great heights.

Similarly, your insurance provider will take a look at the payroll. How much do your employees get paid to do what they do? How does this compare to other employees at other companies in your line of work? Are you offering them any bonuses or overtime? Don’t forget, it’s typically the employer that pays for workers’ compensation. Be sure that your employees are properly insured, however negligible the risk of serious injury. This will help prevent lawsuits and any further damage to the company.

Finally, an employee’s history will play a significant role in their current rates. If the person is prone to injury or has filed multiple claims in the past, they pose a greater risk to the insurance provider. Naturally, their rates will be higher to compensate for the risk. This is pretty standard across all types of insurance coverage, including car, home, and life insurance.

These are the three main factors that affect workers’ compensation rates. If your rates have recently undergone drastic change, consider why this may have happened. You are now better-equipped to identify and monitor the factors associated with these kinds of changes.