Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications - Compensability for Injuries During Work-Related Extracurriculars

For the most part, courts have held that if a worker is hurt while participating in a voluntary but work-related event, injuries aren't compensable under workers' compensation laws. In weighing such a claim, courts will consider factors such as whether the function was truly considered voluntary, whether workers were paid and to what extent the employer benefited from the worker's involvement.
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Our Boston workers' compensation attorneys know just because an employer formally labels a function "voluntary" doesn't necessarily mean it is so, and there have been more than a few exceptions allowing for compensation for injuries sustained during work-related extracurricular activities.

A perfect recent example is in the case of Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications, before the South Carolina Supreme Court. Although this case took place outside the Massachusetts court system, the same general principles are still applicable. Both systems have found injuries are only compensable under workers' compensation insurance when they occur during or arise in the course of one's work duties.

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Police Officers Accuse Workers' Compensation Insurance Company of Unjust Denial of Claims

According to a recent report from AZCentral.com, two police officers allege an insurance company contracted by the city has unjustly denied their respective workers' compensation claims. As your Massachusetts workplace injury attorney understands, insurance companies routinely deny valid claims for their own financial benefit.

police_car.jpgOne of the workers is currently on unpaid leave and says that he is being forced to return to work before he is physically ready, because he cannot afford to care for his family without pay.

The officers suffered injuries in two separate accidents while on the job. One of the officers believes he was experiencing a celiac episode, so he went to the fire station to seek treatment. Walking through the door was the last thing he remembered. He woke up in the hospital and was told that he was found with his head and body pressed up against a wall. He suffered a vertebrae fracture and head injury.

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Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213: On Award Offsets in Workers' Comp

Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213, an appeal from the Supreme Court of Minnesota, involved a relator injured while working for the respondent, an independent school district. The relator applied for permanent total disability and was awarded the workers' compensation rating. The term "relator" is essentially the same as the term "plaintiff" in the context of this case. One distinction is that relators often sue organizations on behalf of another organization or the government in what is know as a Qui Tam lawsuit.

230578_hospital_6.jpgAs your workplace injury attorney can explain, permanent total disability is a type of rating that an injured worker can be given when applying for benefits. This is one of the highest ratings for the purposes of obtaining a workers' compensation award.

In Ekdahl, the respondent school district requested that the amount awarded to the relator be offset (reduced) because the injured worker had already received compensation under a government-service pension, and a state statute provided for any old age and survivor insurance benefits.

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Yang v. Nissan N. Am., Inc.,: Mental and Physical Injuries in Workers' Compensation Cases

Yang v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., a case from the Tennessee Supreme Court, involved an employee who worked for a car manufacturer on an assembly line. After working for a few years without incident, the employee injured his left shoulder.

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgAs a result of this injury, he was placed on restricted duty at the factory and had a job doing light janitorial work and some production duties. While working, he injured his right shoulder as a supervisor who wanted him to work faster was yelling at him.

He continued to work his light duty job until he needed surgery on both shoulders. After the surgery, according to the court records, he felt that he could not return to work, as there was nothing he could do in his condition. He also testified to becoming very depressed as result of his injuries.

Our Boston workplace accident lawyers understand that an on-the-job injury can lead to depression in addition to the physical condition. In Yang, the company offered him a buyout, and he left his job. He then filed for workers' compensation benefits under a permanent disability rating for both his mental and physical conditions.

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Miami Judge Demands Fixes for Workers' Compensation System

Workers' compensation was created to provide employees with a quicker way to receive benefits after being injured on the job, while limiting the potential exposure of employers to negligence actions. As our work injury attorneys understand, the rights of employees often take a backseat to the desire for companies to reduce the cost of their insurance coverage, and you will have to fight for a fair and just recovery.

money-problems.jpgA recent article discusses how one Miami judge has ruled that state legislatures had reduced medical care and lost wage benefits to the level where workers who have been injured on the job are being deprived of fundamental rights. The judge held that the state law does not provide for benefits commensurate with the current high cost of medical care and does not provide workers with enough money to compensate them for lost wages.

The judge also noted that this workers' compensation system was not meaningful enough to injured workers to justify the denial of their right to file a civil lawsuit. This speaks to the one recovery rule that prohibits a worker from filing a civil lawsuit if they are entitled to collect workers' compensation. There are some exceptions to the rule barring a civil suit, if the employer engaged in serious misconduct, or if a third party is also liable for the on-the-job injury. We see this a lot in Boston workers' compensation cases when an at-fault driver in a car accident injures an employee.

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Injured Worker Flown to Boston Hospital after Wood Chipper Accident

According to a recent article from Cape Cod Online, an employee of a tree company suffered a serious on-the-job injury. He was working on or around a wood chipper. After tree company workers remove dead limbs from trees, they will typically use a large wood chipper to shred the wood for easy removal from the job site.

treesplit.jpgWitnesses report that a large piece of wood was kicked out of the chipper and hit the worker in the back. The piece of wood was reported to approximately two feet long and a foot wide.

Due to the seriousness of the injury, the worker was flown by medevac helicopter to a trauma center in Boston. There have been no reports as of yet about the injured worker's condition from the hospital, but it is likely life-threatening, based on the need to have him airlifted to Boston. Medevac helicopters are normally only used in cases of severe injury.

Our workplace accident lawyers know that some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers tree trimming one of the more dangerous jobs and states that workers face injury from obvious sources, like falls, but also from hazardous electrical lines, heavy equipment, noise, chainsaws, ladders, and many other dangers. OSHA specifically lists wood chippers as a common hazard to tree trimmers.

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Man Electrocuted in Construction Site Accident

According to a recent article from My Edmonds News, a construction worker in Washington was killed in an on-the-job injury. According to witnesses, the man was working in a ditch with a compressed air tool when he hit an electrical line.

constructionworker.jpgWitnesses heard a loud bang that may have been a transformer explosion. The worker was electrocuted and died on scene. The electrical disturbance resulted in a power outage to the area. The state department of labor and industries is investigating the accident. The medical examiner is also working to determine an official cause of death.

Your Boston workplace injury attorney know, while many do not think of workers' compensation in the case of the death of a worker, as opposed to an injury, filing a workers' compensation claim is often the appropriate action.

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Massachusetts Construction Worker is Killed on the Job

According to a recent article in the Metro West Daily News, a construction worker has died from his injuries sustained during employment at a job site in Framingham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

constructionhatsmall.jpgWitness are reporting the decedent was working at a university campus when he fell about 20 feet. He was airlifted by helicopter to a local trauma center, where he died from his injuries.

The contractor who had employed the worker said he was cutting metal pipes in the interior of a stairway at the time of his fall. The company said there was nobody else working in the area at time of the fatal accident. Local authorities, the district attorney and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOAH) are investigating the accident. The investigators are waiting for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth to release findings from the autopsy for any clues as to why the worker fell to his death. One can imagine that while the injuries were obviously caused by the fall, the autopsy may reveal pertinent information about his physical condition at the time of accident.

As our work injury lawyers know, falls are one of the more common reasons for on-the-job fatalities. According to a recent state report, nine out of 48 workplace deaths in Massachusetts were due to falls. Six of those nine deaths occurred in the construction industry.

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Central OH Coal Co. v. Dir., Office of Workers' Comp.: Seeking Benefits from Ex-Employer

Boston Workers' compensation lawyers recognize some on-the-job injuries do not become apparent until much later in one's life. If a work-related injury becomes apparent after one's employment has been terminated, he or she may still be entitled to benefits. There may, however, be more work required to prove worker was injured on the job.

65901_hospital_corridor_3.jpgCentral OH Coal Co. v. Dir., Office of Workers' Comp. Programs involved an employee who worked at an above-ground coalmine from 1945 until he was laid off in 1999. While he never worked underground, he held many different jobs at above-ground strip mines, including as a heavy equipment operator.

There is no doubt that he was exposed to coal dust on a daily basis at the same levels that he would have been at an underground mine. In 1995, he was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is also known by coalminers as "black lung." He had also been a smoker for nearly 40 years, consuming more than a pack each day. The administrative law judge (ALJ) at his workers' compensation hearing estimated that he smoked the equivalent of 57 "pack years" of cigarettes based, on the amount he smoked.

In 2001, he applied to get his job back, but was not hired because he couldn't pass the required physical exam. The company believed that, even with his oxygen tank, he could not withstand the harsh environment of working at a coal mine.

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LeFiell Mfg. v. Super. Ct.: Workers' Compensation Exclusivity and Rare Exception

Our workplace accident attorneys understand some employers take shortcuts when it comes to on-the-job safety. For employees working closely with heavy equipment, the result can be devastating.

506099_caution_.jpgLeFiell Mfg. v. Super. Ct., an appeal before the California Court of Appeals, involved a worker who was injured while operating a swaging machine. In rendering its opinion, the court wrote at great length about what a swaging machine is and how it works.

Essentially, a swaging machine is designed to take large diameter tubes and turn them into small diameter tubes. It is basically crimps a pipe fitting over another pipe fitting. You could use a swaging machine to attach the end to a hose, so that it could be connected to a faucet or another hose. The way the machine works is that a series of hammers compresses around the tube that is being crimped. The hammers are part of dye assembly that can be changed to match the diameter of the pipe or tube being reduced.


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State Accident Fund v. SC Second Injury Fund

Our work injury lawyers understand that preexisting conditions that are exacerbated by an on-the-job injury may require additional litigation.

knee-replacement---front-view-1183623-m.jpgState Accident Fund v. SC Second Injury Fund, an appeal argued in the South Carolina Supreme Court, involved a police officer who injured his knee while on the job. The claimant was treating his knee with non-surgical options, including injections of corticosteroids. He reached his maximum medical improvement (MMI) and was given a permanent disability rating of approximately 30 percent.

An MMI means that doctors have done everything feasible to treat an injury, and the cost of any additional treatment will outweigh any potential benefit. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Industrial Accidents has created a guide for injured employees that explains this and other terms used.

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Harris v. Millennium Hotel: Workers' Compensation Benefits for Same Sex Couples

Harris v. Millennium Hotel involved a worker who was shot and killed while working at a hotel in Alaska. The employer did not deny that the death occurred in the course of the worker's employment, but when her spouse filed a claim for workers' compensation death benefits, the employer denied the claim on grounds that they never received any proof that the deceased worker was legally married to the claimant.

wedding-ring-951344-m.jpgAs our workplace injury attorneys can explain, when a worker dies on the job, his or her surviving spouse may be eligible to receive workers' compensation death benefits. This may also have an effect on your ability to file a civil negligence lawsuit.

In Harris, the claimant filed a notice that she was filing a challenge to the constitutionality of the state workers' compensation statute on grounds that it was discriminatory against same sex couples who were not allowed to marry under state law.

The claimant submitted evidence to show that the couple had lived to together for many years and lived in every way as married couple, including becoming financially interdependent. The workers' compensation board affirmed the denial of her right to death benefits, due to fact that they were not legally married, and could not have been legally married under state law. The board had no authority to rule on the constitutionality of the statute and chose not to do so.

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Stevens v. S.T. Servs.: A Petition to Terminate Disability Payments

Stevens v. S.T. Servs., an appeal from the Minnesota Supreme Court, involved a claimant who began working at liquid storage facility in the late 1970s. In the mid-1980s, the claimant injured both shoulders and the year after his injury, his employer terminated his services.

1031747_hospital.jpgFor the next seven years after his termination, surgeons performed multiple operations on the claimant's shoulders. During that period, the claimant applied for workers' compensation benefits, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded him benefits under a Temporary Total Disability (TTD) rating.

As your workers' compensation lawyer can explain, a TTD rating is one of several classifications for benefits under a program administered by the Executive Office for Workforce Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In Stevens, the parties entered into a settlement in the mid-1990s, whereby the claimant was to be awarded a disability rating of permanent and temporary total disability and found unfit for any type of employment.

Several years later, the claimant moved to Alaska and became a licensed plumber. He could not lift anything, but served as a consultant about plumbing issues. Eventually, he was offered a job as a consultant at a big box home improvement store, where he earned about $25 per hour.

He needed to return to Minnesota to undergo a medical procedure on his shoulders, and, when he was there, he had to meet with an investigator from the workers' compensation insurance carrier. He disclosed his new job to the investigator. There was never any allegation that he attempted to commit any type of fraud with respect to his disability rating.

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Snowboard Park Owner Fined for Not Maintaining Workers' Compensation Insurance for Employees

Most employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance under the law. Workers' compensation is a program aimed at being a compromise between the needs of injured workers and employers. The program is designed so that workers with on-the-job injuries can get the financial compensation they deserve fast, while at the same time, protecting the employer from having to pay out large settlements that were not figured in their financial plans.

snowboard-jump-1149772-m.jpgThe workers' compensation program was designed to cover not only medical bills, but also lost wages for workers who were injured on the job. In exchange for the ability to file a workers' compensation claim, workers are precluded from filing a separate civil action in most situations. This is the benefit to the employer. In reality, many employers see a mandate to carry workers' compensation coverage as a great compromise, and a few of them will do whatever they can to keeps costs down.

Our work injury lawyers understand how important it is to get your workers' compensation benefits as soon as possible. Your family depends on your income and any unnecessary wait can be detrimental.

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Ohio Settles Lawsuit over Workers' Compensation Premiums

Our workplace injury attorneys understand that employers are interested in paying as little as possible for workers' compensation insurance premiums.

brownenvelopemoneybribe3.jpgAccording to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, the State of Ohio settled a lawsuit that had been going on for years over allegations that hundreds of thousands of employers were being overcharged for workers' compensation insurance premiums.

According to reports, the state agreed to create a $420 million fund to pay claims from employers who were overcharged for workers' compensation premiums between 2009 and 2011. This was slightly less than half of the $860 million that the judge ordered the state to repay. The state initially appealed this order, and the Court of Appeals reduced the amount to $670 million. A settlement was reached, and both sides are reported as being happy with the settlement agreement.

Since this case began, there have been major changes made to the state's workers' compensation program, including improvements in accounting methods and additional efforts to reduce work place accidents.

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