Lightning Strike Ruling Affects Workers' Compensation

Like winning the lottery, few anticipate being struck by lightning. Yet in 2010, lightning strikes killed 28 people, caused 241 injuries and are a concern for many outdoor workers. Fortunately, a North Carolina Appeals Court ruling may make it easier for employees struck by lightning on the job to collect benefits.

Recent North Carolina Ruling Helped Injured Worker

A recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision made recovering workers' compensation for lightning strikes a bit easier. The accident occurred when the North Carolinian worker was hanging drywall and framing a home for a construction company. The jobsite was close to mountainous terrain with many metal towers. The metal roof had weather vanes and the crew had run all electrical cords for equipment from the unfinished garage.

On a break due to rain, thunder and lightning, the framer was struck by lightning. The electrical charge knocked him back several feet and injured his head, shoulders and arm. He was denied benefits related to his injuries.

Importance of Ruling

The Court held that the North Carolina framer who was struck by lightning was entitled to collect temporary total disability benefits in addition to medical expenses that were related to his hand injuries.

Importantly, the Court of Appeals ruled that expert testimony was not required to demonstrate that the employer exposed the worker to an increased risk to the lightning strike. Rather, the circumstances surrounding the lightning strike made it clear the worker was more exposed.

What are the Odds of a Lightning Strike?

  • Chances of being struck in any given year: one in 1,000,000
  • Odds of a lifetime strike (80 years): one in 10,000
  • Odds of being affected by someone being struck by lightning: 1 in 1000

Lightning Myth Busters

  • Lighting does strike twice. The Empire State building is hit nearly 100 times a year.
  • It is not the rubber tires but rather the metal roof and sides that protect automobile riders from a lightning strike.
  • It is safe to touch a lightning victim to perform CPR. The human body does not store electricity.

Contact a Workers' Compensation Attorney

While fortunately still relatively uncommon, lightning strikes nonetheless injure workers and are a real risk. Those who make a living working outdoors have a heightened risk of lighting strikes and other weather-related injuries. If you have been injured on the job, talk to a workers' compensation attorney to discuss your rights.