Workers' compensation claims have nothing to do with fault. Rather, any injury that takes place within the scope of employment may qualify the employee to submit a claim for medical benefits. But, what happens when the injury is worsened, or the worker dies, in the course of treatment for the workplace injury?
The NC Court of Appeals filed a new attendant care decision on December 20, 2011. This case, Chandler v. Atlantic Scrap & Processing and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., NC COA11-618, holds that a husband who provided attendant care services to his disabled wife was entitled to be paid for 15 hours a day of attendant care at $11 per hour, beginning in June 2004. His wife's doctor had informed Liberty Mutual that she needed someone with her all the time, and Liberty Mutual ignored the doctor and never provided attendant care. These good folks finally got a lawyer and filed for a hearing. The Industrial Commission at each level awarded attendant care compensation to the husband and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Full Commission decision. In fact, the Court affirmed an award of attorney's fees against Liberty Mutual (whose TV ads talk about how Liberty Mutual always "does the right thing") because Liberty had ignored the need for attendant care and refused to pay for it for years, and then defended the litigation without good reason. In other words, the Court popped Liberty Mutual with attorney fees for NOT doing the right thing. The Court allowed the husband to have a payment not just of the hourly wage but also interest on it at the legal rate from and after the date of the original hearing in the comp dispute.
The ailing economy has had an adverse affect on injured workers, as many North Carolina workers may know. It is more difficult for injured workers to return to work than it used to be, due to high unemployment and other factors, according to a study performed by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute.
Anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 agricultural workers are diagnosed with the workplace disease of pesticide poisoning each year. Pesticide poisoning can cause a variety of health problems. In recent years, three farm laborers who were exposed to pesticides during their pregnancies each gave birth to infants with birth defects. One of the women was exposed to the harmful agent while working at a North Carolina tomato farm.
Workers' compensation insurance is a protection that is meant to provide for employees when they are injured on the job. As clear-cut as it seems, sometimes claims are complicated. This is sometimes the case when an injury develops from a repetitive action or exposure at the workplace, rather than a one-time incident.
On December 6, 2011 the NC Court of Appeals issued a decision that makes it harder to get attendant care paid for after the services are rendered. In Mehaffey v. Burger King, COA 10-1421, the Court held in a 3-0 decision that an injured worker must get "pre-approval" for attendant care services in order to require the insurance carrier to pay for those services. Retroactive payment for services rendered was rejected by the Court.