Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

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There is no shortage of construction work going on in the metro Atlanta and North Georgia area.  Construction sites use a variety of tools and equipment, many of which can be dangerous if defective or not maintained properly.  Where there is construction work happening, there is always the risk of an accident, either to a construction worker or a bystander.  When a construction worker is injured as the result of the use of a defective nail gun, he may be eligible to file a third-party lawsuit against the manufacturer of the nail gun and other parties.

Nail guns are staple tools on construction sites. A nail gun is a handy and effective tool that makes many construction tasks easier and more efficient to perform. However, these tools are also associated with thousands of injuries every year.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 37,000 persons are injured in nail gun accidents every year. As many as seventy percent of these injuries occur on construction sites, while the remaining occur when nail guns are used by home owners as part of DIY projects.

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The metro-Atlanta area has experienced consistent growth for the past several years and only continues to do so.  With it brings construction and construction jobs, both residential and commercial, all throughout the state.  If a construction worker is injured on the job, he most likely knows that he can file a workers’ compensation claim with his employer to get compensation for his injuries.  However, there are other avenues of compensation recovery that are beyond the scope of workers’ compensation. These are called third-party claims, and they are often filed in the case of certain types of accidents or injuries.

A third-party claim allows you to hold other parties besides your employer responsible for your injuries after a construction accident. A construction site is often susceptible to such claims since multiple employers have their own employees working on the site.  There are typically several types of contractors that are performing work at a construction site, and all of them bring with them their own employees, equipment, material and so on.

Say, for example, your accident was caused by equipment or debris left lying around by the employee of another subcontractor at the same site. In a case like this, you can file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer.  You can also file an injury claim against the subcontractor whose worker’s negligence caused your injuries. These claims are filed as personal injury claims, and are separate from your workers’ compensation claims.

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According to both the Charleston Gazette and USA Today, on Tuesday January 10, 2012, Alpha Natural Resources finally finalized a deal that resolved the last of the wrongful death workers compensation claims and wrongful death lawsuits of the families of the 29 miners who died in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. This deal comes almost 2 years after the tragedy of the April 2010 explosion. Although Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources had not confirmed the agreement or otherwise comment at the time of the news reports, attorney Mark Moreland said the final deals were cut Tuesday afternoon after a marathon mediation session which endured for more than 4 days. Although some of the lawsuits resulting from the 2010 tragedy had long since been settled, mediation of the final 13 began last week and continued through Tuesday the 10th.

Just weeks after the April 5, 2010 explosion, which has been labeled the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades, Massey Energy, the company who owned the mine at the time of the explosion, offered $3 million to each victim’s family. Some accepted, but most refused; saying the lives of their loved ones had no price tags. Alpha inherited the mine and the lawsuits when it bought Massey Energy last summer. It has since settled several unrelated lawsuits against other Massey operations. According to an Alpha company spokesman said last month that Alpha was eager to shed the legacy problems and move forward.

According to the Charleston Gazette, Charleston lawyer Tim Bailey, who represented two miners’ families and helped lead a group of lawyers with the bulk of the cases stated: “On behalf of the families we were privileged to represent, we’re happy we could provide some measure of closure on this particular part of this tragedy.” Despite the financial compensation that the families will be receiving as a result of these settlements, Bailey and the other lawyers for the Upper Big Branch families emphasized that what their clients really want is for the top Massey managers responsible for safety conditions at the mine to be prosecuted. According to Bailey, “Compensation is one thing, but justice is another. Based on what happened at this mine, there is not going to be justice until some people are indicted and some people go to jail.”

According to reports by USA Today the families may indeed get exactly the justice that they desire. In December, Alpha reached a $210 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that spares the corporation criminal prosecution. Individuals, however, can still be prosecuted, which is exactly what many families have publicly demanded. So far, one person has been held accountable in criminal court: Former security chief Hughie Elbert Stover was convicted in November of lying to investigators and trying to destroy mine records. He is awaiting sentencing. The DOJ settlement included $46.5 million in restitution to the victims’ families, guaranteeing them and two survivors of the blast $1.5 million apiece. That $1.5 million will be deducted from the wrongful death settlements.
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According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the number of workplace accidents, workplace fatalities and workplace injuries in the Unites States has declined over the past year. Even with the nationwide institution of workers’ compensation statutes, which allow injured workers, or the heirs of workers killed while on the job, to recover for medical expenses that arise as a result of the injury and a portion of weekly earnings lost as a result of the injury, a decrease in the number of workplace injuries and fatalities can only be good for workers. Or can it?

According to The Business Journals, the poor economy may have more of an impact on the decrease of workplace fatalities than anything else. Ironically, what should be a victory for workers across the United States may have actually come at their expense.

In 1970, the United States Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The purpose of OSHA was to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Goal was to decrease the number of workplace fatalities and injuries.” In addition to the establishment of OSHA in 1970, several states have also instituted workers’ compensation laws that provide compensation to workers, or their families, who have either been injured or killed while on the job.

Over the past years, since the establishment of OSHA, there has indeed been a decline of workplace injuries. According to the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, the number of workplace fatalities is down significantly from the 14,000 estimated deaths that occurred in 1970. In 2010 there were 4,547 fatal work injuries in the United States, almost 10,000 less than in 1970.
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A construction worker from Jacksonville was killed last week in an accident at a construction site in Georgia. The accident occurred at the College of Coastal Georgia in Glynn County. The victim suffered an electrical shock and fell from a ladder. Unfortunately, Georgia workers’ compensation law has fallen behind the times. The workers’ family will only be able to recover a relatively small amount through the workers’ compensation system.

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous workplaces in America. Construction worker deaths account for one out of every three workplace accident fatalities in the country. That is an appalling safety record, and it is one that Atlanta Workers’ Compensation lawyers have been extremely concerned about.

The thirty-two-year-old worker was working on the ladder, and had just reached out to turn on a piece of machinery. Suddenly, there was a loud sound, and the worker fell down several rungs of the ladder. There were no witnesses at the scene. The victim was rushed to the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick Hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.

The worker was employed by a subcontractor working at the site. The College of Coastal Georgia is investigating the accident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also expected to begin an investigation into this accident. The construction site is a $12 million project for the College of Coastal Georgia.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, long-term care workers have the highest injury rates within the healthcare industry. In fact, statistics show that in 2009, long-term care facilities had 8.4 injuries per every 100 full-time workers. Moreover, the incidence rate for long-term care facilities is also higher than that reported in other health fields. A majority of these injuries are undoubtedly incurred by workers straining to manually lift and move patients. This number will only increase as the long-term healthcare industry continues to grow – leading to a parallel increase in costs expended on worker’s compensation.

One method that many have used to curb these costs is to install mechanical lifts in the facilities, designed to assist employees with heavy lifting. Atlanta worker’s compensation lawyers admonish that just purchasing and having lifts available is not enough to ensure that they are used and used correctly. The University of Maryland and the National Council on Compensation Insurance recently released a study that tested the impact of safe lifting programs on worker’s compensation costs.

By surveying over 250 directors at various healthcare facilities across the country, researchers discovered that long-term care centers that implemented rigid policies regarding employees’ use of mechanical lifts for patients performed better than those who did not.

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