Workers' Compensation Law Firm

The Workers' Compensation Law Firm is a team of attorneys representing clients in the workers' compensation legal system.

A full service law firm with emphasis on Work and Auto Accidents

[03/08/18]   Suing a third party for workers' compensation injury

In addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim, is it possible to sue a third-party for a work-related injury? The answer is yes. At Prior, Criner & Edwards Attorneys, we look at all cases from every angle to help maximize workers’ benefits and compensation. That includes looking for a responsible third-party to bring a law suit against, especially for issues workers’ compensation doesn’t cover, such as pain and suffering.

Typically, you cannot sue your employer for a workplace injury, due to your agreement to receive workers’ compensation benefits and giving up your rights to sue your employer for pain and suffering. This, however, doesn’t mean you’re prohibited from suing someone else if they are responsible for your injuries. The most common third-party workers’ compensation law suits we see come from car accidents, slips and falls, and other injuries that occur on someone else’s property. Call to discuss the details of your case to see if these benefits are possible. We can handle both cases to coordinate the claims for you.

[02/28/18]   As of December 31, 2017, The North Carolina Employee Fair Classification Act (EFCA) is in place. This law allows workers to more easily report employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors instead of employees.

Employee misclassification has been an ongoing issue for some time now. Workers that are classified as employees are given definite protections under the law when it comes to issues such as wages, overtime pay, benefits, equal opportunities, and workplace injuries. Unfortunately, these types of securities don’t always apply to independent contractors, and there are many businesses out there that misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying certain state and federal taxes. As a result, state and federal agencies have responded with further investigation into issues of misclassification. The EFCA is a giant step in the right direction to help with this trend.

The EFCA creates a new division of the North Carolina Industrial Commission called the Employee Classification Section (ECS), which investigates reports of worker misclassification and helps North Carolina agencies get the money they’re owed. The act also assists agencies in prosecuting employers that continue to evade paying penalties even after they’re caught. This law additionally requires employers to post a notice at their workplaces to inform workers that they should be classified as employees unless they are recognized legally as independent contractors. If they’re incorrectly classified, they have the right report the issue to the ECS. Finally, employers are obligated to certify that they have read and understand the ECS notice that defines employee misclassification and agree to any investigations into misclassification and outcomes, should such an issue arise. Any businesses that object can have their license, permit, or certification application denied. Each misclassification investigation will be handled on a case-by-case basis because different tests are used for determining who is an employee versus who qualifies as an independent contractor.

When it comes to workers’ compensation, our lawyers want to ensure your employment is classified correctly and able to receive full benefits should an accident occur. If you’re being misclassified at work, contact us immediately. We’re ready to fight your rights and prove where you stand with your employer.

[02/14/18]   Has a family member passed away due to a previous work-injury?

It’s possible you may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation. Keep in mind that in order to receive benefits, the death must have been caused by a workplace injury or occupational disease. You also have to file a claim within two years of the employee’s date of death. Here’s what you need to know about death benefit eligibility, potential wages, and how long it will last.

What is My Eligibility?

If you’re trying to obtain death benefits, be aware that they’re typically limited to spouses, children, and other members of the family that not only live with the deceased employee, but also rely on him/her for financial support. If there are multiple “wholly dependent” people who live with the deceased and rely on his/her income, then the death benefits are shared equally. When there is only one person, such as a spouse, that is dependent on the employer, then that person is given all benefits that are payable. Even if a spouse makes more income than the deceased worker, he/she is still considered a dependent. Legal dependents also include children under 18 years of age, and for children over 18 that have certain physical or mental disabilities.

If an employee passes away and there are no legal “wholly dependents,” then anyone who is partially dependent (self-supporting) is entitled to weekly benefits, based on the amount of support the deceased provided them. If there are no whole or partial dependents, benefits are divided into a lump sum to the “next of kin.” Finally, if a deceased worker has no dependents or “next of kin,” only the burial benefit is covered.

Sherman Lee Criner is attending “The Times They Are a Changin': Workers' Compensation in the Brave New World of 2018” being held February 8-9, 2018 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, NC.

[02/05/18]   Uninsured Employer?

One of the biggest obstacles North Carolina currently faces is that many businesses try to “cheat” the workers’ compensation system by not having insurance. State law requires all companies with three or more employees to have workers’ compensation insurance, and clearly dictates that criminal fines will follow if they’re caught without coverage.

According to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, auditors identified at least 150,000 North Carolinian workers employed by businesses that do not have workers’ compensation insurance. The problem with not having insurance is that it affects everyone, forcing rule-abiding employers and tax payers to foot the bills through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. To help with this ongoing issue, investigators from the commission are checking up on companies and administering fines to uninsured businesses. Since early 2014, they’ve collected more than $2.4 million in fines, compared to $500,000 in 2012 and 2013.

One of the most common reasons companies fail to obtain workers’ compensation coverage is because they misclassify their employees as “independent contractors.” In these cases, the state foregoes millions in uncollected income and payroll taxes. According to the News & Observer, $467 million in state and federal taxes are lost each year in North Carolina from misclassification fraud in the construction industry alone! By not meeting state obligations, on-the-job injuries become the misclassified employees’ responsibility, which can result in them losing their savings, cars, and homes in the process of rectifying the damage.

We often have clients come to us that are facing misclassification firsthand. It’s a very frustrating and challenging issue that we wish no employee had to face, but we hope the legislature will soon act to address this problem in North Carolina. Until then, we encourage you to reach out to our workers’ compensation lawyers about any problems you may be facing or questions you might have about your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our attorneys.

[01/30/18]   Winter Accidents

Icy conditions, snow-packed roads, freezing temperatures: it’s that time of the year again! Although the Carolinas may not experience as much of an impact as other areas in the country, we still get a winter, especially the further inland you go. And because we, like most others, face wintery conditions, we’re no stranger to increases in workers’ compensation claims due to slips, falls, and other injuries that the winter season can cause. Now is the time for employers to do everything they can to eliminate hazards and generate winter safety awareness among employees.

General Slips and Falls

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 34,860 workplace slip and fall injuries involving ice, sleet and snow in 2014. These injuries also resulted in employees taking at least one day away from work to recover. They also reported there were thousands of minor slip and fall injuries that did not result in lost work time. One of the most effective ways to reduce the number of incidents is to coat sidewalks immediately before and after a storm. It’s also a good idea to remind employees to take their time and walk slowly to and from their vehicles to allow themselves to react quickly to any changes in traction. And when snow is tracked indoors into the entrances of businesses, it’s important to place a wet floor sign to slow people down, or invest in floor mats to catch excess water.

Road Accidents

It’s true that motorists cannot control the conditions of the road, but they can uphold good driving behavior. This is especially true for those whose job involves travel, whether by car or commercial vehicle. Being trained for hazardous weather conditions can save many workers from being stranded in the middle of a snow storm. A good process is to confirm each company vehicle is in working order (checking brakes, engine, electrical system, tires, etc.) before employees start their routes. It’s also a good idea to encourage drivers to travel slowly and allow plenty of time and space to brake. The more trained and prepared employee drivers are,the smaller the chance they’ll get into an accident or damage property.

Outdoor Professions

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the work stops for some industries. Working outside in freezing temperatures requires the body to work extra hard to stay warm, meaning fatigue occurs more often in outdoor workers. It’s critical that all employees dress in multiple layers to prevent frostbite and hypothermia, while also having the option to remove layers to cool down. Workers should also wear slip-resistant footwear to maintain balance and safety. If certain businesses require employees to work near highways or well-traveled roads, being aware of out-of-control drivers is a must

[01/08/18]   As the snow and ice begin to melt be safe. Parking lots and sidewalks are still icy and can be a serious peril getting around. Falls on ice may be covered as workers compensation claims and need to be reported when they happen. Even if a fall is embarrassing you need to report it if an injury occurs. Call us with may questions you may have.

[01/02/18]   Welcome 2018! Happy New Year!

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Raleigh News & Observer | NewsObserver.comNC overdoses | Rules for limiting injured workers access to addictive opioids up for public comment
Hurt on the job and need painkillers for weeks? Pee in this cup, please.

DECEMBER 20, 2017 06:13 PM

UPDATED DECEMBER 20, 2017 06:42 PM

Initial prescriptions of opioid painkillers for injured employees on workers’ compensation would be limited to a week or less, and workers would be asked to take urine tests before getting prescriptions for opioids to treat chronic pain.

The N.C. Industrial Commission, which is responsible for enforcing workers’ compensation laws, has proposed new rules aimed at reducing addiction and overdoses among injured workers. The package of nine rules would have injured workers use the lowest effective doses, and people with chronic pain would see their opioid prescriptions limited to 30 days at a time.

Urine tests would be required of injured workers prescribed opioids for more than 35 to 37 days. Their health care providers would have to determine whether those workers are at risk of overdose or other opioid-related health problems.

“Many injured workers are prescribed opioid medications as part of treatment for their injuries, creating an overlap between the opioid crisis and the workers’ compensation system,” Industrial Commission Chairman Charlton L. Allen said at a news

Charlton L. Allen, Chairman of the North Carolina Industrial Commission
Robert Willett
A study of people in the workers’ compensation system and opioid overdoses found that more than 800 people on workers’ comp died of an overdose over about four years. It’s not known whether or how prescriptions for pain medication contributed to the deaths, Allen said.

Among the proposals is for health care providers to consider prescribing a drug that reverses overdoses along with opioids in cases where employees are at risk of overdose.

Instead of drugs, providers would be able to prescribe physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, or other pain treatments.

Allen established a task force in February to come up with ideas for reducing injured workers’ risk of opioid addiction. The task force included injured workers, insurance carriers, lawyers, doctors, public health officials and Industrial Commission members.

Allen said the rules are consistent with the new state law that more closely regulates the prescribing of painkillers, called the STOP Act, and Centers for Disease Control guidelines for prescribing opioids. Other states’ worker compensation systems have developed guidelines for prescribing opioids, and Allen said the task force considered their changes.

The Rules Review Commission must approve the proposals and the Industrial Commission must adopt them.

North Carolina’s professional group for doctors, the N.C. Medical Society, applauded Allen and the task force “in their commitment to address the opioid epidemic within the North Carolina workers’ compensation system,” CEO and Executive Vice President Robert W. Seligson said in a statement.

“This is a complicated and multi-faceted problem with no simple solutions,” he said. “In the coming weeks, we will be reviewing the proposed rules with our members for clinical appropriateness. We look forward to sharing the physician perspective in the rulemaking process.”

A public hearing on the proposed rules is scheduled for March 2, and the Rules Review Commission is accepting written comments until March 19. The earliest the rules could go into effect is May 1. Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill is entertainment central! Find things to do, exclusive restaurants, amazing music, and fine art in the Research Triangle.

[12/12/17]   Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

[11/14/17]   In an car accident while working?

Several factors come into play between the drivers involved and employer when it comes to car/trucking accident related injuries, such as:

Who owns the car?
Who’s responsible?
Were you on your way to or from work?
Who’s insurance company pays?

Some insurance companies often point the finger at each other and refuse to pay what is owed. Workers Compensation carriers should pay regardless of fault of the employee but may have lien to get paid back if the liability carrier pays a settlement or judgment. This lien can be negotiated or eliminated in some circumstances. You need lawyer who can handle both claims to coordinate your benefits. We handle all aspects of your case and can negotiate all these claims.

Sometimes work related car accidents develop into complicated legal matters between employer and employee, especially in unique situations. Getting in an accident driving a company vehicle for out of town work purposes is a common disagreement for workers’ compensation cases. Employers often claim their workers were not actually working at the time. This often results in many employees not receiving the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.

[10/30/17]   NECK & BACK
Neck and Back Injuries
Spinal Vertebrae injuries can be the most painful and lingering injuries that a person sustains on the job.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), damage to the neck and back are the second most common workplace injuries in the United States. Never wait to report a neck or back accident! Injuries to the spinal area are very delicate and delaying treatment could result in irreversible damage.

Recent workers’ compensation cases suggest that by failing to clearly and accurately state the location of her injuries, a worker not only delayed neck treatment, which ultimately can lead to a more severe injury, but also difficulties seeking compensation for neck injury because they may only reported shoulder pain at first.

Common Workplace Neck and Back Injuries:

Neck and back workplace injuries are generally a result of overextension of the spine from pulling, pushing, lifting and having poor posture when sitting for long periods of time. Accidents can occur simply from lifting a box that’s too heavy or from persistent strain on muscles and discs protecting the spinal vertebrae. Neck and back pain can be broken down into two types of pain:
Acute: temporary pain that comes on quickly but lessens within a few weeks.
Chronic: pain that lasts more than six weeks, sometimes even years.

Common neck and back injuries from which workers often suffer include lower back strain, fractured vertebrae, pinched nerves, herniated disc, and spinal cord damage. The most common industries that experience these injuries include:
Automobile Repair

After scheduling a visit with a physician, workers are given an injury diagnosis that determines their type of disability.
Temporary disability: workers are able to go back to work and resume job duties after recovery.
Permanent partial disability: workers are able to go back to work after recovery, but not perform their former job duties.
Permanent total disability: workers are not able to return to their previous job.

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