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Trammell & Mills Blog – Seven Common Workers’ Compensation Claims

You’ve heard lawyer commercials that invite you to call “if you’ve been hurt at work.” But what does that mean? If you suffer certain types of injuries while you’re performing your job, you have a right to file a Workers’ Compensation claim to pay for your medical treatment, work missed due to being hurt, or long-term effects of the injury. Here are some of the most common reasons for Workers’ Comp claims:

Slipping, Tripping & Falling

Workplaces can be loaded with hazards that cause slipping or tripping and falling. There could be a water puddle, or machinery could leak fluids onto the floor. Sometimes, there are objects in a walkway that shouldn’t be there. Any of these could cause an employee to lose balance and fall, resulting in bruising, sprains, or even broken bones. However, as long as you are hurt on the job and provide notice at the time of the injury, you are covered.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

Some jobs require employees to perform the same tasks over and over. Using the same set of muscles with great frequency can lead to Repetitive Strain Injuries, or RSIs. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a hand and wrist that’s common among employees who use a computer or work on assembly lines. Any RSI can lead to pain, swelling, and reduced use of the affected area.

Overexertion

Overworking part of your body can cause a pulled muscle, a torn tendon, or dislocation of a joint. This can come from lifting too much, or from unnatural body movements while doing your job. In hot work conditions, overworking without proper breaks can cause heatstroke or dehydration.

Dog & Animal Attacks

Some jobs require workers to go where there are dogs, cats, and other animals that might have a violent side. Utility work and home delivery have risks, and bites or scratches can happen.

Traffic & Vehicle Injuries

Many of us must drive while performing our jobs, and traffic accidents are a definite threat. There are lots of careless and distracted people on the roads, and if you’re a victim in a wreck, there should be a workers’ comp claim in your future, along with a “third party claim” against the at fault driver. We can help with both claims as they have to be handled with respect to each other.

Burns & Smoke Inhalation

Mechanics, machinists, and even electricians face many job hazards. So do folks who work around fires. Hot temperatures, electrical current and open flames can lead to serious injuries.

Machinery Accidents

Any factory, plant, or construction site with heavy machinery poses a potential risk. It only takes a second for an accident to cause serious harm.

If you suffer any of these workplace injuries, notify your supervisor immediately. In South Carolina, you need to report within 90 days. Employers should file a workers’ comp claim quickly, but that’s not always the case. If you run into red tape with your employer or the insurance company, call 864-485-8585 and let the professionals at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm help you get the money you deserve.

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Personal Injury vs. Bodily Injury

Two of the terms you may hear in some legal cases are “Personal Injury” and “Bodily Injury.” While the two terms can sometimes overlap within the same case, there are important distinctions. We at Trammell & Mills have some definitions and examples that may help clear up any confusion.

Personal Injury is a legal claim of harm to any person that was caused by the negligence or misconduct of someone else. This is physical injury to a person, rather than damage to property or reputation. The cause is usually carelessness or a disregard for the safety of others, not an intentional or malicious act.

If you slip in a puddle of water at a grocery store and fall, you might injure your wrist as you hit the floor. The store had not mopped up the spill, and there were no warning signs that the floor was wet. This would be a personal injury caused by the carelessness of the store staff because they neglected to clean the spill or warn you.  If your neighbor invites you into his yard and you step into a hole he hadn’t filled in or told you to avoid, the twisted knee you got would be a personal injury.

The most common types of personal injuries include traffic accidents where the other person is at fault, injuries to pedestrians who are walking or bicycling, work injuries due to unsafe conditions or equipment, defective products that didn’t function as advertised, and bites from unsecured dogs. In some cases, the injury could also be emotional or psychological damage caused by the trauma of the event.

Legally, there are three elements necessary to establish a personal injury due to negligence. Did the other party have a duty to warn or protect you from the danger that caused the injury? Did they breach that duty by taking no action? And did their breach of duty actually cause the injury?

Personal injury cases can result in three types of payment: Special Damages, which cover economic costs of the injury; General Damages, which compensate for noneconomic effects like pain and suffering, distress, disfigurement, or dismemberment; and Punitive Damages, which can be paid in cases of extreme recklessness like repeated negligence.

Bodily Injury is a term that covers any injury to the body, whether it’s temporary or permanent. This includes cuts, lacerations, abrasions, burns, and bruises, as well as broken bones and internal bleeding. The term also applies to concussions or whiplash from a car accident, and impairment of function to a bodily member, mental faculty, or organ. Bodily injuries are considered economic damage to the victim, and can be measured in dollar terms. Hospital and doctor visits, ambulance rides, prescription costs, and loss of future earnings are all considered in such calculations.

Bodily injuries are an important factor in personal injury cases. At Trammell & Mills, we are personal injury attorneys who stand ready to help sort out the details of any negligence incident that may have caused you physical harm. Call us at (864) 485-8585 so we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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Will Workers’ Compensation Cover an Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Injury?

Many times when people are involved in a work accident, they will aggravate an old injury. We oftentimes hear concerns from these individuals that the Workers’ Compensation (“WC”) insurance carrier MAY NOT cover medical treatment for these types of re-injuries.  So the question in South Carolina becomes, is a work accident that aggravates and/or makes worse a pre-existing injury covered by the employer’s WC insurance carrier?

The simple answer to this question is YES.  According to S.C. Code Ann. § 42-9-35 –

(A) The employee shall establish by a preponderance of the evidence, including medical evidence, that:

(1) the subsequent injury aggravated the preexisting condition or permanent physical impairment; or

(2) the preexisting condition or the permanent physical impairment aggravates the subsequent injury.

What does this mean to my WC injury and claim?  If your WC claim is denied because of an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, it is necessary that YOU obtain the opinion of your treating physician that “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty,” that it is more probable than not that the work accident aggravated the pre-existing condition. How can I obtain this medical opinion?

If your claim is denied because of this particular situation, it is always best to discuss your claim with attorneys experienced in these matters.  As attorneys working with WC clients on a daily basis, Ernie Trammell and Roy Trammell have spent countless hours drafting doctor affidavits for clients whose claims are being temporarily denied because of this reason.

What if my pre-existing condition is degenerative in nature?

If your work accident aggravates and/or makes worse a condition like arthritis, your employer’s carrier must cover the claim.  As noted above though, a treating physician does have to document that in his opinion based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it is more probable than not that the work accident aggravated the arthritis in the body part injured.

Regardless of your Workers’ Compensation question or issue, we are here to help. If you have been injured on the job, please give us a call for your free consultation. Call us at 1-864-231-7171, find us on Facebook, or Twitter. We are here to help.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ROY TRAMMELL, a Workers’ Compensation attorney.

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Injured on the Job? Too ‘Job Scared’ to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Many times we see potential clients fail to follow through with a Workers’ Compensation claim because they are “job scared.”  Some of the individuals may have a promising but new career with their employer, other times the individual has been employed with the same company for 20+ years and fear losing a good job.  If you have been injured on the job and are job scared, please read this before deciding NOT to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim.

It is illegal in South Carolina for an employer to fire an employee for initiating a Workers’ Compensation claim.  S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-80 states:

 “no employer may discharge or demote any employee because the employee has instituted [in good faith]. . .” a Workers’ Compensation claim.

If you are legitimately injured while on the job and file a Workers’ Compensation claim against your employer, your employer can not terminate you for that reason

However, the law cited above does state that while you are pursuing a claim, your employer can fire you for other reasons, most commonly:

  1. a) intoxication on the job;
  2. b) destruction of the employer’s property;
  3. c) habitual tardiness or absence from work;
  4.       d) failure to meet established employer work standards;
  5.       e) malingering; or
  6.       f)  embezzlement.

If you do decide to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim, while still working, we inform our clients to ALWAYS report to work on time and stay on their best behavior while on the clock. If your employer is attempting to fire you while under a Workers’ Compensation claim, they will try and find a justifiable reason to terminate you that is unrelated to your job injury.

If you are injured on the job but afraid of being terminated for pursuing your rights under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws, it is always advisable to speak with an attorney first.  We offer free consultations, so do not hesitate to call Ernie Trammell or Roy Trammell at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC located in upstate South Carolina as soon as possible after your work injury.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ROY TRAMMELL, a Workers’ Compensation attorney

Call and let Roy handle your case today, 864-231-7171 or trammellandmills.com 

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Are You Covered By Workers’ Compensation If You Fall at Work?

Don’t fall victim to the “There Ain’t Nothing Wrong With the Floor” defense. If you trip over an object on the floor at work and fall, you are almost certain to be covered by the workers’ compensation laws.  But what happens if you simply fall at work on a completely level floor or on a smooth rug and there is no obvious cause for your fall?  What if your employer responds that you can not get workers’ compensation benefits because “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall?  Is the employer right?

Are you covered by workers’ compensation if you fall at work?

Let’s look at three different scenarios:

Situation 1

Let’s assume that my paralegal, Ashley, is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and trips over a magazine that was inadvertently dropped on the floor by a client.  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?

Yes, she is covered because she suffered an injury by accident at work during the course and scope of her employment.

Situation 2

Let’s now assume that my paralegal, Ashley, is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and loses her balance and falls for no apparent reason.  There was nothing specifically on the floor that caused her to fall.  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?

Yes, she needs only to prove a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be performed and the resulting injury. The fact that she suffered an “unexplained fall” does not preclude Ashley from being covered by workers’ compensation.  There does not have to be some work hazard on the floor causing the employee to fall in order for there to be workers’ compensation coverage.  Instead, she again only needs to prove that she was injured during the course and scope of her employment.  It is no defense for the employer to deny coverage because  “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall.

Situation 3

Let’s assume that Ashley has a bad knee which has bothered her for years.  As she is walking down the hall with a hand full of files, her bad knee simply gives away and she falls.  There was nothing on the floor to cause her to fall.  As she was being helped up from the floor by her co-workers, Ashley says to everyone that “my knee just gave away.”  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?

No, in this case Ashley would be determined to have suffered an “idiopathic fall.”  That is a fall caused solely by an inherent medical condition (the bad knee) or weakness which is specific to Ashley.  An “idiopathic fall” is much different than an “unexplained fall” described above in Situation 2.  In an “idiopathic fall” the burden of proof is on the employer to establish that the fall was caused solely by Ashley’s inherent medical condition.  It will be easy for the employer to prove that Ashley’s fall was idiopathic because she admits it when she tells everyone that “my knee just gave away.”  A fall caused by fainting is also an example of an idiopathic fall.

The Moral of the Story

If you suffer a fall a work, you will be covered by workers’ compensation if a specific work hazard (like water on the floor or an object on the floor) causes you to fall or if your fall is simply unexplained.  The only way you lose is if the employer can prove that your “unexplained fall” was actually an “idiopathic fall” in that it was caused solely by your inherent medical condition which had nothing at all to do with your work or work environment.  Therefore, if you do have the misfortune of falling at work, don’t haphazardly make a statement in the midst of your natural embarrassment that you fell because your bad knee gave away!

If you fall at work and have questions regarding your claim, please do not hesitate to contact Ernie Trammell at Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC.   Ernie Trammell has been a practicing law for 32 years and has focused the last 15 years of his practice solely on representing injured workers in workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina and Georgia.

****Regardless of anything mentioned above, the first thing you should do after injuring yourself at work is notify your supervisor of the accident and any injuries sustained.  Next, call the attorneys at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC, to determine your rights under WC.  Mr. Trammell is very experienced in a wide range of issues clients face everyday when injured on the job.  Along with our knowledgeable and experienced staff, the attorneys at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC, will personally work day-to-day on your WC claim.

RELATED ARTICLES by Ernie Trammell:

Injured at Work in South Carolina? What you need to know. (Part 1)

Injured at Work in South Carolina? What you need to know. (Part 2)

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