Articles Posted in Work Injury

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coal mineFor most Americans, the risk of injuries on a day-to-day basis is very low, with little worry that one will be habitually exposed to dangers such as a reckless driver, a hole in the ground, or an icy porch. For some, though, there are inherent risks in the work they do every day, arising from exposure to dangerous environmental conditions and elements. The risk of a Tennessee work injury is particularly high for people who work in the coal mining industry, which, for many years, has been proven to lead to serious health issues. In order to address these known complications, Congress passed the Black Lung Benefits Act, which entitles certain coal miners to benefits if they become physically disabled as a result of their coal mining work. A recent case before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals looked at what is required in order to qualify for these benefits.

In this administrative appeal case, R.D. filed a claim for black lung benefits after he was rendered fully disabled due to black lung disease and a lifetime spent working in the coal mines. During the pendency of his claims, he passed away, and his wife brought a claim for survivor’s benefits. R.D.’s claim was granted by the administrative law judge who heard the case and was appealed by the defense insurer, who requested a full hearing. After the full hearing, R.D.’s claim was again granted. The insurer appealed again to the administrative board, which also affirmed the grant of benefits. Finally, the insurer appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

Under the Black Lung Benefits Act, a claimant can qualify for benefits if he or she shows that (1) he or she is a miner (2) who suffers from black lung disease (3) arising out of coal mining employment (4) if it contributed to a partial or total disability. If a claimant shows that he or she worked in a coal mine for at least 15 years, and the work was in an underground mine or conditions substantially similar to an underground mine, there is a rebuttable presumption that the miner was disabled, or killed, by black lung disease. An employer or insurer may rebut the presumption by showing that the miner did not have black lung disease, or that any respiratory illness suffered by the miner did not arise from coal mine employment.

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up-the-ladder-1498174-300x226Most homeowners have, at any given time, hired a repairman or handyman to take care of some sort of project at their home. Whether fixing an appliance, building a new staircase, or correcting faulty electrical wiring, the need for help can often seem endless.  For most homeowners, the though of what would happen if a repairman injured himself while at their home never crosses their mind. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, however, addresses this exact issue after an injury during a paint job.

In this negligence case, M.E. was hired by his boss, M.T. to perform a side job at her home for her after hours. She needed various parts of the exterior of her home repainted and M.E. agreed to do so. On the first day he arrives, M.T. provided M.E. with paint, tools, and ladders to access the house. Shortly thereafter, M.T. left and did not return to the home for the next few days.

While working on the home, M.E. claimed to have experienced problems with the ladders he was provided and believed them to be faulty. Nonetheless, he wanted to finish the job so he continued to use them. On the third day, after climbing up the ladder to paint the eaves, the ladder fell out from underneath him and he tumbled to the ground, injuring his wrist.  M.E. then sued M.T. for failing to provide him with safe equipment and protect him while on her property.

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limo accidentIf you are injured while on the job, you may find that there are multiple parties who potentially may be liable for your damages. If you were in the course of your employment when you were injured, your employer may be required to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages through your workers’ compensation program because the injuries occurred while you were working. At the same time, if a third party was involved in the accident that caused your injury, for instance if they ran into a vehicle that you were driving for work, they may also have some liability for your injuries. But this does not mean that you can recover from both your employer and the third party. As discussed in a recent court case, if doing so would require you to sue a co-worker or fellow employee, recovery from both may be precluded in Tennessee.

In this recent Tennessee car accident case, C.W. and J.B. were carpooling to work when they were involved in a motor vehicle accident. After the accident occurred, C.W. filed for workers’ compensation benefits from his employer at the time, Progression. Progression did not dispute that the accident and C.W.’s injuries had occurred on the job and paid C.W.’s benefits. Shortly thereafter, C.W. also filed suit against J.B., arguing that J.B.’s negligence in driving the vehicle had caused his injuries. J.B. moved for summary judgment on the claim, arguing that since C.W. had previously asserted that his injuries occurred in the course of his employment, his exclusive remedy was workers’ compensation, and he was precluded from bringing tort claims against J.B. The court granted the motion, finding that C.W. had previously represented that the accident occurred as part of his employment, and, as a result, Tennessee law provided that workers’ compensation was his exclusive remedy. It therefore dismissed the case, and C.W. appealed.

On appeal, C.W. argued that the court erred in concluding that just because he sought workers’ compensation benefits he was precluded from filing separate tort claims. Under Tennessee law, the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits excludes a plaintiff from other claims for injury. However, Tennessee law also provides that when a worker recovers against a third party, an employer may recover for costs paid through workers’ compensation. Reviewing the case law, the Court of Appeals noted that workers may sometimes be permitted to recover against entirely separate third parties for their injuries, but employers may be reimbursed for expenses they have paid. However, these third parties do not include other employees, who are, in fact, a part of the “employment” and fall within the scope of workers’ compensation. If a co-employee caused the accident, it is the employer that will be liable, but the employer is already liable under the workers’ compensation scheme. Thus, the dual claims against the employer cannot succeed.

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If you’ve been severely injured in a Tennessee car accident, you may be able to access workers’ compensation funds if the car accident occurred while performing work for an employer. Workers’ compensation provides payments to an injured employee to cover lost wages and medical expenses. If the employee suffers a partial or total disability, he or she may receive a lump sum or series of payments to cover the wages that cannot be earned as a result of the disability. If the employee dies as a result of the workplace injury, the estate or family may recover the designated benefits.Carpenter toolsWorkers’ compensation was designed to provide employees with quicker access to funds while shielding an employer from liability. However, this does not prevent an injured party from pursuing damages in a negligence action against other parties who share responsibility for the injuries.

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently issued an opinion stemming from a workplace car accident that caused a carpenter to suffer numerous serious injuries. The accident fractured the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck and herniated discs in his lower back. The injured carpenter underwent surgery to alleviate his neck pain, but he still experienced back pain whenever he bent forward or backward. After reviewing the carpenter’s complaints, the surgeon recommended additional surgery to help heal the residual pain. The insurance company denied the coverage for surgery, due to the peer review performed by three other physicians, who did not think surgery was necessary. The additional request for epidural steroid injections was also denied. To manage the pain, the carpenter took opiates. When the pain became too great, he took a greater amount of medicine than prescribed and consumed alcohol. The injured carpenter admitted this to a pain management specialist, and he agreed to take his medication as directed and call before adjusting his dose.

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ladderA duty of reasonable care can arise in many different types of circumstances. We often think of duties owed by professionals, business owners, or landlords, but the average individual also owes a duty of care when he or she takes on activities in which carefulness and safety are necessary.  In a recent case before the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, the court took a look at one scenario in which such a duty may arise:  while working with ladders in possibly dangerous conditions.

In Hoynacki v. Hoynacki, the plaintiff, Hoynacki Jr., was helping his father, Hoynacki Sr., wax his father’s RV. Since the RV was so tall, they used a five-foot ladder to reach the upper portions of the RV. When Hoynacki Jr. would get on the ladder, his father would hold the ladder for him until he determined that it was stable, and then Hoynacki Jr. would proceed to wax.  At one point, toward the end of their work, Hoynacki Jr. climbed the ladder while it was on sloped ground. Although the four feet of the ladder touched the ground, when Hoynacki Jr. went to descend the ladder, it tipped over, and he fell, resulting in serious injuries. He sued his father, alleging that his father had failed to exercise reasonable care by not holding onto the ladder while Hoynacki Jr. was working, or assisting him when he descended. Hoynacki Sr. moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted it, finding that he did not owe a duty of care to his son. Hoynacki Jr. appealed.

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metal roofCentral to every negligence claim in Tennessee is the requirement that a defendant actually owe a duty to a plaintiff.  The question of whether one owes a duty to another party often turns on the relationship between the two parties. For instance, an employer may owe a different duty to an employee than he or she owes to an independent contractor. And these duties are likely to be entirely different from any duty the employer may owe, if at all, to a total stranger.  For property owners, the duty owed to those who venture onto their property typically depends on whether the visitor was invited, there for purposes of business, or simply a trespasser.  A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed the duty owed to a special category of individuals:  volunteers.

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forkliftWhen injuries occur while an individual is taking on a task related to work, complicated legal issues can arise. Generally, injuries that occur on the job are addressed through a state’s workers’ compensation system. Workers’ compensation laws preclude employees from filing suit for personal injuries against an employer, but instead they provide that the employee is compensated for time off work and medical bills. But what happens when an employee is injured as a result of a third party’s actions, rather than the actions of the employer?  Can negligence or other tort claims be brought against that individual or entity? A recent case in the Sixth Circuit looks at the question of whether individuals can bring suit for personal injuries against contractors with which their employer was working.

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coal mineProduct liability is an area of the law that deals with when and how product manufacturers can be held liable for the creation or manufacture of products that cause injury to consumers. A central tenet of product liability is that manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of known hazards in a product. Thus, for instance, toy manufacturers who create toys for children with small parts must be careful to warn consumers of the hazards that such small parts may pose for young children, such as toddlers.  Recently, the Sixth Circuit looked closely at product liability based on a failure to warn when the consumer was already aware of the known hazards of the product.

In Smith v. Joy Technologies, Mr. Smith was employed at a coal mine owned by Southern Coal Corporation in Kentucky.  The coal mine used a high wall mining (HWM) system to remove coal from the coal mine. Under this system, conveyor cars are pushed into the mine through a hydraulic system that pushes the cars forward.  The cars are loaded with coal, and, when all the cars are full, the system is reversed so that the cars can be extracted from the mine and the coal removed.  Guide rails typically operate alongside the car system in order to maintain the alignment of the cars.  Here, Mr. Smith was working to empty cars as they returned from the mine when an electrical cable on a car became stuck.  Mr. Smith went to dislodge the electrical cable and in so doing, placed his foot between the guide rail and the hydraulic pusher for the cars.  One of his coworkers mistakenly activated the hydraulic system, and the pusher engaged, crushing Mr. Smith’s foot between the pusher and the guide rail.  After several surgeries, Mr. Smith’s lower leg was ultimately amputated, and he was declared fully disabled.

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train accidentWhen we think about personal injury cases and negligence lawsuits, we typically imagine slip and fall accidents, car crashes, and faulty railings.  But personal injuries can arise in virtually in any situation, even in the most unpredictable of conditions. A recent case out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals takes a look at personal injuries arising from dirty bathrooms on a train moving from North Carolina to Tennessee. Despite the best efforts of the plaintiff, a train engineer, the Sixth Circuit held that there are limits to federal government liability for the unpleasant conditions in public restrooms.

In Edwards v. CSX Transp., Inc., Edwards was a train engineer working for CSX.  On the morning of May 28, 2012, he boarded a train headed to Tennessee with an upset stomach.  After rushing quickly to the bathroom, Edwards was dismayed to find that it was, in his words, “nasty.” Unwilling to use the toilet, which he alleged was splattered with various substances, Edwards rushed outside to a catwalk along the side of the train and attempted to throw up over the side. In the process, he fell over the handrail and off the catwalk, landing on the ground below. He broke several bones and walked away with lasting injuries.

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Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common injuries suffered. You’re walking around, thinking about what you’ve got to do and, suddenly, you find yourself on the ground. Most times it’s just an embarrassing incident and you can simply get up and go about your business, but other times you find yourself seriously injured.

When Does Liability Emerge?

If the reason you fell could have been prevented by simple maintenance on the part of the property owner where you fell, premises liability emerges. A Tennessee injury lawyer knows that many of these injuries are a result of negligence on the part of property owners.