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November 2, 2014

Friebel v. Visiting Nurse - Dual Intent Doctrine Struck Down in OH

Workers are constantly forced to multitask, particularly when it comes to juggling their personal and professional lives. Unfortunately, trying to be efficient cost one home health care nurse in Ohio the right to collect workers' compensation benefits, following a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Ass'n of Mid-Ohio. carcrash2.jpg

The court ruled against the "dual intent" doctrine, which would have allowed a worker running a personal errand while on his or her way to the next assignment to collect benefits for a crash that occurred at that time.

Although the decision doesn't directly affect workers in Georgia, we can rest-assured courts will review this case when similar questions arise.

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June 20, 2014

Williams v. Petromark Drilling - Coming-and-Going Rule Challenged

It's been well-established in Georgia, as well as many other states, that if a worker is traveling to or leaving from work, and is injured in a motor vehicle accident, workers compensation benefits may not be collected.
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However, our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers know there are always exceptions, which is why injured workers should never assume the outcome of their claim is a foregone conclusion.

In the case of Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC, the worker was injured in a car accident while on his way home from work. However, he was ultimately awarded workers' compensation benefits after a great deal of back-and-forth, because, as the Kansas Supreme Court determined, the trip occurred while the claimant was "in the course and scope of his employment."

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June 6, 2013

Atlanta Roadside Construction Injuries Primary Concern in Summer

It's been nearly five years since a Salt Lake City construction worker was nearly killed after being struck by a sport utility vehicle as he worked alongside the road in a designated work zone, managing traffic.
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Our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers understand the teen behind the wheel was reportedly being shown a photograph by another teen in the passenger seat.

The construction worker doesn't remember any of it, but he suffered 11 broken bones and severe brain injuries. Recovery has been slow, with a pelvis shattered in four places, three broken ribs and a broken heel, among other injuries. He's had to undergo knee surgery and five shoulder operations. And his brain, while making miraculous strides, still can't always grasp the correct words. Simple tasks like tying his shoes and buttoning his shirt have become impossible, as have playing baseball, basketball or riding ATVs with his friends, as he once loved to do.

Some days, he's angry. Other days, he finds himself deeply depressed. But he's dedicated to prevention and speaking to teenagers in high schools about the dangers of distracted driving, particularly in construction zones.

In 2011, there were nearly 75 roadside construction workers fatally injured by vehicles nationwide.

Georgia ranks fourth in the nation for pervasiveness of roadside construction fatalities and injuries. It accounts for 5 percent of all the country's roadside construction fatalities and 4 percent of roadside construction injuries.

Between 2003 and 2007, some 640 workers were killed while working at roadside construction deaths, accounting for about 8 percent of all construction fatalities during that time frame. Almost half of these incidents involved a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment.

The Centers for Disease Control say that about 60 percent of those cases involve being struck by construction equipment.

You might think these cases would be fairly straightforward in terms of injury law. But in fact, there are many benefits to having an attorney who is familiar with work injuries in particular.

Although the case out of Utah shows how driver negligence is clearly a prime issue that injury lawyers will examine, another potential angle might be investigating whether the construction signs near the work zone were negligently-placed.

For example, sometimes there is construction equipment actually in the roadway. In other cases, the road is uneven, damaged or torn-up, and the construction signs don't accurately reflect that or aren't placed in the proper location.

In cases like these, the responsibility would fall on the company or contractor responsible for managing traffic control. Additionally, the Department of Transportation may also bear some of the liability, as it is the duty of the state DOT to inspect the construction site and sign placement. If the inspection wasn't properly carried out, this could be grounds for liability.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roadside construction incidents were most likely to occur in April through October - accounting for nearly 65 percent of the total. Mostly, this has to do with the fact that this is when the bulk of the construction takes place.

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January 24, 2013

Atlanta Workers' Compensation Claims: Cell Phone & Car Crashes

Since the summer of 2010, texting while driving has been prohibited in Georgia for all motorists and teens have been barred from all cell phone use. headset.jpg

However, Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers know that companies that don't have comprehensive cell phone policies for on-the-road employees are not only putting those workers at risk, they are opening themselves to potentially expensive claims.

The National Safety Council is hosting a series of free employer cell phone policy seminars, citing that almost a quarter of all crashes today involve cell phone distracted drivers. Unfortunately, none of the one-day courses offered are in Georgia, but the organization still offers a wealth of information online about establishing an employee cell-phone policy in your workplace.

The first thing to understand is that this is not something that should just concern commercial driving firms. The risk is applicable to all workers whose job at some point involves driving. Some examples might be service technicians or salespeople. A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that many motorists who use cell phones while driving (even when its against state law) say they do so because of work-related communications.

So companies that expect workers to be on their phones while driving must understand they are assuming a sizable risk. It's often not something we think of because it isn't something we see outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in industry-related guides. But let's consider if it were anything else: If your employer knew that some operational action of their business was exposing workers to four times a greater risk of injury, why would they encourage it? Yet that's what companies that encourage cell phone use among driving employees are effectively doing.

The fact is, motor vehicle crashes are among the leading two causes of death in this country, with as many as 43,500 people dying each year since 1994. That doesn't even count the millions who suffer life-threatening or life-altering injuries as a result of these collisions. Cell phones have contributed to these measures, and even laws banning handheld devices aren't doing enough, according to the NSC. In fact, in late 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that every state enact zero tolerance bans that encompass all portable electronic devices for those behind the wheel - including hands-free devices.

Right now, there is no state in this country that entirely bans all drivers from any cell phone use. All states - and many employers - allow the use of hands-free communication in vehicles.

Texting while driving has gotten a lot of media attention. And to be sure, it is a serious problem. However, research has shown simply talking on the phone behind the wheel is dangerous. The fact is, people talk on their cell phones more frequently and for longer periods of time than they text. In 2010 alone, this contributed to at least 1.1 million motor vehicle crashes, versus approximately 160,000 attributed to texting while driving.

What's problematic is that many employers and employees believe there is no risk to talking on a cell phone while driving, so long as their hands are free and their vision is unobstructed. (In most cases, drivers are using a headset or wireless ear piece.)

But hands-free devices do not free a motorist from the cognitive distraction, which takes a person's mind away from the direct task at hand - driving. In fact, 30 different studies compiled by the NCS indicate hands-free devices aren't any safer than handheld ones.

The common theme in this research is that the human brain has a limited capacity for attention. It can only process so many things at a time. For workers who are behind the wheel, the only thing they should be focusing on is the road.

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September 16, 2011

New Data Released Analyzes Work Accidents in Georgia and Elsewhere

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its preliminary estimates of fatal work accidents in Georgia and elsewhere, which showed that in 2010, more than 4,500 employees died as a result of work-related injuries.

That amounts to about a fatal work injury rate of 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent employees for U.S. workers for the year.
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Our Atlanta workers compensation attorneys understand that the final 2010 data for this information will not be released until the Spring of 2012. Until then, this is the most recent information available. It's no surprise that a number of economic factors play a role in the number of fatal work injuries sustained every year. These factors include total hours worked, which was up slightly in 2010 in comparison to both 2008 and 2009.

According to the newly released data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:

  • There was a 5 percent decrease in the number of work-related fatalities experienced by those who were self-employed. This workforce experienced nearly 1,000 fatal work injuries in 2010.
  • The private mining industry experienced nearly 200 fatal work injuries in 2010. This amounts to an increase of nearly 75 percent from the previous year. The rate of fatal work injuries in this industry was nearly 20 per 100,000 FTEs in 2010.
  • The private construction industry was fortunate enough to experience a 10 percent decrease in the number of fatal work injuries from 2009 to 2010. The number of these injuries is down approximately 40 percent from 2006.
  • The number of work-related injuries caused by fires more than doubled from 2009 to 2010. There were more than 100 of these incidents in 2010, which is the highest number on record.
  • The number of workplace homicides involving women increased by more than 10 percent from 2009 to 2010. Although this number increased for women, the number for all workers decreased by about 7 percent from the previous year, which is the lowest number ever recorded.
  • Fatal work injuries among African-American and non-Hispanic workers declined by nearly 10 percent from the previous year, although the number of these incidents increased by more than 2 percent within the non-Hispanic worker category.
  • Work-related deaths involving Latino or Hispanic employees has declined nearly 5 percent.
  • Police officers experienced an approximate 40 percent increase in the number of fatal work accidents from 2009 to 2010. These workers experienced less than 100 fatal work accidents in 2009, but the number spiked to more than 130 in 2010.
  • The total number of worked hours for those both hourly and salary employees increased in 2010. Unfortunately, these hours decreased for those who are self-employed.
  • The number of fatal work injuries sustained by women increased by more than 5 percent, but decreased by only 1 percent for men.

The number of work injuries sustained by employees who were under the age of 18, workers age 25 to 34, and workers ages 55-years-old and older recorded a decrease in the number of these accidents.

There are twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia that reported to have experienced an increase in the number of fatal work injuries from 2009 to 2010. Only 23 states reported to have experienced a decrease in the number of these fatal accidents.

Continue reading "New Data Released Analyzes Work Accidents in Georgia and Elsewhere " »

April 7, 2011

GDOT Remembers Those Lost in Georgia Work Accidents during National Work Zone Awareness Week

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) recognized fallen workers earlier this week during the National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week kick-off. The celebration was held at the One Georgia Center and in attendance were many members from the transportation department and local government officials. This event was dedicated to the workers we've lost in unfortunate and preventable Atlanta work zone accidents.

Our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers urge you to participate in Georgia's "Go Orange!" work zone safety campaign in an attempt to reduce the dangers in our highway construction zones.
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"The arrival of spring and warmer weather, coupled with construction through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, mean an increase in highway construction and heightens the risk for Georgia motorists and GDOT workers," a press release said.

GDOT officials report that, in 2009, nearly 700 people died and almost 34,000 people were injured in road construction zones in the United States, according to Fox 31. The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse reports that Georgia reported more than 30 deaths and almost 1,300 injures to those statistics.

"The biggest problem we have with that is motorist speeding through the work zone, not slowing down, and running what we've reduced the speed to; so speeding and then the other thing is texting and talking on the phone," says Craig Solomon with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Officials will be displaying 57 orange cones and will be wearing orange vests to alert drivers of the threats motorists pose to road workers. Officials are representing the 57 workers we've lost in work zones since 1973. Motorists present the greatest risk of threats to these employees. It is not uncommon for a Georgia construction employee to work in these zones while cars fly by at speeds of 65 miles per hour.

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse offers these tips to workers in the construction and maintenance zones:

-Make sure you and your employer have ensured adequate separation between workers and traffic.

-Make sure everyone on site is trained in federal- and state-approved traffic control
procedures.

-Implement standards that require all workers to wear personal protective equipment, which can include hard hats, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, reflective vests, etc.

-Make sure appropriate safety devices are use, such as drums, cones, and a truck-mounted attenuator when working in a closed travel lane.

-Avoid using MP3 players, radios, televisions or any other distracting devices while on the job.

-Have a plan for escaping your work area to a safe location if something happens.

GDOT officials have presented this Work Zone Safety Presentation to help motorists practice more educated driving skills in these construction and maintenance zones.

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March 17, 2011

Georgia Car Accidents Leading Cause for Fatal Work Injuries

A 51-year-old Medical College of Georgia Hospital worker was struck by an SUV that allegedly failed to yield at a pedestrian crosswalk, reports The Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia workers' compensation lawyers would like to remind you that your safety is your employers business, too. An Economic News Release reports that nearly 100 people were killed in Georgia work accidents last year and about half of those died in transportation incidents. Our lawyers can help you to take some of the stress out of workers' compensation problems and personal injury accidents so you can focus on your recovery.
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GHSU President Ricardo Azziz previously denied a request asking that the area, where the incident earlier this week took place, be closed off to most vehicle traffic. Azziz has decided to open the case up once again and continue to look into the issue.

The National Highways Transportation Safety Administration reports that nearly 31,000 fatalities occurred last year from motor vehicle traffic crashes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average employed American works an estimated 47-hours a week. That leaves plenty of opportunity for work-related car accidents to occur.

Being injured on the job can have numerous effects on your life. Not only will you have to fight for your rights as an employee to cover medical expenses, but you could faced lost wages at work and other issues that impact your future financial well-being. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that more than 1.2 million employees missed work last year because of an on-the-job accident causing lost wages.

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October 31, 2010

OSHA pushes employers to ban text messaging in effort to prevent Georgia work accidents

The federal government is calling on employers to reduce the risk of Georgia work accidents caused by distracted driving. Specifically, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration is urging employers to ban text messaging by drivers on the job.

Our Georgia workers' compensation lawyers know too well that car accidents and other transportation accidents are a leading cause of job-related injuries in Georgia.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that transportation accidents were responsible for 1,682 of the 4,340 fatal work accidents nationwide last year. Transportation accidents accounted for just about half of all fatal Georgia work accidents -- 47 of 96.

"Year after year, the leading cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "There's no question that new communications technologies are helping businesses work smarter and faster. But getting work done faster does not justify the dramatically increased risk of injury and death that comes with texting while driving."

The new safety campaign is aimed at those who drive the cars, trucks and vans that deliver the nation's goods and services. The government is requesting that companies examine practices and policies. Employers are also being reminded they have a legal obligation to prohibit workplace hazards like texting and driving.

"OSHA's message to all companies whose employees drive on the job is straightforward: It is your responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving," said Michaels. "Companies are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their jobs. OSHA will investigate worker complaints, and employers who violate the law will be subject to citations and penalties."

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that more than 5,400 motorists were killed in accidents blamed on distracted drivers last year. The government has increasingly pushed for a ban on text messaging by drivers -- so far 30 states have complied.

Georgia is one of the states that has outlawed text messaging by all drivers.

As part of its outreach, OSHA launched a new distracted driving website for Georgia workers.

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