Vision Loss in North Carolina Workers Compensation

Posted on Friday, May 19th, 2017 at 12:39 pm    

Some work injuries are much worse than others. Many injuries such as broken bones do heal over time. Some injuries may slow the worker down but don’t prevent the worker from working entirely. Unfortunately, there are some workplace injuries that tragically alter an employee’s life forever. Loss of vision is one of those catastrophic injuries.

Because vision loss is so life-changing, North Carolina treats these workplace or occupational illnesses differently than standard injuries.

Types of accidents that can loss of vision

Workers may suffer the loss of one or both eyes or retinal detachment for the following reasons:

  • Being hit with some type of projectile object such as wood splinters, glass shards, and other tiny items that cause a scratched cornea or cause irritation. The danger of projectiles is one reason many workers wear goggles.
  • Exposures to minute items of sawdust, silica or sparks;
  • Radiation due to ultraviolet or other radiation. Fluorescent lights, lasers and even natural light often have much more light than is needed to do the job. The excess light can result in a loss of vision. Of course that would be more of an occupational disease claim and harder to prove.
  • A slip and fall to the head cause traumatic brain injury and loss of vision
  • Some other type of head trauma. Slips and falls, vehicle crashes, assaults by other workers are just a few reasons head trauma can occur.
  • An explosion due to a faulty appliance or piece of equipment
  • Chemical burns caused by splashes can cause blindness or serious injury
  • Excessive exposure to bright light such as in welding.
  • Tools including nails, wires, saws, and staples, can enter the eye causing damage. Blunt force trauma
  • Computer usage. Some workers rely on the backlight of computers to see instead of proper overhead light. In addition, constantly looking at computer screens without taking necessary breaks can cause eye problems and other problems such as migraines and nausea. But again, anything that occurs over time would be more in the nature of an occupational disease claim and far more difficult to prove than a trauma.

Benefits for vision loss

All North Carolina workers are entitled to compensation for any medical surgeries or doctor visits that are reasonably necessary to help improve an injured employee’s health. There may be surgical procedures that can help a person who suffers loss of vision. A lens transplant, for example, may be a possible way to improve eyesight. An experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney such as Joe Miller will work with your eye doctors to determine your diagnosis and whether any treatment is possible. If the eye injury is compensable, he will argue that any surgery that might reasonably improve the worker’s eyesight should be paid for by the employer’s insurance company.

All workers are entitled to 2/3rds of their lost wages until they return to work or until a maximum period of 500 weeks has elapsed.

If an injured worker returns to work, he or she may still be entitled to additional compensation of 2/3rds of their average weekly wages for an additional period if their vision loss is permanent. For eye loss, the schedule is as follows:

Loss of one eye. Maximum (other than pay for being out of work):  120 weeks. If the use of the eye is total or the loss of vision is total, the injured worker is considered to have a loss of an eye and is thus eligible for the 120 weeks of compensation. Partial eye loss is handled somewhat differently. For partial loss, the employee seeks a review by an ophthalmologist who, after a full examination, places a percentage of eye loss or vision loss on the injury. For example, the eye doctor can say the eye loss is 10%, 50%, 70%, 85%, or 95%. If the percentage is 85% or higher, loss is treated as a full loss and the employee gets the full 120 weeks’ compensation. Otherwise the percentage of benefits will correspond to the percentage of loss. For example, a 10% loss means the worker gets 10% of 120 weeks or 12 weeks for the eye. A 50% loss means ½ of 120 weeks or 60 weeks.

Loss of both eyes. If there is vision loss in both eyes, that may be considered a total and permanent disability, which means the claim is not limited to the 500 week maximum. Rather, the injured employee may be entitled to lifetime compensation benefits at 2/3rds of the average weekly wage. In such case, the 120 week scheduled benefit becomes irrelevant. It would be up to the Industrial Commission to determine if the employee qualifies.

If the employer can show that the employee is capable of return to suitable employment, despite the loss of vision in both eyes, then the employee would not be entitled to lifetime compensation.

Disfigurement

Sometimes, tragically, the loss of the eye is accompanied by severe disfigurement. If the workers’ face or head is disfigured along with the loss of vision, then the worker may be entitled up to an additional sum not to be more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00). For example if there is extremely noticeable scarring elsewhere on the face, that would be something the Industrial Commission would consider awarding an additional sum of $10,000.00 for.

Vocational rehabilitation

In addition to medical, wage loss, eye loss and disfigurement compensation; an injured worker who becomes blind or loses vision may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation so they can learn a new job skill. There are schools for the blind and those with vision loss to enable the worker to communicate and use his/her skills. This right to vocational rehabilitation is more likely to apply for educated workers, office workers, and others who didn’t rely on their eyes to do manual labor.

Today, computer technology can also help the worker who suffers vision loss. The employer’s insurance carrier may also be required to pay for this new technology. The carrier may also need to pay for seeing eye dogs, transportation, and other services or tools that help the worker get to work and do his/her job.

Speak with a skilled North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible

If anyone you know suffers from vision loss due to a workplace accident, they may have a strong recovery coming to them. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of North Carolina and Virginia workers get their full workers’ compensation benefits. He has been helping injured workers for over a quarter of a century. Vision loss can often be traced to a workplace accident. For answers to your questions and caring counsel, please call lawyer Joe Miller at (888) 694-1671 to schedule an appointment.

 

Restaurant Workers and N.C. Workers’ Compensation

Restaurant workers often suffer work-related injuries for a variety of reasons. Many service establishments are understaffed The work hours are irregular causing many workers to be tired. There’s constant commotion between the dining center and the kitchen. The quarters are typically quite tight. For many cooks and servers, getting hurt is almost a prerequisite for the job. Minor injuries can often become major injuries. Some injuries can be permanent and prevent the worker from ever working again.

It doesn’t matter if a worker works full-time or part-time as long as they are an employee. My office represents chefs, cooks, servers, bussers, dishwashers, hostesses and maitre’ d’s, delivery drivers, and anyone who works in any type of restaurant.

Common restaurant- related injuries

Restaurant workers can suffer the following types of injuries:

  • Lifting injuries. Workers often have to lift large bags or items because food is often delivered to the restaurant in large quantities. Any worker who is hurt lifting, carrying, or pushing these large containers has the right to bring a North Carolina work injury claim based on the theory that the injury was due to a work-related accident.
  • Burn injuries. Any contact with a stove, oil, hot grease, scalding hot coffee, or any hot item can cause first, second, or third-degree burns which can require multiple skin grafts. Burns often cause disfigurement.
  • Back and neck injuries. It’s easy to wrench your back or twist your neck while preparing and serving food or lifting heavy pots, pans, or other food items. Most restaurant workers are on their feet all day long except for breaks. Back and neck injuries can cause chronic pain. Sometimes, injections can help. Often, workers have to take time off to manage the pain.
  • Cuts and lacerations. Anyone using a knife or chopping items to prepare feet, cut meat, trim, slice vegetables, or otherwise cut and dice food can suffer a cut or laceration. Cuts can lead to infections. If not treated properly and timely, an infection can require that an arm or hand be amputated.

Common causes of restaurant injuries

While there are many ways restaurant accidents can occur, these are some of the more typical causes and injuries.

  • Slips and falls. Floors at restaurants always need constant mopping because beverages or food falls to the floor and of course, grease. Servers often bang into other service workers or slip on greasy floors that are overdue to be mopped.
  • Mopping, snow, and ice removal. Floors must be continually cleaned of debris. The outside parking lots and entrances have to be shoveled and cleared so customers don’t slip and fall. This type of clean-up can cause back injuries or a slip and fall.
  • Criminal attacks. Because restaurant workers, especially cashiers, work with money, these workers can be the target of criminal attacks and muggings. Any violent crime which occurs while working is compensable in North Carolina, so long as it is not the result of a personal argument or situation.
  • Upset customers. Sometimes, a customer does worse than fail to leave a tip. An angry customer strikes a worker, that worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if the strike causes injuries and is related to the work performed.
  • Explosions and product defects. Heaters, boilers, dishwashers, and other appliances that don’t work can cause explosions, electrical burns, and other serious injuries.

Chemicals used in the restaurant profession can also cause injuries. Loud noises can cause hearing loss or damage.

Repetitive stress injuries

Servers, food preparers, and busboys are constantly lifting and carrying plates and dishes filled to the brim with food. The constant movements can cause lifting injuries and repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The argument that experienced North Carolina workers compensation lawyers use in repetitive stress injuries is that the repetition is covered as an occupational disease.

To be sure, these types of injuries are much more difficult to prove than a traumatic injury.  That being said, North Carolina work injury lawyers can often successfully argue that a catch-all provision of the state’s workers compensation law applies. That provision holds that a worker can obtain benefits if he/she can show:

  • That the work environment exposed the employee to a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than for members of the general public and
  • That the work environment was a leading reason for the carpal tunnel syndrome.

These two conditions generally apply in restaurant work. Members of the general public may clean their dishes three times a day. They don’t carry plates filled with seven servings and they don’t carry and clear items hundreds of times a day. Doctors can usually verify that the repetitive stress injury was due to the restaurant work.

Injuries outside the restaurant.

Restaurants often employ delivery staff to transport meals to offices, homes, and venues where parties or celebrations are being held. Delivery personnel who get into a vehicle accident while traveling to these locations can suffer a full range of injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injury, and spinal damage. Drivers can also be killed. Any restaurant delivery worker who is hurt while making a delivery would be entitled to North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits.

Make the call to an experienced North Carolina restaurant injury lawyer today

If you are suffering minor aches or a major injury due to work at a fast-food restaurant, local diner, hotel restaurant, five-star attraction, or any type of food service establishment; you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Benefits include 2/3rds of your average weekly wage loss and payment for your medical bills. If you are permanently injured, you may be entitled to additional benefits.

North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for the rights of injured workers for over 25 years. You may have a strong recovery coming your way. Please phone attorney Miller at (888) 694-1671 to schedule an appointment with a respected work injury lawyers.