According to various reports and advocates for workplace safety, the construction industry in North Carolina has seen the highest number of workplace deaths, nearly 60 between January 2021 and September 2023, according to the North Carolina Department of Labor's Occupational Fatality Inspection Review data. This trend, consistently placing the construction sector at the forefront of […]
Walmart and Workers Compensation: Real Life Cases
Worker’s compensation cases can be among the most complex of fact cases. Though the size of a company may not be the most important fact, it can make a difference, for example in terms of the time involved in fighting a case. Does it, for example, make a difference when someone is hurt at work at one of the Wal-Mart’s in North Carolina, versus a small “mom and pop” store? Worldwide, Walmart employs well over 2 million employees: in the United States alone, where almost 1.5 million employees are located: that’s one percent of the total American workforce.
The sheer size of Wal-Mart as an employer means workers compensation attorneys may be among the most valuable experts on affecting how Wal-Mart deals with workplace injuries. One basic rule is always, when concerned about a possible workplace injury, to get legal advice as soon as possible. A second crucial rule is never to assume that the apparent injuries are the only injuries. This need to “Never Assume” was the case involving a 22-year-service Walmart employee, working at a North Carolina electronics department.
The injury itself could’ve happened to almost anyone. A lot of workers compensation claims are simply bad luck. Despite being a longtime veteran of the store, the worker accidentally fell over a ladder attached to the stairway. In attempting to break her fall, she also caused injuries to her forearm and shoulder. She wisely, quickly sought legal help and filed a Worker’s Compensation claim so that she could be sure she had the best treatment possible. One study suggests that almost 25% of all employees delay getting medical treatment. The major factor in delay? A sense of “embarrassment” was the most common reason to delay getting help.
One interesting fact illustrated in this case was how injuries aren’t always immediately evident. Certainly, there were indicators that it could be a serious injury, such as the distances of a fall involved, the age of the employee, and even the fact she landed on a concrete floor. Delays in getting legal advice can undermine not only the workers comp claim, but even make the injury worse.
This case also demonstrated the importance of crafting legal arguments that properly prove whether the employer or the employee carry certain burdens of evidence during the hearings. As we’ll see, it isn’t always only the medical experts who have the last word: there are certain legal presumptions about evidence and proof. Instead, there were medical experts identified by the workers compensation attorney, and the opinions relied on by the employer and their insurer. But first, evidence also came from other than strictly medical experts. Though medical evidence, and the legal knowledge as to how to understand those records, help explain why workers compensation cases are so complex. But winning those cases can also depend on more than just doctors’ notes.
A Legal Team Approach to Your Claim
There can be a feeling of David versus Goliath, when it comes to fighting for an injured employee. Add in that Wal-Mart was the employer in this case, and it can be even more challenging. In this case, the workers case was, as you’d expect, greatly helped by the attorney’s expert handling of the professional medical records and diagnoses. Interestingly, the workers case was also helped by the attorneys use of coworkers who testified to the fall itself. Their testimony helped to address the extent of injury, and also helped to prove the workers specific complaints about how she was hurt. This coworker testimony was powerful evidence as well. Regardless, the worker here eventually had four co-operating medical experts, as opposed to the single employer medical expert.
The worker eventually received ongoing disability compensation and medical compensation for a series of injuries. Even then, however, the need for the advocacy of a workers compensation attorney were needed, to address the appeals that allowed the employee’s initial wins on compensation.
The North Carolina Worker Comp System: Ready For What’s Next?
In this case, the claim had to work its way through the workers comp system of North Carolina: even though the injury was well proved by the workers compensation attorney. Attorneys know very well that the employee’s case (often) isn’t usually only against the employer. This particular case, for example, also involved Walmart’s insurance carrier, the Union Fire Insurance Company. Employees are often surprised to find that the excellent relationship they thought they had with their boss or employer may have little relationship with handling the workers compensation claim. The approach or requirements of the insurance company itself may make the case easier or harder. Having a workers compensation attorney who has experience in the field can help because that lawyer knows the ropes: and has a better chance of knowing what may or may not be common insurance company practice, too. Sometimes, of course, the employer will simply disclaim having any responsibility for the delays associated with appeals. Even when the employee is very likely to prevail in the end, the company may not disagree with their insurer’s recommendation.
There’s never a guarantee for how long a case can take. In this case, the extent of injuries turned out to be worse than the worker first expected. In this case, there was a major dispute with the Wal-Mart physician. Because of excellent referrals from her actual workers comp team, she received orthopedic surgery which found a pre-existing degenerative nerve disease. It was proved to the North Carolina workers compensation commission that the Wal-Mart injury was likely to have exacerbated this condition. Probably most importantly, she underwent surgery to decompress the nerve “to prevent progressive neurological problems and muscle atrophy.” Adding to the mix of medical issues, is that each person’s response to surgery can be so different: but still covered by workers compensation. In cases such as the one described here, it was vitally important that the injured worker knew to get workers compensation advice as soon as possible. Whether fighting against a Goliath or not, delay in getting help from a workers compensation expert may be the largest risk of all.
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