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North Carolina Law Blog

Workplace exposure to fumes, dust linked to lung disease

One of the things that make Charlotte such an attractive place to live is the ease with which we can escape urban life and enjoy hiking, boating, camping and many other outdoor activities in which we get plenty of sun and fresh air.

Unfortunately, much of our lives are spent indoors where we inhale recirculated air. Even worse, some workers are exposed to workplace gases, vapors, dust and fumes. Those workers are more likely to show early signs of lung disease, according to a recent study.

Report: Social Security Disability fund healthier than expected

The good news is that the Social Security Disability trust fund is a little healthier than expected. The bad news is that the fund is healthier, in part, because of the increasing backlog in the SSDI approval process.

Because the Social Security Administration is not processing claims as fast as it used to, the trust fund is expected to last until 2028, according to the Social Security Board of Trustees' annual report. Last year's report said the fund would last only until 2023.

In praise of an understated, effective call for worker safety

There is something to be said -- quietly -- for understatement. Our world is so often filled with hyperbole and excess that we sometimes forget how effective restraint and moderation can be in debate.

An example of this effectiveness can be found in a recent North Carolina newspaper editorial about workplace safety. The Winston-Salem Journal points to a construction accident that resulted in serious injuries and a relatively small fine for the company whose worker was hurt.

Two North Carolina girls killed in high-speed crash

If you drive northeast of Charlotte for a little less than three hours, you arrive in Person County. The rural area is a quieter, sadder place than it was two years ago. Two little Person County girls were killed in a car crash in June 2015 while they were on vacation with their family in Myrtle Beach.

"As a parent, you should never have to say goodbye to your child,” said the mother of the 11-year-old who died that day. The girl's 9-year-old cousin was also killed. "When we left Myrtle Beach to go home, we should’ve been preparing them for school the next month. Instead, we had to go home and plan funerals."

More than earned: A warrior's fight for SSDI benefits

The young Army lieutenant did not want to listen to combat-tested veterans in his platoon, so he ordered the group to use the road in Afghanistan rather than a less obvious route to their destination. The result was that an improvised explosive device buried in the road detonated and tore the left leg off of one of the soldiers. The explosion also shattered the soldier's left arm and severely damaged his left ear.

He returned home after the late 2010 IED explosion to surgeries and rehabilitation. The VA outfitted him with a high-tech prosthetic leg and the Social Security Administration approved his claim for disability benefits.

Shining a light on a media darling with workplace safety issues

It is safe to say that Elon Musk is a media darling. The billionaire founder of electric car manufacturer Tesla is riding a wave of public and media adoration on the heels of the unveiling of the Model 3 Tesla. The recent offering is widely touted as the first affordable -- and attractive and cool -- electric car.

Demand for the Model 3 is through the roof and while early production has been slow, Musk vows it will be ramped up. "We're going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell," he said. Unfortunately, that hell seems likely to involve on-the-job injuries in Tesla plants, where workers are injured at a substantially higher rate than the auto industry norm, according to news reports.

Asbestos: Why it's important to limit exposure

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals resistant to corrosion and heat. Asbestos has been used in a number of products in the past including insulation for pipes and in building materials. Many of the minerals that make up asbestos have been chemically treated or changed, which make them hazardous to those who work with or are exposed to them.

It's most common to be exposed to asbestos during renovations, repairs or when manufacturing products including asbestos. Unfortunately, asbestos is a well-known health hazard and has the potential to lead to asbestosis or cancer, like mesothelioma.

North Carolina man sentenced in bicycle accident hit-and-run

A 22-year-old North Carolina man was bicycling home from work late one November night last year. The front and rear of his bicycle were equipped with blinking red lights, as required by law, and he wore a helmet. Unfortunately, his precautions were not enough to save him from a careless, speeding SUV driver who struck him from behind with such force that the bicyclist was knocked out of his shoes, newspaper reports said.

The Asheville cyclist spent two months in a coma with a brain injury, shattered knees, broken right ankle, a tear in his heart and spinal damage before he died. The driver who hit the bicyclist on a road near the interstate and drove off will spend the next year and a half in prison after pleading guilty to felony hit and run with serious injury.

Prescription opioid use driving car accident rates higher

Law enforcement officials in Charlotte and across the state of North Carolina have repeatedly said that like much of the nation, we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other civil servants say that public safety is far too often put at risk by people high on opioids.

A recent study shows the dramatic increase in danger on our roads: the percentage of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids increased sevenfold over two decades. In 1995, just one percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone; by 2015, the percentage had soared to seven.

Helping an injured worker return to their Charlotte job

According to federal government statistics, there are about 3 million non-fatal work injuries per year. Of those, more than half of the hurt workers required time away from their jobs to recuperate.

Of course, many of the injured workers required workers' compensation benefits that include medical care and partial wage replacement. For employees and employers, the goals after injuries include recovery and a return to job.

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