Monthly Archives: June 2012

How do we earn your trust?

Earning your client’s trust is a crucial part of being an attorney.

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Roger Moore of Nebraska.

In its most basic form, trust is defined as “reliance on the integrity, strength, and ability of a person”.

Trust can also be defined as “a person on whom one relies”.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when a client for whom I had settled a case dropped by our office. This client had been a truck driver and lived out of state. While we were working on his case we never had the opportunity to meet in person, yet he came to trust me to look out for his best interests and advise him along the course of his workers’ compensation injury. He came by to thank me for the work I had done for him which had been completed over a year and a half ago.

As I spoke with him I began to understand how stressful it must be to trust someone who lives halfway across the country and with whom you may never meet in person. This is a unique aspect of trucking cases we handle which isn’t found in other types of work-related injuries.

Due to his injury he was unable to return to trucking. However, were been able to negotiate a settlement which allowed him to live his life Continue reading

NC Legislation on Compliance – Something Strange is Happening Here

Last Friday (June 22, 2012) the NC Legislature passed an insurance bill (HB 237), allegedly to help the N.C. Industrial Commission track employers to make sure they obey the law and purchase workers’ compensation insurance when they have three or more employees. This bill keeps information confidential that is sent from the Rate Bureau (the private body that tries to set insurance rates for workers’ compensation and other insurance premiums in this state) to the N.C Industrial Commission. It adds the Industrial Commission to an existing statute (NCGS Section 58-36-16) that allows information about an employer’s experience rate modifier and other sensitive information from the Rate Bureau that is already being sent to the Department of Labor.

With as many as 30,000 employers with no insurance (according to a recent article in the News and Observer, and this information was revealed by gaining access to these public records) there is now more reason than ever to maintain the public status of this information. So, why would the legislature want to make this information exempt from public disclosure?

It makes sense that the Industrial Commission keep this information confidential and not allow it to become a “public record.” In North Carolina we have a law (NCGS Section 132-1) that says any document concerning the transaction of business within a government agency should be open to the public, unless otherwise specifically provided by law, since such documents are the “ property of the people.”

The strange part of the bill is another section (NCGS Section 58-36-17) that that says the Rate Bureau shall provide information indicating “the status of workers’ compensation insurance coverage” and that this information shall also be kept confidential and specifically exempted from the public records law. The problem is that another statute already requires employers to provide this information directly to the Industrial Commission under NCGS Section 97-94(a), and that information is currently not exempt from the public records law.

There is nothing sensitive about it. It simply provides proof that the employer has insurance, and that is key information for the public to have. With as many as 30,000 employers with no insurance (according to a recent article in the News and Observer, and this information was revealed by gaining access to these public records) there is now more reason than ever to maintain the public status of this information. So, why would the legislature want to make this information exempt from public disclosure? Something strange is happening here. The legislation is on the Governor’s desk to be signed. It will be interesting to see if she signs it.

Ever Checked Out A Law Firm's Mission Statement?

Consitution of the United StatesOur country has a mission statement. It’s called the U.S Constitution, and it’s a written document that lays out the fundamental principles and values of the country. When we stray from that document we are going off course, much like a ship that begins to leave its charted waters, and each organization should have its own constitution to keep it in line. In fact, most do. They call them mission statements.

My firm’s mission statement reads as follows:

This law firm is dedicated to helping clients achieve a just and fair resolution of their legal problem, by holding ourselves to the highest ethical and professional standards. We will be diligent and reliable, and we will be courteous to our clients and all others with whom we come in contact. We will be honest, compassionate and tolerant. Integrity will be our guiding star. We will work as a team for the benefit of our clients and will exhibit consideration and respect for the well being of all persons. We are also committed to making contributions to our society and profession, and through continuing legal education and study we will maintain our knowledge of the law.

At the same time we are also dedicated to providing a stable economic and pleasant environment for all employees. We will keep ourselves mentally and physically healthy, maintain a sense of humor, and develop our unique gifts and creative talents.

We strive to conduct ourselves according to that document, and when we review cases and the activity we take in those cases, we bring ourselves back to the basic question: “Are we living and practicing law within the guidelines of that mission statement?” If not, we need to change course and comply. It sets boundaries. It sets goals. It provides meaning and purpose. All law firms should have these mission statements so they know what the purpose of the law firm is, and so the public knows as well. So, the next time you review a law firm’s website, look for the mission statement and see what it says. Hopefully, you will agree with the mission. If not, move on.

Real Deaths in N.C. – Real Families – Not Just Statistics

According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, for the past two years there have been 101 deaths on the job in this state. Instead of just reviewing that cold statistical number, it might be a good idea for all of us to see the names of some of these individuals and how they died. Here is a link to a list, incomplete, but nevertheless a list to put names with numbers: A Few Of North Carolina’s Workers Recently Killed On The Job.

Do you ever wonder what the funeral was like for these folks? Ever wonder how many children were left without a father, or think about the crying and anguish that followed notification of death? As you see names like Sanchez, Ramirez, Reyes, Martinez, Gomez, Benitez, Chavez, and other similar names, do you wonder why so many Hispanics seem to be on the list? When you see that at least 21 of the deaths were caused by falls, do you wonder why so many died from that cause? Do you wonder who is in charge of safety at these job sites? Do you wonder how many of these deaths were preventable? Finally, do you wonder if there is anything you can do (yes, you, not the employer) to stop this carnage? If you have some ideas, let me know.

Cell Tower Deaths: More To Come

On May 22, 2012 the PBS Frontline series ran a devastating story about cell tower deaths in this exploding industry and at the end of the story, after it had revealed how little concern is being shown for the safety of men who climb these towers, one man was quoted as saying “people will die.”

It was reported that the accident rate on cell towers is ten times the rate of accidents in the construction industry. So, we know people will die and it’s as predictable as snow in Colorado in the winter, yet it looks like nothing will be done.

One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely.

The Frontline story outlined the tremendous growth of cell towers, particularly between 2006-2008 as the demand grew for internet connections all over the country. Carriers like AT&T wanted to get rid of dead zones and in order to do that they needed more towers and they needed them built quickly to out pace the competition. One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely. As a result, safety took a back seat to getting the job done.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventually fell 200 feet to his death, primarily because he was not wearing a safety harness that would have prevented his fall. He had been ‘free-climbing” (no harness) to move more quickly,and many others did the same thing. OSHA requires that the employer enforce safety.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventualy fell 200 feet to his death.

The boss can’t just leave it up to the employee and when a death occurs blame the employee for not following safety rules, but that is what always happens. Eleven deaths occured in one year on AT&T jobs and they stopped work (finally) to discuss the problem. Last year there were no deaths on AT&T towers. It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

Unfortunately, the demand is still high and as these towers continue to be built you will hear about falls,serious injuries and deaths, all at a tragic cost to families who are affected. As Americans, are we going to enforce safety or are we going to be like some other countries who just don’t seem to care? If we don’t care about safety enforcement for cell towers how long will it be before some other lack of safety compliance affects us – like airline pilot safety, bridge construction safety, or car safety – and a son,daughter, father or other person we care about is injured? We will ask ourselves why we

didn’t do more to stop this madnness. We know “people will die” yet we do nothing? We have to stop hoping that safety will be enforced. We have to demand it.

Cell Tower Deaths: More To Come

On May 22, 2012 the PBS Frontline series ran a devastating story about cell tower deaths in this exploding industry and at the end of the story, after it had revealed how little concern is being shown for the safety of men who climb these towers, one man was quoted as saying “people will die.”

It was reported that the accident rate on cell towers is ten times the rate of accidents in the construction industry. So, we know people will die and it’s as predictable as snow in Colorado in the winter, yet it looks like nothing will be done.

One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely.

The Frontline story outlined the tremendous growth of cell towers, particularly between 2006-2008 as the demand grew for internet connections all over the country. Carriers like AT&T wanted to get rid of dead zones and in order to do that they needed more towers and they needed them built quickly to out pace the competition. One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely. As a result, safety took a back seat to getting the job done.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventually fell 200 feet to his death, primarily because he was not wearing a safety harness that would have prevented his fall. He had been ‘free-climbing” (no harness) to move more quickly,and many others did the same thing. OSHA requires that the employer enforce safety.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventualy fell 200 feet to his death.

The boss can’t just leave it up to the employee and when a death occurs blame the employee for not following safety rules, but that is what always happens. Eleven deaths occured in one year on AT&T jobs and they stopped work (finally) to discuss the problem. Last year there were no deaths on AT&T towers. It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

Unfortunately, the demand is still high and as these towers continue to be built you will hear about falls,serious injuries and deaths, all at a tragic cost to families who are affected. As Americans, are we going to enforce safety or are we going to be like some other countries who just don’t seem to care? If we don’t care about safety enforcement for cell towers how long will it be before some other lack of safety compliance affects us – like airline pilot safety, bridge construction safety, or car safety – and a son,daughter, father or other person we care about is injured? We will ask ourselves why we

didn’t do more to stop this madnness. We know “people will die” yet we do nothing? We have to stop hoping that safety will be enforced. We have to demand it.

Employers Must Obtain And Maintain Workers' Compensation Insurance Coverage

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Todd Bennett of Nebraska.

Your employer is required by law to have workers' compensation insurance for you.

Every employer not in agriculture, farm or ranch operations is required to obtain and maintain workers’ compensation coverage for all employees. Those employers who voluntarily and willfully fail to obtain and maintain coverage violate the law and subject themselves to significant risks.

If you are an employee who is injured in the course of your employment and you learn that your employer has not maintained workers’ compensation coverage for you, you can either file a claim against the employer in civil court or file a claim in the Workers’ Compensation Court.

Employers who try to avoid their legal obligations and avoid providing workers’ compensation coverage expose themselves to monetary judgments in civil court, stop-work orders from the Attorney General’s office, injunctions from continuing to operate their business, assessments against their property, daily penalties of Continue reading