Agricultural Worker Injuries
Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries, both when it comes to workplace injuries and workplace fatalities. For example, in 2021, the “Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting” industry experienced a fatality rate that was six times the national average. And, despite rampant underreporting, there are more than 12,000 confirmed agricultural worker injuries each year. However, workers in the agricultural industry are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, which can cover the cost of all necessary medical treatment and provide monthly income-replacement benefits, giving workers the ability to fully heal from their injuries before returning to work.
At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, we have a deep appreciation for farmworkers and other agricultural workers, recognizing their vital contribution to the North Carolina economy. Our Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers proudly work closely with injured workers, helping them navigate the complex workers’ comp system in pursuit of the benefits they deserve.The NC Workers’ Compensation System Explained
The North Carolina workers’ compensation system is a no-fault, insurance-based program designed to provide employees with medical benefits and income-replacement benefits in the event of a workplace injury. In exchange for these benefits, workers are prevented from suing their employers under a personal injury theory in most cases. Thus, the workers’ comp system protects both employees and employers.
When it comes to which injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, the answer depends less on the type of injury and more on how the injury occurred. This is because workers’ compensation benefits are available after any injury that was caused by or related to an employee’s job duties. Workers’ compensation benefits are also available for those employees who develop occupational diseases.
Most workers’ compensation cases do not go to trial and are instead resolved through less formal procedures. In fact, even if an employer or their insurance company denies a claim, the remedy is to file for an appeal with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.Challenges Agricultural Workers Face When Pursuing Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Regardless of the industry, most employees who are hurt on the job face hurdles when trying to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. For example, employers and their insurance companies routinely deny employee’s workers’ comp claims, claiming their injury was not work-related.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the industry, many agricultural workers not only have extremely dangerous occupations but also face additional challenges when pursuing workers’ comp benefits. First, employers in the agricultural industry often hire workers as contractors rather than employees. Because the workers’ compensation system only applies to employees—and not to contractors—this can raise an insurmountable hurdle for many.
However, even if a worker is classified as a contractor and therefore ineligible for workers’ comp benefits, they may still be able to pursue a third-party personal injury claim against the party responsible for causing their injuries. This could be the manufacturer of defective equipment or a dangerous chemical, another contractor, a land owner and, in some cases, their employer.
Second, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, approximately half of all agricultural workers lack legal immigration status. This can be a major deterrent for workers to come forward to report a workplace accident. However, undocumented workers have exactly the same rights as any other employee. Additionally, employers and their insurance companies are ethically prohibited from threatening to inform the immigration authorities in response to a workers’ compensation claim.Have You Suffered a Serious Injury Related to Your Employment?
If you recently experienced a workplace injury, it is important that you understand your rights as they relate to pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, we have a long history of helping employees pursue workers’ comp benefits, including those who suffered agricultural worker injuries. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Charlotte work injury lawyers, give us a call at 704-405-2580. You can also reach our Cabarrus County workers’ compensation attorneys at 704-918-4747. We proudly represent clients in Charlotte, Concord and Kannapolis, as well as throughout Mecklenburg, Gaston, Iredell, Rowan, and Union Counties.