NCAJ to Host Mountain Magic 2018 from Oct 18 to Oct 21 in Asheville, NC

NCAJ’s annual fall conference in Asheville, NC will again be held at the beautiful Omni Grove Park Inn.   The conference is one of NCAJ’s most anticipated events featuring nationally recognized speakers and attendees from across the state!

Take advantage of NCAJ’s group rate of $355/night by calling the Omni Grove Park Inn at 1-800-438-5800 or click here to reserve your room online.

Program chairs Jon Moore of Brown Moore & Associates in Charlotte and Valerie Pearce, IDS Regional Defender in Durham are leading NCAJ in finalizing all other details surrounding the conference’s terrific professional development programming and networking opportunities.  Sneak peek below!!  Please check back at ncaj.com/mountainmagic  for complete event details soon.

Interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at this popular event?  Contact Membership and Development Director Amy Smith  at amy@ncaj.com.

SNEAK PEEK PREVIEW :

THURSDAY, October 18

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm          Welcome to Mountain Magic @ Lexington Avenue Brewery – Sponsored by FindLaw, a Thompson Reuters business     Complimentary for Mountain Magic attendees, Fall Conference for Paralegals attendees and Asheville area legal professionals.

FRIDAY, October 19

8:45 am – 9:00 am           Welcoming Remarks – Mountain Magic Co-Chairs
                                                Jon Moore,
Brown Moore & Associates, Charlotte
                                                Valerie Pearce, IDS Regional Defender, Durham

8:55 am – 4:45 pm           Fall Conference for Paralegals

 9:00 am – 12:15 pm        GENERAL SESSION (for Civil and Criminal Practitioners)

Featured Speaker –Theodore J. Leopold, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

“Do’s and Don’ts at the Court of Appeals”
Featured Speakers – Judge Mark A. Davis,
NC Court of Appeals, Raleigh and Judge Donna S. Stroud, NC Court of Appeals, Raleigh

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm        Mountain Magic Luncheon and Presentation  – Sponsored by Lawyers Mutual Liability Insurance Co. of North Carolina

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm          Sunset Social at the Omni Grove Park Inn & Spa – Sponsored by Robson Forensic   Catch up with old friends and make new friends before dinner in Asheville. Includes light hors d’oeuvres and drinks on the Vanderbilt Terrace

SATURDAY, October 20

9:00 am – 12:15 pm        GENERAL SESSION (for Civil and Criminal Practitioners)
“Leaders of Tomorrow – Moving Juries and Other Gatherings of People to Greatness”
Featured Speaker – Mel C. Orchard, III,
The Spence Law Firm, LLC, Jackson, WY

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm          Substance Abuse Hour

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm          Saturday Night Party at Smoky Park Supper Club – Sponsored by Milner Plaintiff Service/Millennium Settlements  Join us along the majestic French Broad River for dinner, dancing and fun! We will have a fantastic band providing live music during dinner. This is always one of the highlights of Mountain Magic and a great way to spend time with friends from near and far one last time, before heading home!   This is a family-friendly event, complimentary for Mountain Magic attendees and guest.

Saturday Night Party Band – Sponsored by Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, Attorneys at Law

SUNDAY, October 21

8:30 am – 12:30 pm        NCAJ Board of Governors Meeting

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Part 2: The Educators

by Bradley Bannon, NCAJ President

By now, even if you haven’t seen it, it’s hard to imagine you haven’t at least heard of the movie “Black Panther.” In four months this year, it became the ninth highest grossing movie of all time. The fact that it’s a superhero movie was unremarkable. The fact that the superhero was an African man, whose three strongest and closest allies in the movie were all African women, each with different areas of skill and expertise, was unprecedented.

“Half the battle is getting that kind of imagery made,” Rafe Chisolm told SF Gate. “Lots of kids never see anyone who looks like them in that kind of light.” Chisolm made sure that lots of them did, by organizing screenings for them in their home town of Oakland, California—a key location in the plot of the movie.

I’d learned a similar lesson about imagery while working with Karonnie Truzy and Sarah Olson in their roles as Co-Chairs of NCAJ’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (DITF).

Karonnie, who also serves as the organization’s inaugural Diversity Officer and is receiving an Ebbie Award this year for his years of service to the NCAJ and its mission, told me about how he had to be contacted several times about becoming more involved in the organization before he finally agreed. Why the initial reluctance? Because he hadn’t really seen anyone else who looked like him in leadership, or behind the podium at the front of the rooms where most of our members regularly convene: our CLEs.

Sarah, who also serves as the Criminal Defense Section Chair this year and previously received an Ebbie herself, spoke more bluntly about the impact of imagery at that podium: “When you are a woman, and you attend CLEs where every single faculty member is a man, it raises real concerns about the role of women in the organization and how women are viewed by the organization.”

This makes perfect sense. It’s not as if our profession is devoid of women and people of color who are highly qualified to teach our CLE programs. So when you don’t see them at the podium, and when you are one of them, you may quite naturally wonder whether there’s much of a role for you in the organization and its CLE programming, beyond paying for admission of course. And the more you’re made to wonder that, the more likely you are to seek other professional communities and programs where you feel more welcome.

In recent years, NCAJ leadership has recognized shifting sands in our population, profession, and organization. In 2015-2016, NCAJ President Chris Nichols highlighted the need to attract Millennials, who by that time had already surpassed Baby Boomers in the workforce. In 2016-2017, President Bill Powers recognized the need to focus more intentionally on diversity in our membership and leadership. This year, I have built on both of those initiatives by developing a more formal organizational framework to connect with the state’s law schools and students.

NCAJ’s effort to reach Millennials and tap into the law school pipeline is no more designed to exclude or devalue our members of other generations (like me) than its effort to strengthen diversity and see more women and people of color behind CLE podiums is designed to exclude or devalue members of any other categorical group (like me). Quite the contrary, it’s all designed to recognize an undeniable truth: there is strength in numbers.

The pragmatic side of that truth is that NCAJ must expand and cultivate a broad membership base to survive and successfully pursue our mission in an evolving profession. The aspirational side of that truth is what we recognized when we adopted our Diversity Statement last year. And both sides are served by putting people behind the podium in our CLEs who are not only qualified, but reflect all members of our profession and organization.

That is why, after publication for comment, the Board of Governors adopted a Diversity Plan last fall that included an initial goal of developing and implementing a Speaker Diversity Program. Working with DITF membership and leadership, as well as Education Committee members and Vice President Meghann Burke, NCAJ Executive Director Kim Crouch and Education Director Alex Rogers developed an infrastructure of member tools and staff support to assist CLE planners in achieving more speaker diversity.

We now have a Speaker Diversity Database, and our staff will be working with members to build that database over the months and years to come into a powerful resource for helping program planners identify qualified presenters. We have created a checklist for planners, highlighting the speaker diversity goal. We have begun to collect and analyze data on a quarterly basis about the extent to which we achieve the goal and the factors involved in that success. We are working more closely with Section and Division Chairs to identify speakers at the Section levels. Membership Vice President Sonya Pfeiffer has been working with Membership and Development Director Amy Page Smith to establish and renew our connections to affiliate organizations and affinity bars.

These institutionalized efforts are long overdue. NCAJ did not suddenly begin to value the worth and dignity of all of our clients and members when we adopted the Diversity Statement and crafted the Diversity Plan last year. We just became more intentional about weaving that valuation into the fabric of our entire organization. In terms of institutionalizing the efforts, we are either shoulder-to-shoulder with or trailing other professional organizations. This point was brought home to me in March, when, in my capacity as NCAJ President, I accepted an invitation from Dayatra Matthews, the first African-American female President of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, to attend NCADA’s first day-long program focused on identifying and addressing white privilege and implicit bias, two loaded terms I wrote about coming to terms with myself in this space last week. Fortunately, nothing but good can come from our institutionalized efforts, and everything about them is who we are and need to be.

Specifically regarding the Speaker Diversity Program, we have recognized the reality that the educators at our CLE programs are not just teaching attendees about the substance of their presentations, but about the substance of who we are and who we value as an organization. Because #WeAreNCAJ, we value everyone who shares our mission—from our clients, to our members, to our leaders, to our educators. Since that’s the substance of who we are, it should certainly be the imagery we project.

And, of course, #WakandaForever.

Part 1: The Insider

by Bradley Bannon, NCAJ President

Like many of you, I watched in horror last summer as the convergence of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, culminated with the martyrdom of paralegal Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counter-protester who was made to pay for her commitment to equality with her life.

In the aftermath, I also watched in horror as the President of the United States made equivocal remarks that put Heather and her anti-racist group on the same moral plane as the group of racists they showed up to counter-protest.

Earlier in the year, before those events became another example of a racial divide that has plagued our state and country since birth, I had decided to dig deeper into the modern perpetrators of that divide—the ones less obvious than a bunch of neo-Nazis having a tiki torch parade.

That’s when I started to understand what is meant by “white privilege.” I’d heard that term many times before and received it as an insult, loaded with the implication that, as a white man, I didn’t really deserve any of the fruits of my hard work—or, more to the point, that my work wasn’t really that hard to begin with.

I felt similarly about the term “implicit bias.” For as long as I could remember—from shutting down racist jokes on the playground as a kid, to fighting for the rights of the accused in a criminal justice system infected at every level with disparate treatment of people based on race and ethnicity—there was not an ounce of racial bias in my body, implicit or otherwise.

So when I started to look further into the divide, and what could be done to reduce it, I started in a defensive posture. Fortunately, my defensiveness soon yielded to something even more powerful: my appreciation for facts and intellectual honesty.

I took Harvard’s Implicit Association Test on Race and learned that, in the corners of my mind I can’t control, I have a strong preference for white people over black people. I attended the Racial Equity Institute’s two-day Phase I workshop, sponsored by Organizing Against Racism. I started doing some suggested reading: “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander; “Slave by Another Name,” by Douglas Blackmon; “Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People,” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald; and others.

I learned that it takes only a little bit of genuine curiosity to understand how racism in our country and its institutions is like any other virus: it has constantly changed forms to survive and thrive. And it has infected systems built up over hundreds of years in the United States. Banking systems. Employment systems. Housing systems. Retail systems. Voting systems.

Justice systems.

It’s not hard for an open mind to accept the fact that systems of gender and racial preference, invented and expanded by white men over centuries in which they were favored in law and fact, would continue in the present day to greatly benefit white men, in practice if not by actual design.

The preferences are so ingrained in our culture, I realized, that I could subconsciously perpetuate them even as I consciously abhorred them. And once I got past my initial defensiveness about that dichotomy, I chose to receive that knowledge as a gift and a call to action.

No single person created these preferential systems. No single generation did it. And no single person or generation will be able to undo it. But as a white man, I know I am valuably positioned to push back against them. I am, after all, an insider.

That does not make me the creator of the problem, but it makes me a perpetuator of it if I deny it, or ignore it, or allow my knee-jerk reaction to loaded terms like “white privilege” and “implicit bias” prevent me from recognizing the undeniable truths beneath them. And doing something about it.

Like many who have chosen to stand as guardian of the injured and the accused, I feel called to change myself, this country, and its systems for the better. In my day job, I have recently pivoted toward civil rights work, but I continue to represent people accused and convicted of crimes, in a system that was originally designed and has always been used to control, disenfranchise, and marginalize people of color. In my volunteer work, I have used my position and privilege as a leader in NCAJ to fight for greater equality and fairness in the criminal and civil justice systems.

This past year, with the honor of the NCAJ presidency, I have focused on diversity, inclusion, and equity within the organization, so that it may further serve and strengthen its mission of protecting people’s rights—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender (including gender identity), sexual orientation, disability, religion, nationality, socioeconomic status, or any other categorization.

I’m not doing these things because I overestimate my importance or influence. Or because I think the traditionally marginalized are incapable of successfully pushing back and gaining ground.

I’m doing it because I should. Because I want to be who I think I am. Because I want this country to be what I always hoped it would be. And because I want everyone to have the same shot—in this nation, state, profession, and organization—that I did by accident of gender and the color of my skin.

Since it began in the 1960s, NCAJ has moved the legal systems of North Carolina closer to that goal, but we have more work to do. And that work starts with any effort that hopes to succeed, and something that NCAJ has been quite good at over the last half-century:

Education.

Click here to read Part 2 of this series, ‘The Educators.

 

Top Ten Reasons to Join Today

2018_Membership_Top-Ten-2

Now is a fantastic time to join the North Carolina Advocates for Justice:   You are eligible to get 14 months of membership for the price of 12!!  

Here are 10 additional reasons to join us today:

  1. Free access to the NC Pattern Jury Instructions (civil and criminal).
  2. Free monthly membership webinars on how to grow your business.
  3. Discounted subscription to NC Lawyers Weekly – a $115 savings!
  4. Deep discounts on outstanding NCAJ CLE in a variety of formats including Live Webcasts, Live Webinars, OnDemand CLE, and Live In-Person Seminars.
  5. NCAJ invites you to Convention and Mountain Magic – the best way to meet and learn from like-minded professionals from across the State and to rest and rejuvenate.
  6. Your membership includes NCAJ’s legal publication, Trial Briefs, delivered quarterly to your inbox and your mailbox.
  7. NCAJ gives you another way to additionally protect your clients by get involved with NCAJ’s legislative activities.    
  8. NCAJ promotes you, your firm and your work to the public and to your peers through referral directories, social media and NCAJ.com. We are unveiling exciting new ways to do this next year, including through member profiles in Trial Briefs, the NCAJ blog, hosted pro bono clinics and more!
  9. NCAJ membership is your gateway to joining NCAJ Sections and Divisions and their listservs to learn from some of the most talented legal minds in North Carolina.
  10. You become a valued part of the ONLY group in North Carolina devoted to supporting plaintiff attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, and professional legal staff in their careers and to improving the legal environment you work in.

Join the NC Advocates for Justice today at ncaj.com/join

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury After Injury

When a person is injured in a car wreck, motorcycle wreck, or other personal injury, sometimes the most harmful injuries are those that you cannot see with the naked eye:  a brain injury.  Sometimes brain injuries are obvious and an injured person’s functioning is so impaired that they are left unable to speak, walk, or feed themselves.  Other times, the brain injury is subtler.  Called a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) , these injuries can be as devastating as a spinal cord injury or any other serious injury.  However, because the injured person may “look” normal, it can be more difficult to recover compensation for these types of cases.

Brain Anatomy

The human brain is the most complex and sensitive organ in the body.  Weighing only about 3 lbs., the brain is the essence of what makes a person who they are.    There are several parts to the brain, and each part has its own function.  The three (3) main parts are the cerebrum, cerebellum and the brain stem.  The brain stem is located at the base of the brain and contains the midbrain, pons and medulla.  This section of the brain is responsible for automatic body functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and regulating body temperature.  It also serves as a relay system between the rest of the brain and the central nervous system.  An injury to this area of the brain usually is catastrophic and results in death.

The cerebellum is above the brain stem and it coordinates muscle movements and balance.

The largest part of the brain is the cerebrum and is divided into right and left hemispheres.  This part of the brain is associated with higher brain function including thinking, memory, and emotion.  It is filled with approximately 100 billion neurons which are elongated nerve cells that transmit signals to each other through electrical and chemical signals.  The communication between these cells enable us to think, have emotion, react to stimuli, and remember.  These cells are very small, about 30,000 neurons can fit on the head of a pin, and can only be observed under strong microscopes.

The brain has the consistency of firm jelly.  It floats in fluid, called cerebra spinal fluid, which acts as a shock absorber.  It is also surrounded by protective tissue called meninges.  Outside of the meninges, the brain is surrounded by the skull.

Injury

Despite its protective coating, the brain can suffer injury when the head suffers a blow or the head is thrown forward and backward quickly, as can happen in a car wreck.  The brain is subject to the same laws of physics as everything else, and when a person is in a car wreck at 45 mph and comes to a sudden and violent stop, the brain continues its motion until it, too stops, by striking the inside of the skull.

When the brain impacts the skull, a mild traumatic brain injury can occur.  Some of those billions of neurons can be damaged, the axons of the nerve cell can be bent or broken, and the ability of the brain cells to “talk to” each other can become impaired.  When this type of injury happens, the person may have difficulty talking, remembering information, or controlling emotions.

Symptoms

Each brain injury is unique.  Like a fingerprint, as each person has a unique brain, each person’s symptoms of and reaction to a mTBI is different.  However, some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seeing stars
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to Light/ Noise
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sense of smell

Symptoms that might manifest themselves at a later date include:

  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Struggling to find the right word
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty with short term memory
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Lashing out and yelling at family members
  • Withdrawal and disengaging from social situations and friends and family

Why can’t we see a mTBI on an x-ray, CT scan or MRI?

X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs are very good tools at getting a picture of the human body.  Think of these tools as good digital cameras taking pictures of inside of the body.  They can spot diseases, broken bones, and internal organ damage.  They help doctors see inside a patient’s body without having to cut open the body and look for themselves.

What these tools cannot do, however, is see the body’s cells up close.  Instead of the digital camera, due to the very small size of neurons, a doctor needs a microscope, and a very powerful microscope at that.  Because we cannot take brain cells out of the brain and look at them under a microscope, mTBI cannot currently be diagnosed with scans or blood testing on a living patient.     Researchers are working on ways to find mTBI by blood testing, by tracing protein levels (Tau proteins), but this research is still in development and not available to the public.

Recovery

The outcome of a person who suffers a mild traumatic brain injury can be difficult to predict.  As each brain injury is different and unique, a person’s ability to recover is unique.  However, certain factors can make a good recovery more likely.  Younger individuals, for example, are more likely to recover from brain injury than older individuals.  Obtaining therapies from a qualified speech therapist can also help.  An injured patient is also more likely to recover if they obtain competent medical care following their accident.  Many people make a full recovery.  However, some injured people do not.  Doctors predict that most of an injured person’s recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury will occur within the first year after the accident.  After that point, recovery is not as certain.  Additionally, persons suffering from mTBI are at higher risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Summary

Many people who suffer from mild traumatic brain injury look normal at first glance.  However, although the injury may be invisible to the casual observer, it is very real.  Injured persons need our support and encouragement.  With time and luck, they may return to a functioning level.  For those that do not, the injured person needs the best care medicine can provide and our compassion.

 

Ruth Smith is a dedicated trial lawyer in Asheville, NC representing people since 1999.  She focuses her practice in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Social Security Disability, Workers’ Compensation and Dog Bite Injuries. She is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice’s Auto Torts and Workers’ Compensation Sections and is a certified North Carolina Court Mediator. For more information, visit www.mywncattorney.com.

Vocational Rehabilitation in NC Workers’ Comp Claims

An important goal of the workers’ compensation system in North Carolina is to quickly return injured workers back to employment as close to their pre-injury wage as practical. Ideally, the worker can return to full-time, full-duty work in his or her prior occupation. But often permanent restrictions related to the workplace injury make this impossible. In these situations, vocational rehabilitation, or “voc rehab,” can play an important role in returning an injured worker to gainful employment.

Vocational rehabilitation in North Carolina workers’ compensation claims is regulated by North Carolina General Statute § 97-32.2, and Subchapter 10C of the Rules for Utilization of Rehabilitation Professionals. Together these provisions set the ground rules for voc rehab for NC workers’ compensation claimants. The North Carolina Industrial Commission decides any disputes that may arise between the injured worker and the employer that relate to vocational rehabilitation efforts.

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational rehabilitation includes a broad range of services meant to help return the employee to work in “suitable employment.” Vocational rehabilitation efforts are directed by a certified vocational Rehabilitation professional and may include:

  • assessing an injured employee’s work qualifications, including skills, education and aptitude;
  • identifying factors that may impair a return to work, including physical and job skill imitations;
  • identifying skills, certifications or training that might improve the workers’ job prospects;
  • arranging for appropriate classes or training in the North Carolina community college or university systems;
  • providing job-search counseling and assistance with resume preparation;
  • identifying suitable job opportunities in the job market as well as specific job leads.

It is the job of the voc rehab professional to provide these services, within the framework provided by North Carolina General Statute § 97-32.2, and Subchapter 10C of the Rules for Utilization of Rehabilitation Professionals.

When is Vocational Rehabilitation allowed?

An employer can begin vocational rehabilitation services at any time during an accepted workers’ compensation claim. An employer cannot require vocational rehabilitation in a denied claim. Certain severely injured workers may not be required to participate in voc rehab if they are receiving disability benefits beyond 500 weeks under G.S. §97‑29(c), or have been determined to be permanently and totally disabled pursuant to or G.S. §97‑29(d).

An employee can request vocational rehabilitation services when he or she has not returned to work, or has returned to work making less than seventy-five percent (75%) of what he or she was making before the injury. An employee’s request can include training in the North Carolina community college or university system so long as the training is likely to improve the worker’s wage-earning ability.

Vocational rehabilitation services continue so long as they might be beneficial to the worker and the employer is willing to pay for it. The Industrial Commission has the authority to order vocational rehabilitation to continue or be terminated.

Who can provide Vocational Rehabilitation services?

Vocational Rehabilitation services in North Carolina can only be provided by a qualified vocational rehabilitation professional approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. There are strict rules governing who can qualify as a vocational rehabilitation professional in North Carolina workers’ compensation cases. The Industrial Commission keeps a list of qualified voc rehab professionals.

Generally, a vocational rehabilitation specialist must be hold on of several specific certifications, have at least two years of experience working with disabled workers, and complete a special course in North Carolina workers’ compensation case management. Vocational rehabilitation professionals must attend continuing education classes in to remain qualified, and must follow the ethics rules and laws of their own occupation.

What are the guidelines for a Vocational Rehabilitation Professional?

The employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company makes the initial selection of the vocational rehabilitation professional, and pays for vocational rehabilitation in the same way it pays for medical treatment. The insurance carrier should notify the Industrial Commission when a vocational rehabilitation professional is retained.

Although the employer selects the initial vocational rehabilitation professional, they are to use their own best independent judgment in their work. Voc Rehab professionals are not agents of the employer. Vocational rehabilitation professionals should not give legal advice to the injured worker about any aspect of their claim, engage in settlement discussions between the parties, or assist the employer in investigating the claim.

At their initial meeting the vocational vehabilitation professional should provide the worker a copy of the rules that govern vocational rehabilitation, and advise the worker that the VR professional will share relevant information from the rehabilitation process with the employer. If the injured worker has an workers’ compensation attorney the initial meeting must be at the attorney’s office if requested.

The vocational rehabilitation professional should prepare regular reports of vocational activities and share these reports with the employer and injured worker at the same time, or at least let the injured worker know the report is available for review. The reports should contain only information relevant to the rehabilitation process, and not information simply intended to embarrass the worker or make him or her look bad.

A vocational rehabilitation professional should refer an injured worker only to suitable work, and should end the rehabilitation process when it is not likely to be successful. Either the employer or employee may ask the Industrial Commission to replace the vocational rehabilitation professional for good cause.

What is an Individualized Vocational Plan?

The first step in vocational rehabilitation is developing a return-to-work plan that is tailored to the needs and circumstances of the injured worker. Developing the plan should be a cooperative effort among the voc rehab professional assigned to the case, the injured worker and the employer. This should include a face-to-face meeting between the vocational professional and the injured worker.

Vocational rehabilitation services cannot begin until the return-to work plan is complete, and all vocational activities must be consistent with the plan. According to the rules governing vocational rehabilitation, return to work options should be prioritized in this order:

  1. current job, current employer;
  2. new job, current employer;
  3. on-the-job training, current employer;
  4. new job, new employer;
  5. on-the-job training, new employer;
  6. formal education or vocational training to prepare the worker for a job with current or new employer; and
  7. self-employment, only when its feasibility is documented with reference to the employee’s aptitudes and training, adequate capitalization, and market conditions.

What happens if the employee refuses to cooperate with Vocational Rehabilitation?

An employee is required to participate in vocational rehabilitation when it is offered. If the employee refuses to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation the Industrial Commission can order the employee to comply. If the employee continues to refuse to cooperate, and the refusal is unjustified, then the Industrial Commission can suspend the employee’s wage replacemen benefits. The Industrial Commission must say in its order suspending benefits what action the employee should take to end the suspension of benefits. A vocational rehabilitation professional who believes that an injured worker is not cooperating with vocational efforts should document what the worker should do in order to return to compliance.

Few injured workers simply refuse to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation. More often, workers will object to what they see as unnecessary or even silly vocational activities. These may include the vocational counselor requiring too frequent meetings, application for jobs the employee is not physically or otherwise qualified for or that are not suitable, and even participation in volunteer activities. Many times, the vocational rehabilitation professional and the injured worker struggle to effectively communicate the date, time and place of meetings, leading to missed appointments and allegations that the employee is not cooperating.

What is the Role of a Lawyer in Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational rehabilitation can tricky for an injured worker. A North Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help keep things on track. While voc rehab should be a team effort with the goal of helping the injured worker return to a suitable job, it can turn into a game of “gotcha” with the goal being to terminate the employee’s wage replacement benefits. Sometimes vocational rehabilitation is used to prod an injured worker to settle their NC workers’ compensation claim.

The role of a lawyer in vocational rehabilitation is to be sure everyone follows the rules and to help ensure a smooth process. A workers’ compensation attorney should stay closely involved in the vocational rehabilitation process. This includes attending the initial meeting between the injured worker and the vocational professional, regular communication with the injured worker and the vocational professional, and review of the job leads being submitted to the employee to be sure they are suitable.

Kevin Bunn is a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. He has practiced law in Cary, North Carolina, since 1993. Kevin is a Board Certified Expert in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law, a member of the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s Advisory Council, a past Chair of the NCAJ Workers’ Compensation Section, and serves on the NCAJ Board of Governors. For more information about Kevin and his law practice please visit ncworkercomp.com.

NCAJ Leaders’ Forum Firm HensonFuerst, P.A. Launches GoFundMe Page for Disabled Veteran Client Losing His Home

Willard Swinson, born and raised in Clinton, NC, a college graduate with a degree in history and political science, and an Air Force Veteran, suffered a devastating and life-altering fall in 2006, which left him a quadriplegic. After several years in rehabilitation hospitals, he returned to his Clinton, NC home, now wheelchair bound.

The roof of the home began to leak.  Willard had plumbing and roofing repairs done, but the roof still required additional repair, so it was partially covered with a tarp.   Willard survives on veterans’ benefits and social security disability benefits. While he was trying to figure out how he could pay for the roof repairs on his limited income, the City of Clinton instructed him to vacate his home for code violations.

Not knowing he could fight this, he moved out of his own home and moved into the first place he could find:  subsidized housing for the elderly for which he must pay rent, straining his very limited disability income.

Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Matthew struck, leaving Willard’s home beyond repair.

Willard has tried repeatedly to get his home repaired.  He attended all City Council meetings to defend his home. In 2017, the City sought to demolish the home, at Willard’s expense.

HensonFuerst, P.A. learned of Willard’s dilemma, wanted to help him save his home (the only asset he owns debt free), and began representing him on a pro-bono basis.

Unable to stop Willard’s home from being condemned, the firm is currently working with him, the City of Clinton, and the community around him to raise funds to build another home on the site — one that is wheelchair accessible.    Todd Belisle at The Centers, an NCAJ sponsor and financial supporter, has also joined the effort, providing work for him pro-bono.

The NC Advocates for Justice is proud of the work of HensonFuerst, P.A. and The Centers and their dedication to the mission to protect people’s rights.

Click below to learn more about Mr. Willard Swinson, who has inspired the folks at HensonFuerst, P.A.:

https://www.gofundme.com/help-rebuild-the-swinson-home

Please consider donating today to move a veteran back into a safe home, his own home, on his own land!