Monthly Archives: April 2012

Tom-Harkin

Lobbying In D.C. On Behalf Of Injured Workers

Senator Tom Harkin and I met in D.C. to discuss the legal rights of injured workers.

On April 17, my colleagues from WILG (Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group) and I gathered in Washington D.C. to lobby Congressional representatives on behalf of injured workers. We discussed several bills that will affect the interests of workers in Iowa and across the United States.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Chuck Grassley, Congressman Bruce Braley and Congressman Dave Loebsack in their offices where we discussed the following bills:

  • The MSP and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act of 2012
  • The Akaka Amendment to S. 1789, The Post Service Reform Bill (an amendment to strip from S. 1789 those provisions that deform the Federal Employee Compensation Act).

As I explained at these meetings, the MSP and Worker’s Compensation Settlement Act of 2012 is necessary for three reasons:(1) to bring some reasonable and understandable system to CMS’ current uncertain and regulation-less system of establishing Medicare Set-aside Plans for workers’ compensation settlements; (2) to allow for an appeal of CMS’s MSA determination; and (3) to bring some reasonable time limits to CMS’ process of setting the MSA required for workers’ compensation settlements.

The Akaka Amendment to strip the FECA deform provisions out of S.1789 is necessary because the FECA deform provisions wrongfully reduces monetary benefits and treats the injured worker like a fraud (mandating period independent medical examinations, vocational rehabilitation and field nurses to hound the injured worker).

Workers’ compensation reform is a constant threat to the rights of workers across the country. It is important that all of us who participate in the work’ comp’ system do our part to protect and preserve these legal rights.

medical-bills-credit-score

Workers’ Compensation Q&A: What Should I Do If I Receive A Bill From My Workers’ Compensation Doctor?

Put your money back in your wallet. Your employer’s insurance carrier is responsible for medical treatment of work-related accidents.

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Amanda Katz of New York.

Question: I received a bill from my doctor for treatment relating to my workers’ compensation claim. Am I responsible for payment?

Answer: You do not have to pay your doctor for treatment resulting from your work-related accident.

There is often confusion about paying doctor bills related to work-related accidents, but the reality is relatively simple. Take for example Joanna. While at work, a heavy box fell on Joanna’s foot. As a result, she was unable to walk and had to immediately go to the emergency room. Following treatment for her broken foot, Joanna received an expensive bill from the hospital. What should Joanna do?

Joanna should not pay the bill!

Under workers’ compensation law, Continue reading

injured

Employers Must Obtain And Maintain Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage

Today’s post is by 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

workplace-stress

Is Your Workplace Making You Sick?

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.

New studies shed light on ways that workplace stress can be hazardous to your health.

Serious disabling medical conditions can arise from workplace stress. A recent study showed that people working long hours (11+) are more than twice as likely to experience major depression than those who work only 7-8 hours a day. Another study discovered that stressed workers have a 67% greater risk of heart disease. And other studies mention that “long working hours” lead to more risks of anxiety and a reduced ability to both think and sleep well.

Marianna Virtanen, one of the newest study’s authors, recently gave some tips to workers on ABCNews.com. One of her tips is to: “Make a distinction between work and leisure; don’t skip your holidays; take care of your health and well-being, especially sleep and exercise.” With Americans now working more hours than many of their counterparts in other countries, workers need to be proactive in taking caring of themselves.

But it isn’t just up to the workers. Psychological illnesses and depression cost companies money and result in less worker productivity, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Without buy-in from employers and workers, the personal and corporate costs from psychological illness will never be reduced.

Unfortunately, Nebraska law Continue reading

boomers-working-past-retirement

Aging “Baby Boomers” and Workers’ Compensation (Part 2)

baby boomers at workLast week, we brought you Part 1 of a post from our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin about some of the NCCI’s interesting conclusions about the implications of “Baby Boomers” in the workplace. In today’s post, we bring you part 2, which discussed these conclusions in more detail.

The frequency of injury has steadily declined since the mid-1990s, with age group differences in frequency largely eliminated.  The decline in frequency has occurred for all age groups.  The differences among age groups in the early 1990s had almost completely disappeared by 2010.

A longstanding worker’s compensation maxim that “younger workers have much higher injury rates” is no longer true.  For example: the injury rate for workers age 55-64 was 16% lower than the frequency for all workers in the mid-1990s but actually 1% higher in 2010, indicating that the differences have clearly narrowed.

Lastly, in terms of severity of claims, older workers certainly cost more, primarily due to higher wages and increased medical costs for older workers.  The severity of medical costs Continue reading

Boomer-Workforce

Surprising Findings On Baby Boomers and Worker’s Compensation

 

Boomer-Workforce

You may be surprised to learn that age does not correlate with frequency of injury.

What is the impact on worker’s compensation from aging Baby Boomers who have postponed their retirement, working much longer than the previous generation? In a recent study by the NCCI (National Council Compensation Insurance) some interesting and surprising conclusions resulted. It is not surprising that the number of older workers is increasing. The study looked at the frequency and severity across age groups and tried to identify factors that accounted for the severity of injuries between older and younger workers.

Among the key findings are the following:

  • The major difference among age groups occurs between the 25-34 and the 35-44 age groups. All workers 35-64 appeared to have similar costs per worker. These reassuring findings suggest an aging workforce may have a less negative impact on the lost cost per worker than many analysts originally thought.
  • Many workers’ compensation professionals have the belief that younger workers have a much higher injury rate. That appears not to be true any longer. Differences in frequency by age have virtually disappeared.
  • The major factor involving older workers involves severity. Older workers tend to have more shoulder rotator cuff claims and knee injuries while younger workers have more back and ankle sprains.
  • Higher wages for older workers are a key factor leading to higher costs for older workers. On the medical side, more treatment per claim has increased medical costs.

The study indicated that older workers account for an increasing share of the U. S. workforce. In particular, the share of workers age 55-64 has been growing steadily. The number of workers age 45-54 has increased modestly. Workers over 65 were about 3% of all workers in 2000 and about 5% in 2010. Taken as a whole, the percentage of workers over 45 has increased from 34% in 2000 to 42% in 2010. (Our practice has seen a similar increase in older workers, many of whom must remain in their positions due to reduced or non-existent pension benefits, wage and benefit cuts, and an overall poor economy.)

For more on the working Baby Boomer generation, check back with us next week.

grain_elevator

Employer Pleads Guilty For Grain Elevator Death

grain elevator

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.

You cannot take for granted that your workplace is safe, or that your employer is even following its own policies. Farmers Union Cooperative Supply of Stanton, Nebraska, a grain elevator, was recently sentenced in the death of an employee, Donald Stodola. Stodola was working in a confined space without proper ventilation. The lack of oxygen in the space caused Stodola’s death. Farmers knew that it was violating both a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation and its own written safety manual. Farmers’ failure to comply with regulations and its own internal policies caused a completely preventable employee death.

Farmers was fined $86,000 by OSHA because it didn’t protect Stodola from an unsafe environment. In addition to the OSHA fine, the company pled guilty to violation of a criminal statute and was fined $100,000 and placed on probation for 2 years. But, according to the Norfolk Daily News, “The criminal statute violated by Farmers provides that a willful violation of an OSHA regulation, which causes the death of an employee, is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to six months, a fine of up to $500,000 or a combination of the two.”

We think that every preventable workplace death should be prevented, and a failure to do so is inexcusable.

We do not understand why the total fines issued by OSHA and the court equal ($186,000) less than 40% of the maximum criminal fine of $500,000. Farmers pled guilty to Continue reading

sleep

Falling Asleep On The Job: Insufficient Sleep Is A Compensable Condition

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that U.S. adults receive, on average, 7–9 hours of sleep per night; however, 37.1% of adults report regularly sleeping <7 hours per night. Persons reporting sleeping <7 hours on average during a 24-hour interval are more likely to report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least 1 day out of the preceding 30 days (46.2% compared with 33.2%) and nodding off or falling asleep at the wheel during the previous 30 days (7.3% compared with 3.0%). Frequent insufficient sleep (14 or more days in the past 30 days) also has been associated with self-reported anxiety, depressive symptoms, and frequent mental and physical distress (4).

Even short term sleep duration is linked with:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

Such findings suggest the need for greater awareness of the importance of sufficient sleep. Further information about factors relevant to optimal sleep can be obtained from the National Sleep Foundation (http://www.sleepfoundation.org) and CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/sleep).