Monthly Archives: May 2012

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Memo To All Employees: Report Injuries Right Away Or Risk Losing Compensation

Don’t wait to report your work injury!

Today’s post comes from our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

A U. S. Court of Appeals has ruled that an employer can require an employee to report their worker’s compensation injury even more quickly than required under Worker’s Compensation Law.

A Tennessee machinist experienced pain in her hands when she was transferred to a new position that was “like a muscle strain” when she pressed down on her machine and the pain stopped when she let go. The pain continued over the next two weeks, progressing to numbness and tingling, which forced her to see the Company Nurse. The nurse asked her why she had not reported her pain earlier and she said she wanted to “try to work through it” because she needed the job and did not want to tell her employer she could not do the job.

The next day the company fired her for failing to communicate an injury in a timely manner. She filed a claim with the Tennessee Worker’s Compensation Department and the District Court, which dismissed the claim. On appeal, the 6th Circuit noted that even though State law allowed employees 30 days in which to report a gradually occurring injury, the employer had the right to terminate based on its own policy of not reporting.

Don’t Be A “Tough Guy”

I see these claims often in my practice; claims in which the individual sustains an injury and wants to work through the pain or otherwise see if the pain will go away. Under these circumstances the worker does not report the injury. Since all injuries in worker’s compensation are based on a date of injury, this heroic “non-reporting” ends up biting the worker in the rear. For many employers, no report means no injury.

Gradual Occupational Claims

This “I’ll work through the pain” motive is especially damaging in occupational injury claims, which arise from repetitive motion and not the result of a single trauma. While it is understandable that an employee not be characterized as a “whiner” or “complainer” in the worker’s compensation setting, those who do not report do not benefit.

<em>With over 30 years of experience representing injured workers in Wisconsin, <a href=”http://www.domerlaw.com/Attorneys/Tom-Domer.shtml”>Tom Domer</a> was recently named the 2011 Milwaukee Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year in Best Lawyers. Tom teaches the workers’ compensation course at Marquette University Law School, providing the instruction and training for many other lawyers. He lectures frequently around the nation. He also is a prolific writer, editing the national magazine Workers’ First Watch. He has co-authored over two dozen texts, including with his son and law partner Charlie, <a href=”http://west.thomson.com/wisconsin-workers-compensation-law-2010-2011-vol-17-practice-series/172530/40638030/productdetail?”>West’s Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Law</a>. Tom earned all his degrees in Wisconsin.</em>

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The Very Real Dangers Of Worry

Today’s guest post comes from our colleagues at the Causey Law Firm of Seattle.

Worry is increasingly pervasive in our society as insecurity about the economy and safety, nationally and personally, grows daily. Worry is compounded in the daily lives of those who are injured or disabled, as they struggle with the added burdens of medical costs and loss of income, all of which engenders a bleak outlook on their future.

“At its worst, [toxic] worry is a relentless scavenger roaming the corners of your mind, feeding on anything, never leaving you alone.” This was the description of “worry” by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, in Worry, 1997, with a 2002 introduction. (This study is still considered the “bible” in lay literature and often quoted in scientific research.) Long ago, Dr. Charles Mayo said, “Worry affects circulation, the glands, the whole nervous system and profoundly affects the heart.” Indeed, worry appears to be, at worst, of genetic origins, and to a lesser degree a learned or environmental response.

Hallowell defines worry as two types: toxic worry and good worry. He likens toxic worry to a virus, insidiously and invisibly attacking you and robbing you of your ability to work, your peace of mind and happiness, your love and play. On the other hand, good worry, or adaptive worry, is necessary to avoid real danger and life-threatening situations.

Worry is categorized as part of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in most lay and scientific literature. The National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH) defines GAD as people who go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little to provoke it. NIMH literature states that people with GAD anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems or difficulties at work. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about everyday problems for at least six months. Worry, as part of GAD, is commonly treated with medication and cognitive therapy.

The everyday worry of the disabled or injured worker is direct, with anxiety and fear over money, physical abilities, medical care, vocational options, housing, food, and family disintegration. It does prey upon so many, compounding their physical health problems and environmental lives.

For more on the very real physiological implications of worry, check in next week for the next installment in this series.

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Dealing With Adversaries in Positive Ways

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina.

As a workers’ compensation lawyer, by the time clients come to me they have often already had a series of frustrating interactions with their employers, insurance adjusters and sometimes even medical professionals. Clients come to me feeling stressed by these experiences.

My adversaries are not always easy to negotiate with, and over a long career I have honed in on a few methods that seem to work best for me. When meeting with clients, I try to pass along my methods so they can better navigate some of the new and confusing situations they have been thrust into as a result of a workplace injury.

Recently I came across some advice from Psychologist Jay Carter, who offers tips that closely mirror what I pass on to my clients. The following are some of his tips for dealing with difficult people:

See it for what it is. Rather than internalize the criticism or dwell on what you might have done to deserve the attack, recognize that the nasty person has personal issues.

Get away. Exit the room or the conversation calmly, efficiently, and without saying anything you’d regret.

Diffuse with humor: This is a Continue reading

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Dystonia Is Often Misunderstood

Dystonia FoundationToday we have a guest post from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina.

Several years ago I had a client in North Carolina who was an insurance man. While taking some papers out of the back of his car at work he slipped, hit his head and developed a neurological conditon called “Dystonia.” I did some research and discovered that it is a disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to contract involuntarily.

it is a disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to contract involuntarily

Significantly, I also found out it can be caused by trauma, although often dystonia develops without any trauma and may be genetic. The case was denied by the workers’ compensation carrier (and Continue reading

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Professional Athletes Need Worker’s Compensation Too

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For minor league athletes especially, Workers’ Compensation can be crucial.

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

Most of us do not associate a professional athlete’s injury with workers’ compensation. Because of pro athletes’ generous contract wages, and the relatively modest recoveries available under workers’ compensation, most fans don’t recognize that when it comes to receiving workers’ compensation, professional athletes are just like other office or factory workers who can recover worker’s compensation when injured.

Not every professional athlete, however, has a contract worth millions of dollars. Some of the athletes injured on minor league teams literally make no more than minimum wage, and receipt of workers’ compensation benefits is significant for those athletes.

Not every professional athlete, however, has a contract worth millions of dollars. Some of the athletes injured on minor league teams literally make no more than minimum wage, and receipt of workers’ compensation benefits is significant for those athletes. Continue reading

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I Was Injured While Violating A Safety Rule. Am I Still Covered?

safety_rulesToday we have a guest post by our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.

Question: I was injured at work while violating a safety rule. Am I still covered under workers’ compensation?

Answer: Yes, probably

Even you were hurt while violating a safety rule, you are probably still covered by workers’ comp. This is true whether you violated the rule by accident or intentionally.

However, your claim may be denied if your employer can demonstrated that:

  1. You have prior repeated violations of safety rules.
  2. You have been disciplined in the past for a safety rule violation.

Even in this case, you may still be covered, depending on the circumstances. But let’s face it, nobody wants to get hurt, so follow the safety rules at all times to stay as safe as possible on the job!

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Distracted Driving: Federal Guidelines Proposed For Automakers

Today’s post is by my colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

The NTHSA proposal for automatic device disabling could potentially prevent a lot of accidents caused by distracted driving.

After years of accidents in the workplace caused by the use of mobile devices in vehicles, the Federal Government has proposed universal guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to electronically disable these devices when a vehicle is in operation.  The enforcement of this safety-first proposal may establish a legal standard to universally bar the use of such devices in vehicles and encourage employees to have a safer working environment.

See: U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes ‘Distraction’ Guidelines for Automakers
“Issued by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the guidelines would establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require visual or manual operation by drivers. The announcement of the guidelines comes just days after President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request, which includes $330 million over six years for distracted driving programs that increase awareness of the issue and encourage stakeholders to take action. “

 

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net