Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Is Your Workers’ Compensation Check Late?

Today’s post comes from guest author Brody Ockander from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

My work comp check was late or hasn’t come yet. Now what?

If you are entitled to workers’ compensation checks, and the insurance company has not paid them on time, you might be entitled to a penalty from the insurance company in addition to the amount that you are owed.

The penalties for late payments vary from state to state, but most states have laws to help workers when this problem arises.

In Nebraska, the work comp insurance company has 30 days to pay benefits from the day that it has notice of the disability, or 30 days from the day that the Court entered an Order, Award, or Judgment. If the insurance company does not pay the benefits within those 30 days, you may be entitled to Continue reading

deposition

3 Steps To Prepare For Your Deposition

Other than testifying at trial, giving a deposition is the most important thing an injured worker does. Putting your best foot forward during a deposition takes work by both attorney and client. Preparation is essential to help our clients avoid becoming confused and, in the worst case, accidentally saying something that is not true. To prevent this, we take great care and plenty of time preparing clients for depositions.

Here are three steps we take to ensure our clients are prepared:

    1. We send a letter telling the client of the deposition scheduling. The letter includes:
      1. A “Deposition Handout” (copy available on request) which explains what a deposition is and some simple rules the client should follow, and
      2. A copy of the clients’ interrogatory answers to refresh our clients about what they remembered when the accident was fresh in their minds.

The letter tells the client that the deposition is very important and that they must contact our office to schedule a first conference with us, and, in the meanwhile, review the interrogatories and Deposition Handout.

  1. At the first conference:
    • We discuss procedural matters, such as how to break down every question so our client does not get confused.
    • We make sure the client is reviewing their interrogatory answers.
    • We reinforce that telling the truth is the only way to go, and that even exaggerating is counter-productive.
    • We identify the likely problem points for deposition, such as statute of limitations, notice, setting the date of the injury, knowing work restrictions, and the propensities of opposing counsel.
    • We then schedule a second conference to be held immediately before deposition.
  2. At the second conference, for at least an hour before deposition, we meet with our client and cover areas of questioning that are expected to be problematic and ensure they fully prepared and comfortable.

Warehouse Workers Talking

Workers’ Compensation Is About Relationships

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

Prevention of accidents should be the first step in establishing a successful workers’ compensation system. If an employer were truly concerned about the health and safety of the employee there would be no need for workers’ compensation. Unfortunately the profit motive of the employer sometimes corrupts the process, and shortcuts are taken at work to increase production at an anticipated lower cost to the employer.

Employers need to understand that the human and financial costs of industrial accidents and exposures can be devastating. Injured workers, through the workers’ compensation process, may seek the payment of medical benefits, lost time payments and permanent disability awards.

Hopefully, the relationship between employees and employers can improve, and the workplace can become a safer environment.

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The 6 Things You Need To Do If You Are Exposed To Mercury

Elemental mercury is a silver, odorless liquid.

Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has released a guide to treatment for elemental mercury ((the pure form of the metal, when it is not combined with other chemicals) exposure. There are other forms of mercury, such as compounds found in contaminated fish, known as organic mercury and those are not covered by the guide.

Workers who experience a one-time sudden exposure to any chemical substance at work, should:

  1. Gather as much information as you can about the type and amount of exposure, including labels, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and the medical emergency phone number on the MSDS.
  2. If you are feeling ill, seek medical attention at an emergency department (ED) immediately. It is best if a medical toxicologist is consulted as part of your visit to the ED. They can be reached for advice about treatment by having the healthcare professional contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
  3. You can call the PCC independently for recommendations as well.
  4. Once the urgent situation has been taken care of, you may contact the nearest occupational health clinic in New York State or in the country for recommendations and follow-up.
  5. This fact sheet is not a substitute for medical care. The purpose is to direct the exposed worker to the proper medical provider.
  6. Report any exposure to your employer immediately. Complete an incident or exposure form. If none is available, write a memo informing them of the exposure incident (date, time, location, what you were doing in the area, and for how long). Keep copies and insist that documents are placed in your personnel files.

You can download a copy of the fact sheet by clicking here. It contains more information about the following topics: Continue reading

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Who Calls The Shots, Your Employer-Selected Doctor Or The Insurance Company?

Insurance companies sometimes tell doctors that they will not pay for procedures that the doctor says are medically appropriate.

In Iowa, employers have the right to control an injured worker’s medical care. This means that if you are injured at work, your employer gets to send you to a doctor of their choosing. The doctors chosen by the employer are called “authorized treating physicians.” In theory, after an employer chooses their authorized treating physician, they are required to pay for any care that doctor believes is necessary to treat the work injury. In practice, the employer and their workers’ compensation insurance company often try to interfere with the care the injured worker is entitled to by refusing to pay for procedures or tests recommended by their handpicked doctor.

Typically, when an authorized doctor suggests an expensive course of care (like surgery) the first thing the doctor will do is check with the insurance company to make sure the surgery is going to be paid for. Instead of immediately scheduling the needed surgery, the doctor will wait until the insurance carrier agrees to pay for the procedure. Doctors do this so they don’t have to worry about how they are going to be paid. Asking for this unneeded authorization from the insurance company means the insurance company now has a say in determining what individual procedures are proper for the care of the work injury.

We often see injured workers whose injury was initially accepted by the employer until the doctor requests authorization for an expensive surgery. When faced with the additional cost of surgery, the insurance carrier denies the work injury hoping the injured worker will either forego surgery or try to pay for the surgery through other means, such as their personal health insurance.

This situation may also arise when the authorized doctor recommends expensive diagnostic procedures, like CT scans, or refers the injured worker to a specialist, for example a psychiatrist for depression related to the work injury.

To make sure your rights are protected, it’s often helpful to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side if you’re facing a situation where your employer is trying to interfere with the decisions of their handpicked doctor. Injured workers should get the care that their doctor, not an insurance company, determines is medically appropriate.

Young woman in pain with an elbow injury

What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)? (Part 1)

Diagnosis of CRPS is made through process of elimination.

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Representing clients with chronic pain is both one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of my job.

The International Association for the Study of Pain sets forth four diagnostic criteria for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS):

  1. an initiating event,
  2. continuous pain,
  3. edema, temperature, or color differences affecting a limb, and
  4. excluding all other causes.

These criteria are vague but, because diagnosis of CRPS is elusive, they are the established criteria for a physician identifying and treating chronic pain that cannot be attributed to any other cause.

When your doctor believes the pain you are experiencing is out of proportion to your examination findings and the severity of your injury, it creates a problem. However, this is quite common when suffering from complex regional pain syndrome. While those who suffer from CRPS are often frurstrated because the exact cause of the pain cannot be proven, the medical literature confirms that this disease, and the resulting pain, is real!

The 3 stages of complex regional pain syndrome, ie. chronic pain, are variable but the descriptions below show how the disease can progress: Continue reading

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How Apportionment Relates to a New Workers’ Compensation Claim

Today’s post comes from guest author Brody Ockander from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Can I get workers’ compensation benefits for an injury even though I had a past workers’ compensation claim?

The simple answer is yes. In nearly all instances, you would be entitled to full benefits for your new injury regardless of whether you have already experience a workers’ compensation injury in the past.

Apportionment:

 “Apportion” or “Apportionment” means that your employer is allowed to assign disability to a previous workers’ compensation injury to the same body part, which reduces the money benefits for your current injury. However, only under certain situations is your employer allowed to “apportion” benefits from your current injury to a past injury.

Specifically, in order to “apportion” your current injury to a previous injury (thereby reducing money benefits) there needs to have been a loss-of-earning-capacity evaluation for your previous injury. Often, this is not present. Even in rare situations where there was a previous loss-of-earning-capacity evaluation attributable to a previous workers’ compensation injury, your employer must still show Continue reading

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Wage Theft Is Illegal And Immoral

Kim Bobo

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and the author of “Wage Theft in America,” recently spoke at Duke Divinity School and then at N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham, N.C. Ms. Bobo, who was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace Award in 2012 (other recipients are John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr.), has a simple reason for the work she does: as a person of faith, she recognizes injustice and seeks to correct it. Wage theft, which is defined as stealing from workers what they have rightfully earned, is not only illegal it is immoral. She is simply trying to get people to do something about it.

In September a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff.

At N.C Central law school, Bobo spoke to students about waiters not getting tips, even though the restaurant collected those tips when the bill was paid, and asked if anyone in the room had experienced that type of theft. Indeed, one student shared a story about working at an exclusive club in South Carolina where that practice was routine. After reporting the problem and getting nowhere, he finally gave up and quit. He is still bitter about it. In September, a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff. Small amounts can add up for the employer.

Bobo gave some action items to the audience that I wanted to share with you.  She said we need to:

  • start recognizing the seriousness of the problem;
  • start getting attention about the problem in order to fix it;
  • stay focused; and
  • if necessary, cross of the lines of our comfort zone.

For more information about Interfaith Worker Justice, go to: www.iwj.org/