Category Archives: Workers’ Comp’ Basics

workplace_injury

10 Things To Do If You Get Hurt At Work

If you are hurt at work make sure to follow these guidelines to protect your rights

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

When you’re injured at work in New York, people often ask what they should do immediately following the accident. There are several basic things you should do to protect your rights under New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.
  1. Report the accident to your supervisor/employer as soon as is possible. Under NYS law you have 30 days to give your employer notice of the accident. Report the injury to your supervisor and be clear about how it happened and that it happened at work.
  2. Follow up with your employer to ensure they have prepared an accident report. If a report is not being prepared, you should write a letter stating the circumstance of the accident for your Supervisor. If you can, send your letter by email or have your supervisor sign a note that acknowledges receipt. A paper trail is always helpful.
  3. When you receive a copy of the accident report, or any paperwork from your employer or its insurance carrier, be sure to make copies for yourself. Keeping your own file is always helpful in the long run. You should bring that file with you to hearings to show your attorney and the judge, if needed.
  4. If you are a member of a union, you should tell your shop steward of the injury as well. Be sure that you report to the shop steward who you gave notice to, when you gave it, and ask what your union policy is on Workers’ Compensation injuries.
  5. Keep a log of<!–more–> all significant contacts you make along the way. Note your doctor visits, conversations in adjusters, and any documents received.
  6. If you are out of work because of your injury, you need to see your doctor every 45-90 days (depending on your injury). The reports that your doctor submits to the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board is the evidence required to support your continuing disability. Without those reports your treatment may be obstructed and any indemnity payments you’re receiving may be stopped.
  7. When you visit the doctor remember to be clear and discuss in detail the circumstances of your injury. Everything from what job you do, to where you were hurt, to the mechanics of the injury (For example: Did you fall backwards? Sideways? Land on your knees? Your back? Some other way?)
  8. If your doctor says you can return to work in a lighter capacity, be sure to get a letter that lays out what physical restrictions you have. You should keep a copy for yourself and provide copies to your employer.
  9. Do not be afraid to follow up with your doctors to get copies of the medical reports they are submitting to the Board. Up to date medical evidence is an essential component of a workers’ compensation claim. You do not want to leave your fate to the efficiency and prowess of others to prepare, scan, and upload documents to State computer programs.
  10. If your doctor tells you that treatment has been denied, discuss the need for treatment with your doctor and ask if he/she needs you to sign a “variance” request to affirm you would like to bring the issue to the Board.

Sometimes the “smell test” is most applicable. If something doesn’t smell right don’t be afraid to consult your attorney (or retain one if you haven’t already). There are a number of moving parts in these cases — doctors, adjusters, independent medical consultants, physical therapists, judges, your lawyers, insurance company lawyers — that asking questions and doing your best to get a firm grasps on the status of your claim is only going to help you as you recover from your injury.

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If You Have Symptoms, Tell Your Lawyer Immediately!

If You Have Symptoms, Tell Your Lawyer

Today’s post comes from our colleague Kate Fitzgerald of New York.

We represent a client whose hands were directly injured a few years ago. The insurance company, as part of its defense, is raising a provision in the law which requires an injured worker to file a claim for a direct injury within two years of the accident (WCL § 28). While interviewing the client, we learned that she had been feeling symptoms in her hands years ago, at the same time as she began experiencing the symptoms to other areas of her body. But because she only mentioned that her hands hurt now, we may not be able to get her the compensation she deserves.

Our client told me that originally brought up the symptoms of numbness, tingling and weakness in her hands with her doctor, but he felt these symptoms were related to her neck, another

If you are hurt, tell your attorney everything, even if you aren’t sure if it is relevant.

area where she was injured. The doctor tried to treat her hand symptoms by treating her neck first. He Continue reading

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How To Select A Good Lawyer For Your Problem

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

Selecting and hiring a good lawyer is critical in dealing with a legal problem. Lawyers are increasingly limiting the types of cases handled in an effort to provided better representation. The Internet is a common starting point for consumers to locate and select lawyers who have the right kind of knowledge and experience for their problem. I recommend the following steps for selecting a lawyer.

1. Check with family, friends, neighbors, or others whom you trust and respect to learn if they know of a lawyer or law firm who they would recommend for the kind of problem you are dealing with. This approach is the traditional way to find a professional and often leads to a good attorney-client relationship with satisfactory results.

2. Consult a general-practice lawyer you know and ask for recommendations. This approach gives you the advantage of having someone who knows area lawyers help you find the right mixture of knowledge and expertise.

3. Internet searches will turn up a large variety of lawyers who handle the kind of problem you are experiencing. Read several of the websites with a careful eye for the following:

a. Is the firm A-rated by the leading peer-rating organization Martindale and Hubbell? The ratings are very good indicators of how the firm is regarded because they come from judges and other lawyers who work with the firm.

b. Do the members of the firm appear to be actively involved in organizations dealing with your kind of problem? Are the lawyers officers or board members of such groups? Have the lawyers been speakers at seminars? This kind of activity shows the lawyers are interested in improving and protecting the law for people with your kind of problem and respected by other lawyers and judges. Here are some examples of law organizations. For employment matters, see the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) (please link to www.nela.org). For workers’ compensation organizations, see the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (link to www.wilg.org). For other personal-injury matters, see the American Association for Justice (link to www.justice.org). For general trial-attorney needs, see the American Board of Trial Advocates (link to www.abota.org).

c. Do the lawyers from a firm belong to any organizations indicating that they have been honored or selected for membership based on knowledge and experience?

d. Do the lawyers appear to belong the bar associations in their area? Have they served on any committees, sections, or governing bodies?

4. Go to www.martindale.com and use the lawyer search. You can search for lawyers by city, state, and specialty. Lawyers are rated as follows. AV® Preeminent™ is the highest rating, followed by BV® Distinguished™ then Distinguished. We recommend only A-rated lawyers if they are available. One way to get the best of the best is to limit the search by checking the box “Featured Peer Review Rated.” The website is very user friendly.

5. Contact the lawyer or lawyers you focus on, and talk to the lawyer. Learn how the lawyer interacts with clients. The following are some questions that might be helpful: Do you feel comfortable talking with the lawyer? Are they Internet users? Will you have a specific team of people working with you? How do they charge? Can you have Skype conferences or do they have other face-to-face conferencing options through the Internet? Will retainer documents be required and available for review before an appointment?

These suggestions provide a framework on how to locate and evaluate an attorney to help you. The references we refer to are industry standards, so they not subject to as much manipulation as other online approaches, such as reviews, testimonials, or video recommendations on lawyers’ websites.

Returning-to-work

Returning to Work Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Roger Moore of Nebraska.

Communicate with your doctor and follow a few guidelines to stay safe when you return to work.

In virtually all workers’ compensation cases an injured worker has to return to work in some capacity. Often these are very stressful situations and it is not uncommon for issues to arrise including conflict with an employer over what a safe return to work actually is. Your goal should be to continue to earn a paycheck while at the same time not risking further injury. Many times this is easier said than done.

Whether it’s a supervisor who ignores your restrictions or a human resources department that actively skirts them, issues frequently come up. We see employers do everything from requiring an injured worker to lift or stand more than they should, to pressuring an employee to return to work the day after a surgical procedure.

You can expect that a nurse case manager or HR specialist from your employer is communicating with your doctor’s office about your return to work. Sometimes they may misrepresent the work that they expect you to do upon your return. It is your job to fill in the gaps.

The most important thing an injured worker can do is communicate with his or her treating physician.

  1. Educate your doctor about the job you were doing when you were initially hurt.
  2. When you are assigned to work, educate your doctor about the light duty job you are doing.
  3. If you are assigned to a job that is difficult for you to perform due to your injury, talk to your doctor about what aspects of that job are difficult. The doctor will likely be willing to restrict you from doing that specific activity.
  4. If your employer is Continue reading
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Workers Beware Questionable (Fraudulent) Employer Tactics

It's time to start talking about employer fraud.

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

Over the course of 35 years representing injured workers, I have heard some whoppers – Employers’ questionable tactics that make even my jaw drop. With all the insurance company generated blather about “employee fraud” incidences of employer fraudulent tactics abound. Workers beware of the following:

  • Recorded statements taken by worker’s compensation carrier adjuster while employee is under medication or in the hospital still suffering from the injury. Questions such as “It’s true you had (low back pain, arm pain, fill in the blank pain, etc.) before your work injury, correct? You’ve had lots more pain from (your motor vehicle accident, sports injury, etc.) than you’re experiencing from your work injury, correct?
  • Employer “channeling” a work to its “Return to Work Clinic” (doctors on company payroll whose opinion is “like some athletic coaches, ‘rub some dirt on it and get back in the game’.”
  • Telling employees to take sick leave rather than claim worker’s compensation.
  • Telling employees to file medical bills under their group insurance, not worker’s comp.
  • Nurse Case Manager who initially befriends the employee but later makes every attempt with the worker’s doctor to prematurely return the worker to the job before a healing occurs.
  • Employer paying worker in cash with no payroll stub (or gives workers a Form 1099 rather than a W-2). Continue reading
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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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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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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