Category Archives: Workplace Injury

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Are Concussions Worth the Risk for Hockey Players?

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

Professional hockey, much like football, is considered to be a dangerous, high contact sport. With recent news of San Francisco 49er’s linebacker Chris Borland’s decision to retire at age 24 due to concussions, a lot of NHL players are feeling pressure to step-back and reevaluate if game-related concussions are worth the risk to their long-term health.

Carolina Hurricane’s 22 year-old forward Jeff Skinner has been side-lined three times for concussions since his first season in 2010-2011. Skinner’s teammate Brad Malone, a 25 year-old forward, considers his multiple concussions to be just “situations” and has made the decision to keep playing despite the risk of acquiring a long-term brain injury. According to the News & Observer, Malone stated, “If that situation was affecting my life at home and the people around me, then I think that’s when I sit down and sort of reevaluate.”

The danger of having too many concussions is that they can cause players to develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that is caused by repetitive brain injuries, and according to Sportsmd.com CTE can cause symptoms and behaviors similar to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. CTE is considered to be the only preventable form of dementia. Hockey players are faced with a serious issue: continue to play professionally or quit the sport for the sake of future quality of life.

Original post in the News and Observer by Chip Alexander 3/31/15

Read more about CTE here: http://www.sportsmd.com/concussions-head-injuries/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy-cte-2/

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Is Your Job Causing Asthma or Making It Worse?

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

The spring allergy season that also causes asthma concerns is upon us, and this is especially evident in the Great Plains, where the wind blows dust and pollen throughout most days. 

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 16 percent of American adults had asthma that was either caused or aggravated by conditions at work. According to the National Institutes of Health, workers who are regularly exposed to chemicals and dust, such as millers, bakers, woodworkers and farm workers, are most vulnerable to work-related asthma. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that adults lose 14 million work days per year because of asthma. 

In terms of Nebraska, this means that approximately 134,400 days of work are missed in Nebraska due to work-related asthma. In Iowa, that number is closer to 224,000 days of work that are missed because of work-related asthma. This is an estimate of missed days nationwide in proportion to the population of the states. 

Workers should make sure their employers are providing safety equipment that protects against respiratory injury. Employees should make sure they are carrying inhalers in the workplace if they have been prescribed them by a doctor for asthma. 

But if a worker suspects their work is causing breathing problems or making pre-existing asthma worse, they should report that as a workers’ compensation injury and seek treatment with a specialist in treating breathing conditions. Medical bills for treating asthma should be covered like any other work injury, and any lost time because of work-related asthma should entitle an employee to temporary disability for lost time and permanent disability for permanent breathing problems. 

Work-related asthma would also be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and under similar state laws. Further, an employee has protection against retaliation under most states’ laws, including Nebraska and Iowa, as well as under federal law, for reporting work conditions that cause asthma and/or from claiming workers’ compensation benefits for work-related asthma.

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Measuring Our Progress Since The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

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

As an attorney who practices in the field of Workers’ Compensation, there are some events that are seminal in the history of workplace safety. One of those events was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which occurred on March 25, 2011. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was one of the largest factories in New York and employed 500 mostly Italian and Jewish immigrant women between the ages of 13 and 23.

These women worked long hours for low wages in this cramped sweatshop at sewing machines to produce women’s blouses, known in those days as shirtwaists. In order to protect themselves from their claim of thefts by the workers, the factory owners would lock the doors to one of the stairways leading to the street. While the union movement in New York was very strong and some of the workers had joined the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, the factory itself was a non-union shop; many believed the owners would lock their doors to keep organizers out. Whatever the reason, locking those doors had devastating effects. 

On that fateful day in March, a fire broke out that was fueled by thousands of pounds of fabric. Many were able to escape to the roof and then to adjoining buildings. Unfortunately for those on the ninth floor, there was very little means of escape. The elevator proved inadequate as it was only able to accommodate 12 people at a time, and the operator was only able to make four trips before it broke down totally. Bodies of many of the workers were found at the bottom of locked stairwells or in the elevator shaft when they tried to escape. The fire escape was flimsy and when it became overloaded with panicked women, it broke and sent dozens to their death. Those trapped in the factory by the fire were left with the agonizing choice of jumping to their deaths or being burned alive. Many chose to jump. Bystanders recounted stories of seeing victims kiss each other or hold hands as they jumped two and three at a time; they described the horrific thud as bodies landed on the stone streets below. When the final tally was taken, 146 people had perished. The catastrophe sent shockwaves throughout New York City and the immigrant communities of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where families struggled to recognize the charred remains of their loved ones in makeshift morgues. 

On March 24, 1911, the New York Court of Appeals declared the state’s compulsory Workers’ Compensation law unconstitutional. The next day, 146 people were dead from that Triangle Shirtwaist fire. With no Workers’ Compensation system in place, family members and dependents had to turn to the courts in an attempt to force Triangle to compensate the injured and the families of the deceased. A civil suit brought by 23 victims’ families against the owners netted a whopping $75 in damages per victim! New Yorkers were appalled and angry at the greed and negligence of the owners and managers. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was a preventable tragedy caused by unsafe work conditions and was a catalyst for change. New York finally adopted a Workers’ Compensation law in 1913. This law was intended to protect workers from unsafe working conditions and afford them with wage replacement benefits and medical treatment in exchange for giving up their right to sue. Unfortunately, we see an erosion of many of these benefits under the guise of reform, while insurance companies have made record profits. This month, while we acknowledge this grim anniversary, we need to make sure that these women’s deaths were not in vain. Let us never forget the reason Workers’ Compensation laws were enacted, and let’s be sure the system is not watered down to the point that injured workers and their families go back to getting $75 for a preventable death.

  

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717. 

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Nanotechnology in the Workplace

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

During cancer research in 1986 an accident created the first man-made nanoparticle, an incredibly small particle which can absorb radiant energy and theoretically destroy a tumor. One type of nanoparticle is 20 times stronger than steel and is found in over 1,300 consumer products, including laptops, cell phones, plastic bottles, shampoos, sunscreens, acne treatment lotions and automobile tires. It is the forerunner of the next industrial revolution.

What is the problem? Unfortunately, nanoparticles are somewhat unpredictable and no one really knows how they react to humans. A report out of China claims that two nano-workers died as a result of overexposure, and in Belgium five males inhaled radioactive nanoparticles in an experiment and within 60 seconds the nanoparticles shot straight into the bloodstream, which is a potential setup for disaster. In a survey of scientists 30% listed “new health problems” associated with nanotechnology as a major concern.

Lewis L. Laska, a business law professor, wrote an article in Trial Magazine (September, 2012) in which he advised lawyers to become knowledgeable about nanoscience and be aware of the potential harm to workers and others who come in contact with this new technology, particularly because the EPA, FDA and OSHA have neither approved nor disapproved the use of nanostructures in products. It has been said that workers are like canaries in the cage (in mining operations), and if nanoscience is a danger then workers’ compensation lawyers will be the first to see it and appreciate it.

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North Carolina Workplace Deaths Lower in 2012

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Over the past decade, North Carolina has witnessed an ongoing decrease in the number of workplace fatalities. This past year (2012) there was a total of thirty-five reported workplace fatalities. In 2004, for example, there were 90 workplace fatalities.  According to the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Division has been working with the state’s most hazardous industries to prevent deaths on the job. However, North Carolina continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 9.2 % (December 2012) and with fewer jobs there are obviously fewer chances of an accidental death on the job.

According to the National Council for Occupational Safety the number of fatalities may be artificially low. In a report published in April of 2012 entitled “North Carolina Workers: Dying for a Job,” the National Council for Occupational Safety alleges that the N.C. Department of Labor’s “report of occupational fatalities greatly understates the true extent of the problem.” (http://www.coshnetwork.org/north-carolina-workers-dying-job). The report further states that the listed fatalities “include only those cases that the state OSHA program investigated” and that their internal analysis found that about thirty additional deaths occurred in 2011. The National Council for Occupational Safety then recommended stricter deterrents to promote safe work environments, imposition of more penalties as permitted under the current statutes, as well as a special emphasis program to protect Hispanic workers.

Let’s hope that on the job fatalities continue to drop in 2013, but beyond “hope” the best way to insure a continued decrease is to make all employees and employers aware of potential life threatening dangers and then enforce compliance with safety standards.

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Compensation for Secondary Smoke Inhalation

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

Recent article indicates some public health departments are offering incentives to create smoke-free policies in buildings. The idea is to reduce the exposure to second-hand smoke.

While substantial strides have been made in many states to provide both smoke-free public places and smoke-free workplaces, the dangers of secondary smoke inhalation remain. Continue reading

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“I’m In It for the Money!”

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

Surprisingly, many employers and insurance companies actually believe workers hurt themselves on purpose or at the very least put themselves in positions where they think an injury is likely. We hear this a lot as a basis for not settling claims for existing employees. Employers are worried that it will encourage other employees to get injured as well. What does that say about the particular employer who believes this? Either they are downplaying lots of injuries or they truly believe employees are willfully getting hurt.

The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury.

In this age of limited, and in some cases very limited, workers’ compensation benefits, you would have to be an imbecile to actually believe people are willingly causing permanent injuries to themselves to cash in on the “windfall” that is workers’ compensation. Who would honestly trade even thousands of dollars for a lifetime of uncompensated pain and suffering? The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury. The vast majority of them don’t even ask how much they could get for their injuries in their initial meeting with us, as I’m sure is the case with most workers’ compensation law firms.

This is one of a long line of personal-injury myths perpetrated by the insurance industry to make filing a workers’ compensation claim a stigma. It’s similar to the one about “if you file a claim our premiums will go up and they’ll have to shut down the plant.” Shouldn’t the question really be: are we requiring too much physically of our employees, and if so, what can we do to make things safer? Instead, Continue reading

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The Costs and Complications of The Other Disease on Workers’ Compensation Claims

Source: NCCI

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

Employers and their insurance companies are responsible for the treatment of all medical conditions that arise from an industrial accident or exposure. A recent study published by The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) concludes that costs are soaring as medical conditions become more complicated by other conditions known as comorbidity diagnoses. These conditions are frequently: obesity, hypertension, drug abuse, chronic pulmonary conditions, and diabetes.

While the average medical cost for a workers’ compensation claim is approximately $6,000, the medical cost of an individual claim can be a few hundred dollars or millions of dollars. In 2010, an NCCI study found that claims with an obesity comorbidity diagnosis incurred significantly higher medical costs than comparable claims without such a comorbidity diagnosis. Relative to that study, this study expands the number of comorbidities examined and provides additional information on both the types of claimants receiving comorbidity diagnoses and the types of providers submitting comorbidity diagnoses.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • The share of workers’ compensation claims with a comorbidity diagnosis nearly tripled from Accident Year 2000 to Accident Year 2009, growing from a share of 2.4% to 6.6%. Claims with a comorbidity diagnosis have about twice the medical costs of otherwise comparable claims.
  • Comorbidity diagnoses for hypertension are the most prevalent of those investigated.
  • The initial comorbidity diagnosis tends to occur early in the life of a claim.
  • Hospital and physician visits account for a majority of visits resulting in a recorded comorbidity diagnosis.
  • Only a small portion of visits result in the recording of a comorbidity diagnosis.

View complete report: Comorbidities in Workers Compensation