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Mileage Reimbursement Set at 56 Cents per Mile for 2014

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

Getting reimbursed for mileage and travel expenses is often part of the medical process in a workers’ compensation claim. However, it’s essential to keep detailed receipts and have a plan for submitting those expenses in a timely manner.

The federal government has set the 2014 mileage reimbursement rate to 56 cents per mile. This rate was effective Jan. 1, 2014. This is a decrease from 56.5 cents per mile last year, but the price of gasoline is also slightly cheaper.

Generally speaking, the federal rate changes annually. However, when gas prices went soaring in 2008, a mid-year increase went into effect.

As a reminder from a blog post that firm partner Todd Bennett wrote in 2011, injured workers can be reimbursed for activities such as “travel to seek medical treatment, pick up medications, or while participating in a vocational rehabilitation plan.”

The best way to do this is to work with your attorney and legal assistant to keep track of all mileage. This can include appointments for Independent Medical Exams (IME), too. Then your attorney can help you get reimbursed. 

It is often essential to save receipts and keep a record for yourself of your doctor’s visits and other reimbursable trips, including physical therapy and trips to pick up medication. Providing that log to your attorney and saving receipts incurred from specific doctor visits and other reimbursable trips creates a “narrative” that makes it easier to justify those expenses.

Because money is always tight for injured workers, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you have questions about a specific situation.

Class action lawsuit alleges Sage Management charged illegal fees

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.baltimoresun.com

Tenants at Sage Management apartments and townhouses in Baltimore filed a class action lawsuit Friday against the property management company for allegedly charging illegal late fees, according to a compliant filed in the city’s Circuit Court.

The 29-page lawsuit — which is open to current and former tenants since January 2004 — claims the company routinely charges tenants who are late on their rent a 5 percent penalty along with agent, court and eviction fees that trap the families in a cycle of debt.

"I have met dozens and dozens of Sage Management tenants from East Baltimore and West Baltimore; what they have in common is they come to us very confused," said Zafar Shah, a staff attorney with Public Justice Center, which filed the lawsuit.

"There is a hopelessness that the cycle is not going to stop. … This is a way to stop the bleeding."

Right to Housing Alliance also is helping in the effort to challenge Sage’s alleged practices.

Sage Management declined to comment about the lawsuit. According to its website, Baltimorevouchers.com the company owns nine complexes and specializes in affordable housing for families with Section 8 vouchers.

"We are committed to providing a safe, pleasant and healthy environment for all our clients," the website says. "Our company strives to tackle maintenance issues as quickly and as professionally as possible, always considering the tenants needs, safety and privacy."

The lawsuit, which…

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Facebook Pictures’ Use Evolving in Workers’ Compensation Cases

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

In the past, I have warned about the possible pitfalls of social media on a workers’ compensation claim.

However, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court has never really ruled on Facebook in the context of discovery matters in a work comp claim, meaning how much access can your employer have to your Facebook account if you file a workers’ compensation claim? 

Recently, however, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court (at least one judge) has taken the position that in order for your employer to gain access to photographs from your Facebook profile, it must “make a showing of the necessary factual predicate underlying [the] broad request for access.” In other words, your employer must have a decent reason to suspect that a certain photograph or something from your Facebook account has the potential to be relevant to the work comp case before the court will simply grant full access to your Facebook account to your employer.

Therefore, depending on your situation, your Facebook may be safe from your employer to some degree. However, this is a cautionary tale to remind you that even though your employer cannot simply have blanket access to all of your Facebook photos – at least according to one Nebraska judge – it does not mean that your Facebook photos or posts are necessarily safe from your employer gaining access to them at some point during your work comp case. I think the judge in this case takes a step in right direction, but you still must be aware that anything you put on Facebook may be subject to discovery (i.e., your employer may still possibly get access to it) at some point in the future.

Ten Things I Wish I Knew As a Young Lawyer Representing Plaintiffs

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

Ten Things I Wish I Knew As a Young Lawyer Representing Plaintiffs:

1. Make a “to-do list” before you start work and prioritize that list into a top ten. At the end of the day, check off what you have accomplished and then start a new list.

2. Be honest in all things, at all times, in all places.

3. Agree to reasonable requests by opposing counsel, especially early in the case, but you don’t have to agree to every request. It’s ok to say no.

4. Call the defendant (if not represented by counsel) as soon as you can to investigate the facts. Don’t let this opportunity pass. You may find out how the defendant perceives the claim, as well as how the plaintiff is perceived. Don’t just sent a letter of representation.

5. Big damages and bad clients make bad cases. If you dislike your client, consider rejecting the case or withdrawing. Small damages and bad clients make nightmares.

6. Be compassionate but don’t get too close to your clients emotionally. They have hired you for an objective legal analysis and help. Don’t lose that objectivity.

7. Don’t hesitate to praise (if genuine) opposing counsel or an adjuster who does the right thing.

8. If a client verbally abuses your staff, call them out on it and let them know you will withdraw if it happens in the future. If it does happen again, withdraw.

9. Seek advice from lawyers with experience. Be a sponge. Being independent and totally prepared is essential, but the practice of law is an art in many ways.

10. Realize that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

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Not Expanding Medicaid: Deadly Consequences

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

Please take a moment to ready this story out of Pennsylvania: Study: Many Will Die if Medicaid is Not Expanded.   As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), an expansion of Medicaid was intended.  Medicaid essentially is the joint federal-state program to provide health insurance to low income individuals and families.   The federal government strongly encouraged this expansion by the states, by offering to pay for that expansion for many years.   Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court–in upholding the constitutionality of the bulk of Obamacare–did strike down this Medicaid expansion.  The Supreme Court decision left it up to the state’s themselves to decide whether to expand Medicaid for their residents or not.

In many Republican-led states, the decision was made to not expand Medicaid.  As seen in this article, Pennsylvania was a state that declined to expand.  Wisconsin, with Republican Governor Scott Walker, also decided not to provide this expanded Medicaid coverage to the the state’s low income individiduals.  (Check out the story here and here.) 

Now comes news that failure to expand Medicaid may actually result in increased deaths among the affected population.  The failure to have this expanded coverage, according to the study examining Pennsylvanis, will result in thousands of deaths due to individuals foregoing necessary medication, medical treatment, and preventative screening. Additionally, the expansion failure will result in “catastrophic medical expenses and tens of thousands of cases of untreated depression, diabetes and missed screening tests.”   This is a truly scary scenario–and an avoidable one.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker is suggesting that these individuals can now obtain health insurance throught the federal-run exchanges.  The real issue is whether these low-income individuals can truly afford the premiums and whether they actually qualify for the federal subsidies.  These lower-income individuals were the one supposed to be covered by Medicaid expansion–not by the exchanges.    Based on the Pennsylvania study, if these individuals are ineligible for Medicaid and cannot secure health insurance elsewhere, dire health consequences (or even death) loom as possibilities.

Lion Force Recalls Boys’ Puffer Coats Due to Strangulation Hazard; Sold Exclusively at Burlington Coat Factory

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.prnewswire.com

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1973 and charged with protecting the American public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772, or visit http//:www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. Further recall information is available at http://www.cpsc.gov. (PRNewsFoto/U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION)
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1973 and charged with protecting the American public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772, or visit http//:www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. Further recall information is available at http://www.cpsc.gov. (PRNewsFoto/U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20030904/USCSCLOGO)

Recall Summary

Name of Product: Lion Force Boys’ Puffer Coats

Hazard: The jackets have a drawstring through the hood which can pose a strangulation hazard to children. In February 1996, CPSC issued guidelines about drawstrings in children’s upper outerwear. In 1997, those guidelines were incorporated into a voluntary standard. Then, in July 2011, based on the guidelines and voluntary standard, CPSC issued a federal regulation. CPSC’s actions demonstrate a commitment to help prevent children from strangling or getting entangled on neck and waist drawstrings in upper outerwear, such as jackets and sweatshirts.

Remedy: Consumers should immediately remove the drawstrings from the garment…

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Are Firefighter Cancer Deaths an Occupational Disease?

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

Workers’ compensation has provided benefits or coverage for occupational diseases for generations. Occupational disease is defined by Nebraska law as: “a disease which is due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment and excludes all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed.” This is a typical definition of an occupational disease. Some examples of recognized occupational diseases are black lung disease for miners, mesothelioma for asbestos workers, lung disease for rubber workers, and leukemia for workers exposed to benzene.  

More studies are done to determine the cause of diseases as medical science advances. A recent study concludes that smoke and chemical exposure by firefighters may cause higher rates of cancer among firefighters. Firefighters, while usually healthier than the general population, have a higher incidence of cancer. More studies need to be done to determine if the peculiar exposure to smoke causes or aggravates cancer.

As medicine and science evolve, there may be more recognized “occupational diseases” and more workers and their families compensated for harm caused by the workplace.

Wrongful death lawsuit settled for White Plains teen swept out to sea in Hawaii

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.lohud.com

Tyler Madoff from the summer of 2011.
Tyler Madoff from the summer of 2011.
Madoff

HONOLULU — A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a White Plains teenager swept out to sea during a Hawaii hiking and kayaking tour has been settled.

Marianne Madoff, the mother of 15-year-old Tyler Madoff, told The Journal News on Tuesday night that there is no peace.

Im reeling because my child is not here, she said. I just want parents to have better questions to ask, and companies to honor what they advertise, so that children can be protected and safe. We dont send our children on trips to have risks. We send them to have an experience of a lifetime, and to be safe, and to come home.

Terms of the settlement, which was reached Monday with Bold Earth Teen Adventures and Hawaii Pack and Paddle, were sealed.

Tyler, a student at Scarsdale High School, was swept off the west coast of the Big Island on July 4, 2012.

His family filed a lawsuit in Honolulu claiming tour guides were negligent for leading teenagers to a dangerous area. They were hiking near the Captain Cook monument at Kealakekua Bay, where they had kayaked, when they stopped to rest at a tide pool and large waves washed Madoff away. The teens were led to an area thats out of a state-permitted area despite dangerous surf warnings, according to the lawsuit. The boys body wasnt recovered.

The bottom line is that Bold Earth did not do what they said theyd do and they did not take care of our child, Marianne Madoff said. And this shouldnt have happened.

Michael Madoff,…

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