Monthly Archives: November 2011

Workers' Compensation and the NCAA's "Student Athlete"

One example of how the NCAA benefits economically from student athletes.

I grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C. and graduated from the University of North Carolina when the concept of big-time football was not an issue. In Chapel Hill the NCAA was known primarily for imposing sanctions on basketball and eliminating the Dixie Classic, a holiday tournament in the early 60′s which brought visiting teams to Raleigh to play UNC and N.C.State. Some folks still remember Oscar Robertson and a powerful Cincinnati team leaving after being defeated in that tournament.

Recently, the history of the NCAA has been explored in The Atlantic (October, 2011) in an article called “The Shame of College Sports” by Taylor Branch (a 1968 graduate of UNC). Interestingly, the role of workers’ compensation was discussed when explaining the need to give the NCAA a more solid foundation.

The Supreme Court of Colorado determined that workers’ compensation should be denied because the college was “not in the football business.”

The NCAA developed the term “student-athlete” in the 1950s “…when the widow of Ray Dennison, who had died from a head injury received while playing football in Colorado for the Fort Lewis A&M Aggies, filed for workmens’-compensation death benefits.” The Supreme Court of Colorado eventually determined that the claim should be denied because the college was “not in the football business.”

School officials said they recruited him as a student, not an athlete. Waldrep told Branch that was absurd.

In 1974 a Texas Christian running back, Kent Waldrep, was paralyzed after being tackled by several Alabama players at a game in Birmingham. TCU paid his medical bills for nine months and then stopped, and a workers’ compensation claim was eventually Continue reading

Could more effective workers' compensation law have kept Mickey Mantle's dad alive?

Mickey Mantle's father never lived to see his son's incredible career in baseball.

In The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy, the author goes into great detail about Mickey’s father, Mutt Mantle, who worked in a lead mine in Commerce, Oklahoma in the 1930s and 40s. Silicosis (a fibrosis of the lung caused by rock dust) was the feared disease of this type of employment. If an x-ray came back positive the employee was fired the same day and could never be hired by another mine.

“When they get sick and can’t work, we throw them in the dump heap.”

An agent for the employer was quoted as saying, “When they get sick and can’t work, we throw them in the dump heap.”

Mutt refused to go to a doctor until it was too late. He died at the age of 40 in 1952, just one year after his son became a Major League player.

Mantle’s father never lived to see his tremendous success as one of the best baseball players of all time.

The mine was closed in 1970. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed this job site as the most toxic waste site Continue reading

How To Deal With A Difficult Doctor (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I shared a post with some tips for workers’ compensation attorneys on how to deal with difficult doctors. In this follow-up post, I’ll share a few more ideas on how to get down to the truth of the matter when the doctor on your case is tough to work with.

(8)     Explain case procedure and why you are there.

Unfortunately, I had the experience of walking into a deposition once and the first question from the physician was “What’s going on here and what’s this got to do with me?”  Just prior to a deposition is not the time to be answering this question.  Some physicians have never had their depositions taken before and they are unnerved at the prospect.  Explain the process and explain the necessity for medical testimony.

(9)     Ease tensions.

Behind every physician-patient relationship there is the potential for a medical negligence claim. Ease that fear by letting the doctor know that the client is pleased with the care of the doctor (if indeed that is true).  She may have reviewed the chart and seen something that concerns her, so reassurance of this nature is vital.  If you are aware of a potential medical negligence claim, choose your words carefully. I can assure you she will.  You should not misrepresent anything concerning this issue.

(10)   Know the medicine. 

Some of us think doctors keep up with all the latest articles and studies concerning relevant medical areas.  The truth of the matter is that HMO’s, PPO’s and other managed care organizations barely pay them for seeing patients and the last time I checked “reading medical journals” was not under the pay provision of the contract.  Therefore, understand and Continue reading

How To Deal With A Difficult Doctor (Part 1)

A doctor’s opinion is crucial to every workers’ compensation claim.  Most doctors give honest and rational opinions. As we all know, however, there are some physicians who have a different agenda and either do not take the time to properly evaluate a patient or they intentionally downplay the potential seriousness of the injury.  For attorneys working on a workers’ compensation case, the following steps may help in the search for the truth.

(1)     Check the doctor’s credentials.

It is a strange but true fact that some experts have falsified their curriculum vitae.  If a physician has lied about his qualifications, his expert opinion just went out the window.  One way to verify credentials is to check the American Medical Association’s web page.   Select “Doctor Finder” and then follow the instructions until you get to “Find a Physician” and type in the name, address and zip code.  If you are seeking a specialist, a doctor certification can be checked by phone with the AMA.  For medical doctors call (800) 776-2378.  For osteopathic doctors call (800) 621-1773, ext. 7445.

(2)     Check disciplinary records. 

According to the Federation of State Medical Boards 4,432 disciplinary actions were taken against 3,880 physicians in 1996.  There are approximately 650,000 licensed physicians in the United States.  The Federation is responsible for promoting high standards for licensure and practice, and serves as the primary center for collecting, monitoring and reviewing actions taken against physicians. (A full report can be obtained by calling (817) 868-4000.  The report is also available on their web site.  Sidney Wolfe, a physician who is director of the Public Citizens Health Research Group, a consumer watchdog organization, has analyzed this document and his report can be obtained by calling (202) 588-1000.  A list of “Questionable Doctors” can also be obtained from Public Citizen for each state.

(3)     Communicate, communicate, communicate.

It is important to find out as much as you can about the physician involved in your case.  See if he is listed on the internet.  If he has written any articles, see what the focus is.  Ask other physicians, nurses, hospital employees and others in the community about this person.  Now, with this information in hand, schedule an appointment to talk with the doctor.  Try not to schedule it during his lunch break, or while he is seeing patients.  You want his undivided attention and you will not get it if he is thinking about some medical crisis sitting in the next room.

(4)     Build a relationship. 

Lawyers who specialize in workers’ compensation are likely to see the same physician Continue reading

14 Signs That Your Employer May Be Committing Workers' Compensation Fraud

Is your employer committing fraud?

All employees should be on the lookout for signs that their employer or potential employer is engaging in workers’ compensation fraud.

The list of signs below was inspired by this one from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

These signs may indicate that your employer is not paying workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. If they aren’t, this could put you in a very difficult situation if you are ever injured on the job.

If any of these signs sound familiar, report the employer to the Fraud Investigations Department of the North Carolina Industrial Commission and, if at all possible, find another job.

Your employer may be engaged in workers’ compensation fraud if:

  1. They pay you in cash and don’t give you any kind of payroll stub.
  2. They give you a 1099 form instead of the standard W-2.
  3. They pay you other than in cash or check, by such things as free rent, reimbursement of expenses, barter, etc.
  4. They pay you on a piecework basis and do not record hours.
  5. They require you to work long hours but turn in fewer hours than you actually worked.
  6. You or somebody you know is injured on the job, and the employer promises to pay the medical bills rather than reporting the accident to the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
  7. The reported hours on an injured worker’s accident report do not match the hours the employer reported to the North Carolina Industrial Commission.  Continue reading

The 1911 Triangle Waist Co. – What’s changed since then?

Have conditions really improved for workers since the deadly 1911 Triangle Waist Co. fire?

One hundred and forty six garment workers died on March 26, 1911 in a fire that was New York’s deadliest workplace disaster until the attack on the World Trade Center 100 years later. Fire doors were locked. Trapped workers either jumped to their deaths from the 9th and 10th floors, or were consumed by the flames of the Asch Building (renamed the Brown Building and now owned by New York University) at Washington Place and Greene St. near Greenwich Village. Over 20,000 people walked in the funeral procession to honor those workers who lost their lives, many of them young immigrant women who barely spoke English.

Over the last 100 years, although workplace safety regulations were created to prevent such disasters, they still occur. 

In the book Triangle: The Fire That Changed America. (Grove Press, 2003) by David Von Drehle, the horrific workplace conditions of 1911 were described on page 3:

…the 146 deaths at the Triangle Waist Company were sensational, but they were not unusual. Death was an almost routine workplace hazard in those days. By one estimate, one hundred or more Americans died on the job every day in the booming industrial years around 1911. Mines collapsed on them, ships sank under them, pots of molten steel spilled over their heads, locomotives smashed into them, exposed machinery grabbed them by the arm or leg or hair and pulled them in… workplace safety was scarcely regulated, and workers’ compensation was considered newfangled or even socialist.

Over the last 100 years, although workplace safety regulations were created to prevent such disasters, they still occur. Continue reading

Sense of Injustice, Occupy Wall Street & A Tornado Survivor From Joplin

Finally, workers' compensation benefits for a first responder to the devastating tornado in Joplin, MO.

Today’s post comes to us from our friend, attorney Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

In a dramatic turn of events based upon pubic outrage, an insurance company has reversed its decision and now decided to provide workers’ compensation benefits to a first responder who was injured while providing assistance to tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri.

Mark Lindquist saved 3 developmentally disabled adults in Joplin following the tornado that devastated that community. Caught in the 200 mile an hour tornado, Lindquist lost all of his teeth, was in a coma for several months and ran up medical bills amounting to $2.5 Million. The insurance company initially had denied the claim and recent news reports and public outrage resulted in a reversal by the insurance company on the issue of compensability.

The same outrage against Corporate America and an imbalance in the socio-economic system is now being reflected in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Recently Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, commented about the growing recognition of injustice on the Charlie Rose show. As Goodman eloquently puts it:

“If you look at the polls now, most americans actually support these Occupy Wall Street movements all over the country… There is a sense of injustice… It’s about the sense of inequality.”

Continue reading