Monthly Archives: February 2012

Learning Ladder Safety Could Save You From A Painful Injury

Unsafe LadderThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that “falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.” A few weeks ago a gentleman came to see me who had orthopeadic surgical wires and metal bars sticking out of his arm (for those who are not too sensitive, click here to see the photo)

He had fallen from a ladder about 15 feet and landed squarely on his hands and broke both arms.  No one was holding the base of the ladder and the ladder was more than 15 years old. Wires and metal bars were now holding his bones in place, and workers’ compensation benefits were holding him financially in place. However, since he was only making $11 dollars an hour his weekly compensation benefits were small. As you probably know, the Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide money for pain and suffering, or lost income from other jobs (think about the man who takes on two jobs to maintain a higher standard of living for his family; if he is hurt while working at one job, he is only paid for the income loss at that job, not both).

The employer has a duty to train and teach its employees how to use a ladder. Many employees (particularly young ones) have no idea how dangerous ladders can be: they assume the ladder will hold the load and will be secure when placed in position, and that it is free of defects, no matter how old. OSHA has a list of  safety considerations and these tips can be found at the Department of Labor’s web page (click here for a PDF version).

Click through for a graphic video of a ladder accident published by prevent-it.ca, a website run by the Province of Ontario (Canada)’s Ministry of Labor. Be warned that this mock-up video is a public service announcement intended to teach safety. It is scary and not for the faint of heart. Continue reading

Should Worker Safety Be Considered When Government Contracts Are Awarded?

A television station in Raleigh, North Carolina (NBC-17) reported the other week that a paving contractor was awarded a new contract because its bid was $6,000 lower than other bids. The bids ranged from $996,000 to $1.2 million. Nothing unusual about that, except the winning company, Triangle Grading and Paving Company, has “dozens more construction-related safety violations than the other companies.

Last year two Triangle workers (Luis Gomez and Jesus Benitez) died when they entered a manhole that had unsafe levels of oxygen, and their deaths could have been avoided had the company conducted required testing before they entered the manhole.

Is it possible this company is able to out-bid other companies because they don’t take the time and expense to insure a safe workplace?

One legislator, Paul Luebke, says he intends to file legislation that will require local governments to take into account the safety records of any company bidding on a government contract. Would that change the way some companies enforce safety regulations? Would that create a more even playing field for competitive bids? We don’t know for sure, but one thing is certain: it we do nothing, we will never know.

If we truly care about safety and if we truly care about fair play in the marketplace, then every government contracting agency, from top to bottom, should adopt this policy.

 

More on the Triangle Grading and Paving story:

Prior Approval not Required for Emergency Medical Treatment

Today we have a guest post from my colleague Matthew Funk of New York.

Don't wait for approval, if you need emergency room medical treatment, get it right away.

When an injured worker needs emergency medical care, prior authorization isn’t always possible. However, not being able to obtain it does not bar a workers’ compensation claim. When a worker is hurt at work and is rushed to the emergency room for treatment, there often isn’t enough time to seek authorization from an insurance company and to obtain a claim number.

At the time of the treatment, if possible, the injured worker should let the hospital and medical provider know that the injury occurred at work and disclose the exact details of all his or her injuries. (This is sometimes an effort, since emergency staff are rushed and understaffed.) After the emergency care is provided, the worker should immediately seek the guidance of an attorney to assist in filing a claim and obtaining reimbursement for the medical care.

At the time of the treatment, if possible, the injured worker should let the hospital and medical provider know that the injury occurred at work and the exact details of all his or her injuries. 

The law provides that the cost of the emergency medical treatment will be adjusted to meet workers’ compensation payment guidelines. Many times, doctors will submit bills to the private carrier with a note stating, “Do not pay: submitted pending determination at the Workers Compensation Board”. This ensures that even if the Workers Compensation claim is not successful, the doctor can still be paid.

The employee should save all copies of all notes, receipts, and diagnostic reports that the treating physician has available, and keep an injury-and-treatment diary. The easiest way to keep to this is to simply use a calendar and record all treatment appointments, procedures, tests, medications and complaints on every given date. Make a copy for your lawyer as well.

Matthew Funk, a partner at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, has been practicing Workers’ Compensation Law for over a decade. He is a member of the Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, Injured Workers’ Bar Association and the New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). He has written for the New York State Trial Lawyers’ Workers’ Compensation Decisions program and has lectured on numerous occasions focusing on Workers’ Compensation Law.

 

 

If You Have Symptoms, Tell Your Lawyer!

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

Cancer Concern Over Newest TSA Airport Body Scanners

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

According to a growing number of scientists and doctors the newest TSA airport body scanners, known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners, may pose a cancer threat.*

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) insists the scanners are safe, and cites independent studies saying the radiation levels are below acceptable limits. However, according to some doctors, even a small dose of the ionizing radiation that the machines emit could pose a danger.

The TSA has installed about 250 of these body scanners at 40 U.S. airports.

*To proceed beyond mere speculation as to causation, a competent physician would have to indicate that the workplace exposure for a substantial period of time to the radiation from airport scanning was at least a material, contributory, causative factor in the onset or progression of a worker’s cancer condition.


With over 30 years of experience representing injured workers in Wisconsin, Tom Domer 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, West’s Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Law. Tom earned all his degrees in Wisconsin.

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2.7 Million Worker’s Comp Conviction For Employer, Not Worker

Today’s guest post comes to us from my colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

I read this headline in the Insurance Journal while ago. My assumption, even though I represent injured workers, was that the headline concerned an employee who had defrauded an insurance company. Why did I immediately jump to that conclusion? Because most of the headlines screaming about worker’s compensation fraud are headlines aimed at employees who are defrauding the system, even though the vast majority of worker’s compensation fraud involves employers.

The $2.7 million fraud case involved a North Carolina man, Carl Dalmus Fuller, who scammed a Florida based employment services company into purchasing a fake worker’s compensation policy. The employment company’s records showed it paid Fuller over $2.7million in premiums. The insurance company listed had no agent, and the business address was Fuller’s post office box.

Most of the headlines screaming about worker’s compensation fraud are aimed at employees who are defrauding the system, even though the vast majority of worker’s compensation fraud involves employers.

Fraud cases like this involving substantial seven-figure numbers involve insurance companies or employers who mischaracterize actual employees as Independent Contractors, miscategorize Continue reading

$100 Million In Fraud In New Hampshire

Shame on the LGC.

My good friend and colleague Jon Gelman posted this recent piece of news on his blog the other week:

A New Hampshire insurance group has been charged by the State with improperly appropriating millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds to a workers’ compensation insurance plan. The improper allocation is described in a petition filed by the State.

To provide a bit more detail, the amount of misappropriated funds is actually estimated at upward of $100 million. The Local Government Center of New Hampshire, or LGC, is a non-government, non-profit organization that provides a range of services to municipal governments. LGC is an umbrella organization with subsidiaries that offer services in areas such as finance, personnel, and legal. They also provide a range of insurance programs that municipalities and their employees may buy into.

In this case, the municipal employees thought that they were paying for LGC’s HealthTrust and Property-Liability insurance programs. Instead LGC used the funds to pay for a completely separate workers’ compensation insurance program.

LGC asserts that they did nothing inappropriate, even though what they did is clearly illegal and they used some very tricky tactics to circumvent the law. Continue reading